Cole Cash - Grifter to most - was not, by and large, a happy man. He was black ops to the core. You had a dirty job that needed doing? He was your man. He'd been leading Team Seven against Teth-Adam's holdings in Egypt when everything had gone to hell. His team had died. He'd survived. Survived because of the intervention of a British superhero. Well, that wasn't strictly accurate: she was the British superhero. Britannia had gotten him out, taken him back to England. He'd recovered just in time for the Amazonian invasion.
What he didn't understand was why she thought he was cut out to be her second in command in the Resistance. Cole's first command hadn't exactly gone well. Teth-Adam had decided to... make an example. It hadn't been pretty. Not that this was exactly pretty, either. He'd have preferred not to be spending most of his time in the service areas and side tunnels of the London Underground, but then, he'd have preferred a lot of things to his current situation. To make things worse, Penny had been injured - barely escaped from an Amazon hit squad - and the American contact she'd gone to retrieve had vanished without a trace. Lois Lane of the Daily Planet. Stuck in New Themyscira for the last thirty two weeks. Supposedly working for Cyborg. Gone.
All of which probably explained his bad mood when one of his scouts reported movement in the tunnel outside their headquarters.
They'd handle it quietly. Get snipers in position. Cut off the intruder's every escape route before they ever revealed their...
"I hear you lurking in the night!" Etrigan bellowed, his demonic stride taking him forward with hellish speed to confront the man in the tunnel. He leaped up and landed in a crouch atop the remains of a subway train, only a few meters from the stranger, "Shall Etrigan bring you to light?"
... Right. Or they could just right out into the open to challenge the intruder directly. That was also an option. Not for the first time, Cole wondered who he'd offended in his previous life to have to put up with so much shit in this one. They all piled out, then. Mrs. Hyde, the Canterbury Cricket, Lady Godiva, Jinny Greenteeth. Because hey, why not compound one tactical mistake with a dozen more?
The stranger wasn't anything terribly impressive. White. Short brown hair. The grin of a man who thinks he's being clever. He wore long leather duster over black pants and an oddly patterned green shirt.
"The hell are you supposed to be?" Cole asked.
The stranger nodded in acknowledgement to the assembled group. "The name's Madrox," he said. "Jamie Madrox. Lois Lane sent me."
Cole raised an eyebrow, though nobody could see it behind his mask.
Naturally, that was when the Amazonian kill team attacked. That was just the way his life went, these days. One minute the tunnel seemed relatively clear, the next, enchanted arrows and angry superhuman women. He had time to give Madrox a pitying look before the shit hit the fan: "Yeah?" he asked. "I hope you brought an army."
Madrox smirked. "Wait for it."
Then the Amazons were upon them, and the warrior-women had found them not in any kind of organized battle line, but in a disordered mob. They were dead. Oh, they'd make the Amazons pay for it. He'd have to cut loose with his powers to do it, but they'd pay. And they'd still all die.
At the head of the kill-team, Hawkgirl grinned as she swooped down to brain Jamie Madrox with her Nth metal mace. He saw it coming and was able to duck just before it would have opened his skull, but he couldn't avoid the bodyslam from the superhumanly strong flying woman. Grifter grimaced. So much for Jamie Madr... the fuck just happened? Instead of snapping like a twig the way he should have and then splattering against the wall... well, Madrox went flying into the wall, sure. But so did another. And another. And another. The impact split him into a hundred of himself, and when they started hitting the wall, those impacts doubled their number to two hundred.
Even Etrigan took note, pausing over a dead Amazon to stare at the Jamie Madroxes in complete surprise. "By the sin-soaked gates of Dis," he muttered, "what new devilry is this?"
The Madroxes flipped back to their feet in nearly perfect unison. Then all but one of them drew an odd-looking pistol from their jacket pocket and opened fire with a blazing volley of energy bolts. It was over less than a minute later: what had started as a textbook perfect ambush became the complete loss of all Amazonian forces. Apparently, the addition of two hundred men with energy weapons to the Resistance's side of the battle will do that.
Grifter replaced the empty magazine in his own gun, scanning the area for any additional targets. Finding none, he turned to the Madroxes. "... Thanks for the assist," he managed.
The one Madrox which hadn't fired his weapon grinned. "No problem," he said. A few dozen duplicates echoed him, "Any time."
Silence fell, punctuated only by the moans of the wounded. ... well. The moans of the wounded and the voice of a Madrox duplicate near the back of the group, who was in the middle of a sentence when it got quiet. "...have to wonder, If you and I - two Jamie Madroxes - had sex with each other, would that constitute incest or..." The duplicate trailed off as he realized that people were staring. "Hell of a time for it to get quiet," he muttered.
by P.H. Wise
A BtVS Crossover Fanfic
Chapter 11: Across the Rainbow Bridge, Part 4
Disclaimer: The DC Universe and its associated characters is the property of DC comics. The Marvel Universe and its associated characters is the property of Marvel Entertainment LLC. Buffy the Vampire Slayer is owned by Fran and Kaz Kuzui. Some of the text of this chapter is taken from the Flashpoint comic series. I don't own that, either.
Karen woke up to the sound of someone humming. It was a man's voice. Young. She didn't recognize the song. Well, she woke up to that and to the sensation of being one giant bruise. It was hard to appreciate someone's voice when she was in pain - particularly since she was in pain so rarely these days. "... Ow." she said.
"Don't try to sit up yet." She recognized Josh's voice, and when she opened her eyes, she saw him leaning over her, his golden skin gleaming in the light. She didn't try to sit up.
"How bad?" she asked.
Josh shrugged. "I've taken care of the concussion. Still working on the ribs. Your alien physiology is stubborn, otherwise I'd be done by now."
Karen nodded, and then immediately regretted it, as it sent a spike of pain through her to do so. She hissed, and Josh chuckled, shaking his head in bemusement. "Oh, sure," she muttered sourly. "Mock my pain."
"Sorry," he said. "I just haven't seen you hurt since..." He thought about it. "God, since you took that bullet for Laurie. I wasn't sure you could be hurt anymore."
She took in her surroundings, then. She was in an infirmary. The floors were old wood, once a rich reddish brown but faded now with age and wear. The walls were bare, and only the most basic monitoring equipment had been set up around her bed, which was as bare bones as it got: a steel frame on wheels with a mattress, stiff sheets, a blanket and a pillow. There were other beds here as well: perhaps a dozen of them evenly spaced on each side of the room with a walkway in between. There was a boy not much older than her lying in the bed next to hers, sleeping peacefully. He had raven hair, and despite his scrawny frame, and for all that she had never actually seen him before in person, she recognized his face instantly.
A chill ran down Karen's spine.
Kara was sitting between the two beds, smiling faintly as she watched the interplay between Josh and Karen.
"I'm just as mortal as the next guy," Karen said. "It didn't help that I was fighting Doomsday." She blinked. "Oh my God, I fought Doomsday."
If Josh was bothered by the reminder of Karen's former gender, he showed no sign of it. "That you did," he said, except he attached no particular significance to it, and it was obvious from his tone. He paused. "I never thanked you for saving her," he said. He looked down. "I... if Laurie had died there..." He swallowed. "I haven't been a very good friend to..." He broke off, staring at the floor.
Karen had heard the rumors. It was hard not to at a place like Xavier's. Josh and Laurie had been dating. Except Josh had also been completely infatuated with Rahne, who had left to join X-Factor Investigations after Josh had restored her powers, and... yeah. OK. It was complicated, but it boiled down to Josh being kind of an asshole to Laurie who was completely in love with him, and him stringing her along despite the fact that he was more interested in someone else. It was a little weird seeing him like this, now; it ran completely counter to her previous opinions of the boy.
"Hey," she said. "It's OK. She's alive."
Josh nodded. "Thank you."
Karen's heart warmed ever so slightly. There were a dozen different things she wanted to say. 'I didn't do it for you,' was one. 'She's my friend,' was another. But what she ended up saying instead was, "You're welcome."
Josh smiled. An honest, happy, grateful smile. And seeing such an unguarded expression on his face was almost shocking to her - Josh was almost never completely unguarded.
"Hey," Kara said.
Karen glanced over at Kara. "Hey," she said. "How is he?" she asked, indicating the unconscious Kal-El.
"We'll find out in another second or two," Josh said. Then Karen felt the altogether disturbing sensation of her broken ribs popping back into place and knitting themselves back together. "There we go," Josh said, looking satisfied.
Karen lifted up the blanket and glanced downward to see if there was still any visible damage. ... and all she saw was breasts. She started to sit up, trying to get a better angle to see her ribs from, and she'd just about managed it when she remembered that Josh was still in the room. She pulled the blanket back up and scowled at him, her cheeks burning.
He laughed, but there was no mockery in it. "OK, if I hadn't been convinced that you used to be a guy before, I'm sold on it, now."
Kara rolled her eyes. "And you'd been doing so well," she said. "At least it's not my body you're doing it to anymore. ... Sort of."
If Karen could have sunk into the floor, she would have.
Kara pulled a spare New X-Men uniform and some undergarments out of a bag at her feet. "Doomsday wrecked the uniform I gave you," she said. "I'm pretty sure that's supposed to be impossible to do to a uniform made of unstable molecules, but I guess it is Doomsday we're talking about." She tossed the uniform and the bra and panties to Karen, who put them on with a burst of superspeed that was too quick for Josh to see more than a split-second blur.
Josh moved over to Kal-El and put his hand on the unconscious kryptonian's head. There was silence for about ten seconds.
"... Where's Lois?" Karen asked. "I figured she'd be here with him."
As if the words had summoned her, the door swung open and Lois Lane walked into the infirmary, dressed all in Asgardian mail, a sword emblazoned with literal runes sheathed at her side. And carrying two cups of coffee. That was probably an important detail, too.
"Ah," Karen said.
As she approached, Lois offered her extra cup to Kara, who took it with a grateful nod. "Hello, Karen," she said with a nod to Karen. "It's good to see you awake."
What exactly do you say when Lois Lane says something like that to you? "Uh... Thanks," Karen said, and tried not to sound as flustered as she actually was. OK. That was one possibility. Incredibly lame, but a possibility. Way to go, Karen
"How is he?" Lois asked.
"Physically, malnourished and suffering from long-term sleep deprivation," Josh replied. "I'm fixing that for him. Using some of that funky energy he's got in his freaky Kryptonian solar-battery cells to do it."
Lois raised an eyebrow. "Is that the technical term?" she asked.
Josh blushed, and both Karen and Kara grinned.
The changes in Kal-El's body became visible almost immediately: he grew. His growth, formerly stunted by his poor nutrition, seemed to correct itself all at once, his body filling out before their eyes until he looked like... well, a little bit more like Superboy than Superman, actually. His body was twenty, and it would be a few years before he'd look like Superman again.
"So what's the deal, White Mage?" Karen asked. "Can you wake him up?"
Josh blinked. "White Mage? Why would you call me..." he stopped in mid-sentence. "OK, yeah, that's accurate."
"He's not going to know any of us, is he?" Kara asked.
"That girl, Layla, she already woke up his memories of the original timeline," Lois said. "It was when your friends were fighting that monster outside the chamber. She thought it might wake him." She shook her head. "It didn't work."
Karen thought about it. "Well, he's in an enchanted slumber, so... you tried kissing him yet?" She glanced at Lois.
Lois gave her a dubious look. "We aren't living in a fairy tale," she said. "Besides, I'm pretty sure it has to be the prince kissing the princess to break the spell. I don't think it works the other way around."
"Couldn't hurt, could it?"
Lois pressed her lips together and looked at Clark's sleeping form. Then she shrugged. "OK. Sure. Why not." She went to his bedside and leaned over him, and her hair fell down to veil them as she gently brought her lips to his. She drew back a moment later.
Then Lois teared up. She wasn't crying yet, but her eyes were shining with unshed tears, and what little humor was left in the situation seemed to vanish. She kissed him again, and this time she meant it. She drew back from his lips just enough to break contact. "Please, Clark," she whispered. "You have to wake up! I need you." Her voice broke. When she spoke next, there was such love and such yearning in her voice that Karen began to feel as though she were intruding on something private. "Please come back to me," Lois said.
Lois drew back, and scrubbed at her eyes. "... It was a stupid idea, anyways," she muttered.
Clark opened his eyes. "Lois?" he asked faintly.
Lois Lane's whole face lit up with sudden and unexpected joy. "Clark?"
Kara smiled brilliantly as she gestured towards the door. "Come on," she murmured to Josh and Karen. "We should wait outside."
Clark sat up as Kara, Karen and Josh made their way out of the room.
Karen scrubbed at her own eyes as they shut the door behind them on the way out. "I knew it couldn't end like that," she said. "Pandora or no Pandora, it wasn't going to end like that. Not for them."
Kara smiled. "Of course it couldn't," she said. She looked Karen in the eyes, and there was a sense of weight to her words as spoke, "It's not going to end, Karen. It's never going to end for us. One day, you'll see."
Inside the infirmary, Clark and Lois finally broke their kiss, and Clark looked at her with smile. "You look good," he said.
"Alternate reality will do that to a girl," she replied with a wink. "That and I'm pretty sure these bodies are at least a decade younger."
"That's not what I meant," Clark said.
Lois smiled, and her smile was like the rising of the dawn, utterly transforming her face, erasing the care and the worry that had lingered there since this Crisis had begun. "I know what you meant," she said. A hundred things passed between them in that moment, the least of them what she said aloud; but even that was sincerely meant. "I'm happy to see you, too."
He rose to his feet, and brought her into his arms. "Have I mentioned how much I love you?"
Lois wiped away her tears, and the whole yawning gulf of memories that stood between their old world and this one seemed to open in her thoughts. "Not for the last twenty years," she said. She kissed him once more, and he kissed her back.
She didn't need to say it. He knew. But she said it anyways. "I love you, too."
And for Lois Lane and Clark Kent, for one shining moment, all that existed was each other.
The final preparations took the better part of an hour. It felt strange to be this close to the end. This close to the resolution, one way or another. The waiting was the worst part. It didn't help that Karen had spent most of that hour trying to remember where that final Monitor guy had wound up at the end of Final Crisis, and whether or not it would be feasible to find him; she'd feel a lot better about the whole thing if they had... whatever it was that Monitor guy had called up to help at the end. Not that her memories of Final Crisis were particularly clear: it had seemed like a confused, muddled mess to her, though Jonathan had sworn that it was amazing if you read the tie-ins. He'd even offered to let her borrow his comics, once. She was kind of regretting not having done so. She'd mentioned the guy to the Flash as a potential ally, and he'd shaken his head, telling her that he'd already looked, and that Nix Uotan didn't appear to exist in this timeline.
So yeah. She spent a lot of time waiting for the final preparations to be complete while other people talked and planned and discussed and were moved back and forth across the Atlantic by the Flash. Atlee, Prodigy, Rockslide, and Mercury had been in the first group taken across. Now, it was morning in Metropolis, she was sitting on the roof of Cyborg's hideout, and the previous night's storm had broken up into the most spectacular cloudy sky, and the sunlight on her skin felt beyond incredible. She almost didn't notice the approaching footsteps.
"Hey," Power Girl said.
"Hey yourself," Karen replied, not opening her eyes.
"Got a minute?" Power Girl asked.
Karen did open her eyes at that. She looked up. "Yeah, I guess. What's up?"
Power Girl grinned. "There's someone I want you to meet." She glanced toward the roof-access door. "Clark, you can come out."
Superman walked out onto the roof. How exactly he'd managed to reproduce his costume Karen didn't know, and sure, he was younger than he should have been, but holy Crom but Superman had just walked out onto the roof. Karen's heart leaped at the sight. She stopped. Her eyes widened, and her jaw dropped open. He was walking towards her through a sunbeam that had slipped through a gap in the clouds. He should have looked ridiculous in those blue and red tights, the S on his chest, the red boots, the cape. But something in the image was just right, and right on an elemental level.
He looked Karen over, but there was no sense of leering, no sense of sexual advance in it. She took a breath and let it out again, feeling as though she were being weighed, and under everything, despite everything, there was this gnawing fear that Superman was going to find her wanting.
Then he smiled a friendly smile. "You must be Karen," he said. "Kara's told me all about you." He held out a hand.
Karen's throat went dry. Her brain kicked into overdrive as a hundred different things she could say flashed through her thoughts. She wasn't going to fangirl this time. Not if she could help it. So she kept her composure, shook his hand and said, "It's an honor, sir." Then what he'd said sank in, and she looked to Kara. "You told him all about me?" she asked.
Power Girl nodded. "Not everything. I told him you had some secrets that weren't mine to tell. But you can trust him, Karen. He's Superman."
A giggle almost tore its way free from Karen's throat at those words. "Yeah," she said. "OK." She took another breath, and then another, and a third.
Superman looked her in the eye. "It's all right, Karen. We've all got secrets, and how you came to be isn't as important as what you choose to do. From what Kara tells me, you were the only reason she made it back here. You helped her when no one else could, and when push came to shove, you gave up your chance to return to your normal life in order to do the right thing. You've faced down cosmic level threats, and you fought Doomsday to rescue me. But more than that, I trust Kara's judgment. If Power Girl says that you've impressed her, that you're a sister to her, and that she's willing to adopt you into the House of L, then that's good enough for me."
Her heart grew warm within her chest, and she nodded. "Th, thank you." Those words felt wholly inadequate, but she meant them.
Then Captain America's voice came over the communicator: "Team PG, you are go."
"Team Power Girl?" Superman asked.
Power Girl grinned. "That would be us. Got a problem with it?"
Superman considered his answer. "I suppose it has a certain ring to it."
"Darn right it does," Power Girl said with laughter in her voice.
"Right," Karen said. "So what do we do?"
"Now?" Superman lifted up into the air, suddenly all business. "We save the day." He shot off towards the eastern horizon, and a second later, Power Girl and Karen followed. England - and destiny - awaited.
If you'd asked him if he'd ever imagined that a trip to the moon would be in his immediate future, Prodigy would have laughed. Not that it was impossible - other X-Men had been there, after all - but it wasn't exactly the sort of place you could just zip off to for an afternoon. Unless, that is, you were a Green Lantern. It had taken all of twenty minutes to get here, and it had felt like a snail's pace. Prodigy knew he could go faster. Much, much faster.
The ground was covered in a layer of dust that was like powder beneath his feet over the grey basalt that made up most of the immediate area, and the whole vast grey surface stretched out around him, the great crater Posidonius a few miles south of where he stood, and the rugged Montes Caucasus to the west. The sky was black, with the full Earth and the stars the only sources of illumination: despite the lack of atmosphere, the surface of the moon was more than reflective enough to ensure that you wouldn't see stars on the moon during the day, but it was night on the moon at the moment, and the sky was full of them. For one shining moment, his heart swelled, and he thought, 'Holy crap, I'm on the moon!' Then his concentration wavered, and Sinestro, his teacher and his opponent, made him pay for it.
Sweat beaded on Prodigy's brow as he struggled to maintain a clockwork construct of green energy. It had been like this for the last few hours. Despite his own misgivings about the alien, Sinestro had told him that it was time for a crash course in ring-wielding, and he couldn't afford to refuse. Now, power flowed through him in a way he'd never imagined possible before. They called it Will. Maybe it was, but it was altogether strange to think of himself as 'marshalling his will,' or 'willing something to happen' as distinct from actually taking action. And it wasn't really distinct, in any case. He chose, and as long as he maintained control over his impulses and actions, actively chose rather than simply reacted to stimuli, the ring responded.
His concentration flickered. The construct discorporated, and he staggered with the suddenly released effort of maintaining it.
The Earth-light gave the barest hint of color to the otherwise oppressive grey of Mare Serenetatis: the location Sinestro had selected for their training. Sinestro Thaal floated over him, now, frowning disapprovingly. "You must focus, David Alleyne," he said.
"I am focusing," Prodigy snapped. They'd been at this for hours, now. Then, before Sinestro could respond, he paused. He took a breath and let it out. According to everything he understood, letting his irritation, his anger dictate his actions was just as unhelpful to controlling the ring as allowing fear to do so. He could feel anger, and even act on it, but acting on it needed to be a conscious choice, not a blind reaction to emotional stimulus. "I am focusing," he said again, his voice calm.
Sinestro smirked. "So you are. Good. Remember that your power is only as strong as your will. If you cannot maintain your focus, you will be overcome. Now, defend yourself." With only that much warning, a lance of green light shot out from Sinestro's ring, and Prodigy barely got a shield up in time to block it.
It felt like standing in the path of a hurricane. The shield trembled, and Prodigy knew he couldn't hold it for long. Even so, his thoughts were racing. "Are all contests of power between Lanterns determined by force of will?" he asked.
"Not necessarily," Sinestro replied, not ceasing his attack, the power of his will slowly crushing Prodigy's barrier, "but the one with the stronger will is generally the victor in the same way that the larger and stronger fighter will generally win in a physical confrontation."
"Right." Prodigy angled his shield, then, not directly opposing Sinestro's power, not trying to stop it completely, but instead to deflect it. Immediately, the pressure on his shield fell to a manageable level. "Do the constructs we can create interact with traditional physics?"
"Observe," Sinestro said, and without visibly altering his position or making any additional effort, summoned two boulder constructs a thousand feet above them. Prodigy had just enough time to notice them on the HUD that his ring had provided and raise an eyebrow before Sinestro's ring flashed, and the moon's microgravity seemed swept aside in favor of a point directly at his own feet. Crushing weight dragged him downwards, knocking him flat. He felt as though his limbs were made of lead, and the boulder-constructs were falling faster and faster. They soon moved past what would have been terminal velocity without the increased gravity. .
Prodigy focused, feeling his emotions but not allowing them to rule him. Sinestro had just generated artificial gravity! … Falling boulders now, gravitational constants later. Rather than dispel the entire effect of Sinestro's construct, Prodigy countered it with just enough force to allow him to roll out of the way of the two boulders, and even that much was a titanic effort. No sooner had they hit the ground then he gestured, creating a massive energy construct mass-driver. An act of will brought one of the boulders into it. He didn't actually hear the discharge when the electromagnetic field accelerated the willpower construct to .22c and flung it at Sinestro, but the effort was like lifting a truck over his head with his unaugmented muscles, and he heard Sinestro's laugh as the boulder simply ceased to exist a bare millisecond before it could impact.
"You learn quickly, human," Sinestro said. "But using another Lantern's construct as a projectile is dangerous as best. It is sustained by his will, and it can be dismissed at any time, whether it be by the wielder or by the ring's own emergency override. Better to use one of your own. Or a natural object, if the enemy should prove resistant to the ring."
Prodigy felt exhaustion building, not in his muscles, but in his mind; he panted for breath all the same. "So physics plays a part."
"Indeed," Sinestro said, allowing his assault to cease and the whole of his effect to disperse. "A sufficiently strong will can use the ring to manipulate even the most fundamental forces of the universe. Gravity. Electromagnetism. The nuclear forces. Great care must be exercised. What is theoretically possible and what is practically attainable are not the same. Neither are what is possible and what is wise."
Prodigy nodded. "... I think I understand."
Sinestro smirked. "Show me."
Brilliant light danced around them in whorls of yellow and gold. Pulses of lightning traveled the length of the universe, and here, in the midst of everything, Irma's thoughts raced. She didn't understand what she was seeing: few could be said to understand the Speed Force, but there it was all around them both. Here and there, bands of angry red pulsed malignantly, each red band bordered by millions of strange, glowing black dots.
"How much longer?" Irma asked.
"We're traveling in time," Hot Pursuit replied. "I don't think time means much here!"
A shadow seemed to pass over them. Irma looked up. For a split second, she thought she saw… she wasn't sure what. A figure, maybe. She had just enough time for a quizzical head-tilt before the Cosmic Motorcycle emerged from the Speed Force, trailing streams of crackling yellow lightning in its wake. They arrived next to the construction site for the Shard: an 87 story tall skyscraper due to complete construction some time in the next year. Or it would have been, if not for the Themysciran invasion. The Shard construction site had been abandoned for almost a year now, and the elements had not been kind to it, nor had the armed resistance to the invasion been kind to the surrounding city. There had been battle, and recently: smoke choked the air, and lent an angry orange-yellow haze to the setting sun. There was a shimmer in the air even beyond smoke: something like the surface of a soap bubble. London Bridge Station was held by the resistance, now, and they pulled up in front of it just in time to hear familiar voices.
"Hey, I hear you're a speedster, too," Kid Flash was saying. "How fast can you go?"
Noriko glanced sidelong at Kid Flash. "Um, four hundred miles an hour or so. Why? How fast can you go?"
Kid Flash raised both eyebrows, started to say something, then seemed to reconsider his words, "I guess I'm pretty fast. Speed isn't everything, though."
Noriko gave him a look. "How fast?"
A few of the other New X-Men were moving about in the train yard, as were a number of civilians.
"... Eh…" Kid Flash looked uncomfortable. "I've never been able to go faster than the speed of light, I guess?"
Nori blinked. "... Ah." She looked down.
"Hey, four hundred miles an hour is pretty good, too!"
"Yeah," Nori said, her tone flat. "Thanks."
"Nori," Irma said.
Noriko looked up. "Irma! Hey! You said you might show up. I'm supposed to tell you that when you said the south end of the bridge, you actually meant the south end of the bridge."
"Thanks, Nori," Irma said. She paused, then looked at Kid Flash. "Really, Kid Flash?" she asked, her tone disapproving.
Kid Flash got defensive. "Hey, it's not my fault her powers suck. Crappy super-speed and the ability to shoot lightning and accidentally break electronics? Please." Then he seemed to realize what he'd just said. His eyes widened. "Um, that is…"
Noriko glared at the boy, for all that he was only about a year younger than him, and stood up straight. "I'm electrokinetic. Still in training. There's probably a hundred other applications of my powers I haven't figured out yet."
A couple emotions flickered across Kid Flash's face: embarrassment, regret, sullen stubbornness, defensiveness, all almost too fast to be seen. He crossed his arms and looked away. "Whatever," he said.
Noriko shook her head, slipping into her native Japanese in her irritation. "God, what a brat," she muttered. Then she continued in English, "Don't you have a planet to evacuate or something?"
Irma and Patty exchanged glances. "We're… just going to go," Patty said, looking really uncomfortable.
The shimmer in the sky grew more pronounced as they drew closer to the bridge. The streets that Irma could see were mostly deserted, with only hints of movement here and there. A sense of watchfulness hung over the city, and sections outside of the strange shimmering bubble were burning. Some buildings had collapsed. Others had huge ugly holes in them. To the east she could make out Tower Bridge, and its northernmost tower had fallen into the Thames; its fall had taken out most of the drawbridge portion that stood between the two, rendering it impassable.
Up ahead, standing in the middle of the road and murmuring a chant under his breath, stood a man in blue and gold, cape flowing in a breeze that touched nothing else, a distinct golden helmet concealing his features. Almost instinctively, Irma reached out to touch his mind. What she met was a wall of power so vast that she hesitated to probe at it, even empowered with a shard of the Phoenix.
Not far from where the man in blue and gold stood, Prodigy, Heimdall, and a large black man covered in cybernetics of every sort awaited flanked by Valkyries on either side. Cables and wiring and strange glowing devices of every description sprawled every which way across the road. Here and there, technicians were already at work connecting parts: at the center of the work stood a large empty circle.
Prodigy nodded as Irma and Patty approached. He looked tired, and his costume was different: a form fitting green and black that showed his impressive physique beneath it in ways that Irma found most satisfactory. It had an empty white circle centered on his chest. "Irma," he said. "Hot Pursuit."
"Prodigy," she replied. "Like the new uniform."
Prodigy blushed ever so slightly. "Thanks. You have the parts?"
Irma nodded, and she and Patty quickly unloaded the equipment. "It's all yours," Patty said cheerfully.
Prodigy let out a breath. "Thanks. OK. Time to get to work."
Even as Team Prodigy began their effort, Irma smiled. "OK," she said. "No more time travel." … and as soon as she'd said it, she knew she was wrong. The conversation with her future self flashed into her memory. The conversation with Layla. The meeting in Metropolis.
"Irma," Patty said, "We haven't hit the other side of the time loop yet."
Irma shut her eyes. She felt a cold, prickling sensation moving up and down her spine. She didn't voice the fear that she felt. The suspicion that they'd messed everything up.
"We ran into Layla on the surface in Metropolis. We already know that she was never on the surface. They were underground. She was underground."
Irma opened her eyes. Something rippled against the barrier that the man in gold was projecting to protect the bridge and its surroundings. An explosion, but strangely muffled. It didn't penetrate the field. A few seconds later, several dozen more joined it, and then silence. Artillery. Someone was firing artillery at them. No sign of her distress showed in her expression. She looked at Patty. "What happens if we just ignore the paradox and keep going?" she asked.
Patty stared at the rippling barrier, her jaw dropped open.
Patty blinked. "What?"
"Well, we intend to rewrite time anyways, don't we? What happens if we just ignore the paradox and keep going?"
Patty stared at Irma. "Chronovores eat the timeline and none of us ever existed?" she said, making it sound like a question.
Patty didn't know. "And that's bad," Irma said.
Patty nodded. "Imagine a twinky thirty five feet long weighing approximately six hundred pounds." The joke sounded hollow. Patty didn't know. Irma could see it in her thoughts.
"You're the expert on time travel," Irma said, a hint of nervousness entering her voice.
Patty stared at her, her eyes wide. "I stole this equipment from a police evidence locker," she said, her voice not quite wavering with fear. "But when we reset this timeline, we're going to be doing it from the relative safety of another universe that won't itself be affected by that reset. If we ignore a paradox here and now, we won't have that buffer between us, and I have no idea what could happen."
Irma thought about it, taking slow, regular breaths as she forced back her own fear.. "We need to find Layla."
It didn't take long. Five minutes. Five minutes of growing dread. She was in the train station where the Resistance had established its fortifications.
Cross-beams overhead and broken glass all around, but Layla sat in the midst of it all, unconcerned, watching the dappled sunlight play across the station. A train lay on its side in the yard, and resistance fighters went to and fro with purpose in their steps.
"Layla, " Irma called.
"Looking for me?"
"Yeah." Layla's thoughts were strange. There was an echo to them that made them seem weirdly distant.
Layla arched an eyebrow." Go on, " she said.
Irma let her telepathy slide off of Layla's thoughts, repulsed by that weird echo. She couldn't tell what the other blonde was thinking without giving herself a headache.
"We think we broke our time-loop," Hot Pursuit said.
Layla stopped. She just stopped. Tension grew in her bearing, disbelief upon her face, "You broke your time loop, " she echoed.
Irma thinned her lips and nodded. "Apparently," she said.
"Why don't you start at the beginning, " Layla said.
Afterwards, Layla looked thoughtful. "OK," she said, "so you wound up on an American street. Are you sure it was American?"
Irma and Hot Pursuit nodded, and Hot Pursuit said, "It looked like Metropolis."
"Where you spoke to me, and I mentioned that Power Girl was going to be here in less than a minute. Except at the time, I was actually down inside Project Superman trying to wake up Power Girl's cousin."
Layla sighed. "Well, the solution is obvious enough." She climbed on the back of the motorcycle with Irma and Hot Pursuit. It was awkward, but not as awkward as when Kid Flash was doing it: Layla was small for her age.
Hot Pursuit shot Irma an an annoyed look. "I told you this was a bad idea," she said.
"It got us the teleportation gate, didn't it?" Irma asked. She paused, then. Perhaps some admission of wrong would help smooth things along. What would Karen say? It came to her quickly. "For the record, the next time I decide that time travel is an amazing way to solve all my problems, shoot me."
Layla nodded gravely. "So say we all," she deadpanned.
It had been the Thames Estuary, once, before Tara Markov had used her power over the earth to raise the British Isles. It had been a response to the mega-tsunami sent out by the Atlanteans which had sunk most of western Europe, and though the seismic shockwaves of the raising had been felt the world over, it had allowed the United Kingdom - now New Themyscira - to weather the storm. But not all of it. Some areas on the coasts had not fared well: most of the region that had once stretched from Southend-on-Sea to Foulness Island had fallen into the North Sea. On the southern side, a good half of the Isle of Sheppey was simply gone, fallen into the waters with all who had lived there. The cliffs were irregular brown Silurian mudstone shot through with ribbons of old red sandstone, the work of geologic epochs upended by the metahuman will, mingled and on display for all to see.
Three figures floated in midair above the waterfall that took the waters of the Thames down into the North Sea a five hundred feet below. Superman. Power Girl. Karen. The vast stretch of sea beyond the coastline stretched out almost to the horizon, and though the cold could not touch her, Karen shivered all the same. It was a strange thing for her, being here, waiting for the arrival of the Atlantean army. The waiting was the worst: knowing they were out there, that they were coming, but not when they would appear, not when battle would begin. Despite all that she'd been through, part of her was screaming at her to get the hell out of here and let the real heroes handle it. Even after all she'd been through, she was afraid. Some part of her still insisted that facing an army was insane. That one person couldn't DO that. It must have showed, because Superman put a hand on her shoulder. She looked up. He didn't say anything. He just floated there, confident, powerful, utterly determined to stop the whole Atlantean army by himself if he needed to. He nodded to her, and after a moment's hesitation, she nodded back. The fear was still there, but it wasn't going to control her. Superman and Power Girl believed in her. That was enough for now. Hell, they were Kryptonians. They were each at the peak of their power. Three Kryptonians against practically anything wasn't just an unfair fight, it was a curbstomp waiting to happen, wasn't it? That made her start to feel better.
The moon was rising, though the sun had not yet set, and Karen looked to her companions. "I don't want to question Cap's plan or anything, but doesn't all three of us working as a unit together seem like overkill? What exactly is he expecting us to have to deal with that requires all three of us?"
Power Girl and Superman exchanged looks. "Aquaman," Power Girl said, and Superman nodded in agreement.
Karen blinked. "You're kidding, right? Can't either one of you take him by yourselves?"
"If all we wanted to do was kill him, sure," Power Girl said.
Superman nodded. "Now you're getting it. The three of us against the entire Atlantean army, led by Aquaman."
Karen swallowed. "Oh."
Superman went on. "Arthur is the bearer of the Trident of Neptune. That name is not artistic licence. Add in a few hundred Atlantean sorcerers and thousands of soldiers with enchanted weapons and armor on top of that, plus an unknown number of meta-Atlanteans, and you can start to see what we're going to be up against."
Power Girl grimaced. "Have I mentioned lately that I hate magic?"
"Not lately, no," Superman said.
"I really hate magic."
Superman smirked. "Good to know."
The waters of the North Sea began to roil. Something was rising from below. Superman took a breath, determination settling onto his bearing. "Well," he said, "Here goes everything."
Everything? What did he mean by that? Karen raised an eyebrow. "Don't you mean 'nothing?'"
Superman looked at Karen. "No. I don't."
The roiling mass of water expanded, churning up silt from deep below, turning the ocean brown and white as the unknown continued to rise. Karen understood, then. The weight of situation settled oppressively around her.
Superman continued to speak calmly. "I understand you've got experience fighting as part of a group," he said.
Training with the New X-Men. The Danger Room. A thousand memory-images of training sessions flashed through her thoughts in the space of a second. Karen nodded.
"Good," Superman said. "Use that. If Arthur won't listen to us and it comes to a fight, don't let them overwhelm you. Watch out for me and for Power Girl, and we'll watch out for you in turn."
Power Girl spoke next. "If you get in trouble and we aren't there, call out, and respond if we do the same. Otherwise, follow my lead. Once they realize what they're dealing with, they'll try to separate us. We'll be easier targets if they succeed. Don't let them."
The ground began to shake.
Superman nodded in agreement. "Be careful. We don't want them dead. Judging how much power you can safely put behind a punch can be difficult. If you aren't sure if they can take it, it's better to throw a punch that's not strong enough than to kill someone by accident. We only need to delay them long enough for the others to finish their preparations in London."
Karen swallowed. "Right. OK. At least they can't fly, right? That's something."
Then the first great water-dragon lifted its titanic head from the roiling sea. Then another. Then other things, things less easily identifiable. Things rose from the depths and took to the sky in a spray of water from barnacle-encrusted wings. Things rose like titanic crustaceans whose glowing hearts kindled into flame as they were exposed to the air. Great underwater beasts arose which had never seen the world of air, things of shell and bone and writhing, hooked tentacles. Before them came thousands of Atlantean soldiers clad in golden, scaled armor, some bearing swords or tridents along with shell-like shields, others carrying strange guns that seemed forged from living coral. As the earthquake rumbled with greater and greater power, cracks racing through the cliffside, Arthur of Atlantis came up from the depths, the Trident of Neptune in his hands.
"... Oh." Karen said.
Superman looked down upon the army with an expression of grim resolve. "Well, here's hoping they listen to reason."
They had barely gotten the Cosmic Motorcycle into the alley when they heard the distinctive crackle of the Cosmic Motorcycle emerging from the Speed Force. Their past selves had arrived, and just in time: Layla was waiting for them out on the side of the road. It was tempting to watch. Tempting and potentially dangerous: just because they hadn't noticed their future selves here last time didn't mean that they wouldn't be noticed if they poked their heads out. In the distance, they could hear the sounds of Karen's battle against Doomsday.
"Hey Layla," a voice very much like Phoebe and Celeste's called. It took a split second for Irma to recognize it as her own; it sounded different coming from the outside and not vibrating through her own skull. Not that she'd seriously expected it to sound exactly the same as what she heard when she spoke, but it was still odd in the way that listening to a recording of your own voice was always odd. She wasn't about to mess things up even more by watching herself do things she'd already done: Irma and Hot Pursuit stayed out of sight in the alley until the conversation on the street came to an end.
"I've got a message from you," Layla said. "You told me you need to talk to yourself right away. After that, you better get going. If you're here too long, Power Girl's going to see you, and you said that you left before she got here."
Irma's own voice filtered in from the street. "Thanks Layla," she said. "Tell me I said thanks, too."
"Already did," Layla replied.
In the alley, Irma rolled her eyes. Time for the mental contact. She braced herself, but it didn't make it feel any less weird. At least the weird mental resonance made it impossible to tell exactly where the other was by telepathy alone.
*Hey, me. How're things?* Irma asked.
*Hey, myself." Irma replied. It was hard to tell which one of them was sending what, even for her. When a mental voice is exactly like your own in every way, things got confusing quickly. Get confusing quickly? One of those.
*Tell me about it,* an Irma sent.
*Let's just get this over with as quickly as we can.* Irmasent. *Tell me where to take the supplies we stole from Brainiac.*
*OK, first you need to find Booster Gold. He's in Coast City nine hours and fifteen minutes ago. He'll be able to tell you what they are and what they do, so that I'll know what they are and what they do and can tell the others, got it? After that, take them to London bridge. Southern end. Twelve hours from now. I've already told Prodigy and Cyborg to expect you.*
*Why don't you just tell me what they are and what they do?*
*Because that's not how it happened.*
*... I'm starting to hate time travel.*
*This was your idea.*
*Don't remind me.*
The link was severed, and Irma rubbed at her forehead. "That conversation was just as annoying from the other side of it," she muttered.
Patty raised an eyebrow. "What?"
They gave it another couple of minutes, and then Hot Pursuit started up the Cosmic Motorcycle and took them both out of the alley to meet up with Layla. "All right," Hot Pursuit said with a grin. "Now all we need to do is go back to the future and meet up with the others so we can reset this entire timeline to the way it's supposed to be. Hopefully without Chronovores making us never have existed."
Irma frowned. "Is there really any such thing as…" that was as far as she got. Something struck her from behind, and Irma went down. She couldn't breathe. She gasped, and the air wouldn't come. Panic threatened to set in. She couldn't breathe! No. No, damnit. She was better than that. She was Irma Cuckoo, and panic was beneath her.
A flash of yellow and red. Hot Pursuit let out a strangled gasp as Professor Zoom, in his full Reverse-Flash costume, cruel-eyed and grinning like a madman, blurred into view, his hand already clasped around Hot Pursuit's throat. "This feels familiar," he murmured. "Does it feel familiar to you, too, Ms. Spivot?"
Hot Pursuit struggled for breath, and he let her take one before he began to choke her again. "Professor Zoom…" she managed.
Irma still couldn't breathe. She tried to stand up, but the world was still spinning. She forced herself to calm down, forced herself to focus on breathing.
"I'm actually delighted to find you here, my dear," Zoom said conversationally. "Now I can leave your dessicated corpse for Barry to find after all."
Layla started to get up from the motorcycle, and Hot Pursuit struggled for another breath. She got it, but only because Professor Zoom allowed it. "No!" she said. "We have to… we have to set things right!"
It was better now. Irma's breath was coming back. Less short and gasping. She could think again. The world wasn't spinning quite so much anymore. Almost there. She looked up.
Zoom gestured with his free hand, sending a small whirlwind out at Layla that knocked both her and the cosmic motorcycle to the ground. "I'll get to you, girl," he said absently, his focus never leaving Patty. "I am setting things right. I'm removing your presence from the timeline. Did you think you hadn't been noticed?" He smiled widely. "Goodbye, Ms. Spivot."
Red lightning crackled around the hand at her throat, and Patty Spivot aged. She went from late twenties to thirties to forties to fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties and beyond, skin wrinkling, crow's feet deepening, blotches appearing, hair bleaching to white and growing thin, and then… and then she died. Zoom dropped the ancient, dessicated corpse that had only an instant before been a living, breathing woman, and it broke apart with a sound like tearing parchment, spilling dust across the Metropolan street. He turned to Irma. "You next, I think."
There was a crackle of lightning as the Cosmic Motorcycle discorporated into something like a vibrant orange-yellow nightstick. Layla scrambled to pick it up.
Irma's eyes went flat. Cold fury filled her. She marshalled her telepathic might. "You're going to pay for that," she hissed, and even as she did, she lashed out at the man with everything she had.
He was faster. In the time it took her to speak, in the time it took her neural impulses to trigger her powers, Professor Zoom had already seized her by the throat, red lightning crackling from his hand as something dark and awful surged through her body. The telepathic effort withered even as she did. She ached, more and more, a deep, awful weariness flooding through her. Her bones ached, and she felt colder and colder as she went from teenager to middle-aged to elderly in the space of a heartbeat, and then…
Irma Cuckoo died.
Although separated by a dimensional barrier that muted their link to the tiniest awareness of the other's presence, Phoebe awoke in the middle of the night screaming in horror at the awful, yawning emptiness that waited where her sister's presence had been. It had happened again. It had happened again. Their sister was dead. Their other self was dead. Gone.
"No…" Celeste whispered, and the word tasted like ashes.
Tears flowed down identical cheeks on faces with identical expressions of grief. But there was nothing they could do. Nothing. Their sister was gone. Dead. Some X-Men had a free pass for resurrections. The Cuckoos didn't.
The Cuckoos didn't. … didn't… have…
Anger flared within twin hearts. "No," they said as one, and this time it didn't sound like a vain denial. Within them, the Phoenix stirred.
On Flashpoint Earth, Layla stared in horror at Irma's corpse as it landed next to Patty's. She held the Cosmic Motorcycle's control rod between her and Zoom as if it were the only thing in the universe that could keep her alive. "Why are you doing this?" she asked.
Zoom scoffed. "My answer would mean nothing to you."
A faint light. A warmth. Like life. Like fire. Like called to like across dimensional barriers. The astral forms of Phoebe and Celeste alit upon the street beside their dead sister, and Irma's body began to glow.
Like called to like. Something else. The Phoenix but not. An entity which was the source of all life. A twin, but not, buried in the Earth's core; the pure light of Creation unbroken, containing within it every possible shade of the Emotional Spectrum. A connection was made. A resonance began to build. Phoenix fragments and the Life Entity.
Irma Cuckoo of Earth 616.
Nothing. An interruption in the flow of power. Something was preventing it from bringing her back.
Irma Cuckoo of Earth 616.
The same interruption. Power too similar to its own. The resonance built, stronger and stronger, Phoebe and Celeste and Irma and the Phoenix and the Life Entity, building and building like thunder, like the oncoming storm.
"Is this still about Barry Allen?" Layla asked.
Professor Zoom laughed. "It's always about Barry Allen. About making him suffer. But killing the three of you? That it will hurt Barry is only a bonus."
Layla's eyes narrowed. "So you're working for Pandora?"
Professor Zoom's amusement snapped off as if it had never been. "I am no minion, girl," he said coldly. "We have an understanding, that is all. Now, time to die."
Zoom raised an eyebrow. "Agreed?" He looked at her suspiciously for a split second. "You're trying to stall me."
Like a cresting wave, the resonance between Phoenix and Entity reached its tipping point, power magnified again and again. Fire filled the air. A vast Phoenix raptor erupted around Irma's body, the costume of the Dark Phoenix forming anew. Every tear was mended, every bloodstain suddenly gone. Life returned to her and her eyes opened, blazing with fire as her body reverted from old woman to teenager without passing any stage between. Her voice was like thunder, like inevitability: "I… AM… PHOENIX!"
Professor Zoom whirled to face the threat, his eyes wide. "Impossible!"
Layla backed away from the heat of it, not bothering to hide her grin. "You done goofed."
A spectral firebird seemed to flicker on Phoenix's either side. Professor Zoom didn't wait for her to attack: he flashed forward once more, seizing her by the throat, heedless of the agony of plunging his hand into her aura, heedless of the third degree burns. Red lightning crackled once more as he channeled the negative speed force into the Phoenix. He held nothing back this time: he aged her a thousand years, a million years, all in the space of an instant.
The Phoenix was utterly unchanged. Zoom met her gaze. "Why won't you die?" he hissed.
"I am life," she said. "I am fire." Her power flared, building once more upon the resonance between the Phoenix and the Life Entity. A pulse went through her aura, and Zoom was thrown backwards, his right arm burned to ashes, completely and utterly gone, and the rest of him covered in burns.
That was when Layla brained him with the control rod. It was designed to draw in the Speed Force, to use it as its power source, and could, under the right circumstances, drain velocity from someone connected to the Speed Force and use that to immediately supercharge its own speed force tank. It was not, however, designed to interact with the Reverse Flash's Negative Speed Force.
The universe went wonky.
Red light pulsed within the orange-yellow nightstick that was the Cosmic Motorcycle's control rod, and thousands upon thousands of crackling, glowing black dots seemed to pour out of it, lighting up the street with their darkness made visible, and it clung to the street, to the buildings, to the crowd of onlookers filming the whole thing on their cell phones. Then the control rod shattered into fragments of light, and Layla clenched her eyes shut just before a bright red and yellow flare of energy went off in front of her. Against the red-hot darkness behind her eyes, she briefly saw… something. An armored figure all in black, moving swiftly towards her on… skis? That couldn't be right. She opened her eyes, and the vision was gone as quickly as it had come.
Professor Zoom - the Reverse Flash - clutched at the charred stump that had been his arm only a few seconds before. "You… bitches…" he hissed. "You don't kill me! You DON'T! If anyone kills me, it's him. It has to be him." He rose to his feet, glaring hatred at Layla and at Phoenix. "I'm not going to die here. Not when I'm finally free! Not when I no longer need Barry Allen!"
The Phoenix considered him with pitiless eyes. "Burn, Eobard Thawne." she said. "Burn and die. So says the Phoenix."
Zoom embraced the negative speed force. … He tried to. His mind sent the command to his body to do so. Nothing happened. The hit from the control rod had temporarily disrupted his connection. He didn't have his speed! His eyes widened. "NO!"
The Phoenix unleashed her fire, and he was consumed, reduced to ashes before his scream had finished fading away.
Dissonance. Discord entered the resonance. The Life Entity's had a purpose for Professor Zoom. It had not returned his life only for that purpose to be denied. "Eobard Thawne of Earth. Live."
The white light came, and Zoom gasped as he was reborn within it, his uniform transformed, shining white, the white lantern emblem blazing upon his chest. "What…" he began.
"No," the Phoenix said, her fires consuming him once again.
Discord. Anger. Resonance building dangerously. More insistent now. Its counterpart would not undo what it had set in motion. "Eobard Thawne of Earth. Live."
Another burst of white light. Another rebirth. Zoom's eyes wide in terror. "... is happening…"
Anger growing. Rage. "Burn," she commanded, her enemy once more reduced to ashes.
"Eobard Thawne of Earth."
"STOP!" the Phoenix cried. "I WILL NOT ALLOW THIS!"Another peak. A low rumble rising. The Earth itself began to shake, glass shattered, rained down all around, people staring in awe. The breaking point came hurtling towards them.
"LIVE," the Entity said even as Phoenix cried, "BURN!"
Like strove with like, and the connection shattered. Paradox roiled about them, and the very walls of the Flashpoint itself into which all possible futures had fallen, shook. Within her Sanctum Sanctorum, Pandora herself took note, her eyes widening as she saw the thread by which her plan hung. There was a flash of white fire, and a pulse of raw power raced out across the universe. The whole universe, in signs that could be read from the Milky Way to the Source Wall. And there in the darkness, feasting upon the carcasses of slain worlds, the Black Lanterns recognized the power of their ancient foe. The Life Entity. The Phoenix. Their power so similar to each other's in their essential nature. And the the Black Lanterns saw. Nekron saw. And all across the universe, the Black Lanterns changed course, abandoning battles, abandoning whole worlds, each of them blazing a trail of light years.
The Black Lanterns were coming to Earth.
Every. Single. One.
When the light faded, Professor Zoom was gone. The street around the Phoenix was charred and blackened. The connection was broken. The resonance which had granted her the full power of the Phoenix was gone, now. Patty Spivot's corpse had burned away in the fires, and no sign of her remained but for the helmet that Layla held.
The Phoenix descended to the ground, one physical form and two astral forms united in will. Then she passed out and collapsed in a heap, and the astral forms vanished. The firebird aura snapped out, and Layla Miller, her eyes wide and jaw dropped open, had nothing at all to say.
END CHAPTER 11
Next: Across the Rainbow Bridge, part 5, wherein we finally end the Flashpoint arc.
Also, it's time for Karen to have an actual superhero name. I'd never actually intended for Nightwing to be her permanent one (but instead one she tries out and finds doesn't really work for her), but now that it comes time to pick one, I find myself at a loss for what to call her. Anyone got any suggestions?