Disclaimer: I do not own either Young Justice or its related characters. Such are the property of DC Comics, Warner Bros. Entertainment and Cartoon Network. I'm just borrowing them for some non-profit entertainment.
Chapter One: Lets Do the Time Warp
There are people in this world –and outside it- that always seem to know everything. More than the bat-clan or even their Commander ever could. Travelers who move in and out of time like sharks in the sea. But unlike Samson and Atlas, these are harmless observers –or, at least, they endeavor to be harmless observers. They're the Linear Men, and at the moment, one of them is very annoyed.
"You are well aware of my vows to protect the timestream, Superman." Waverider, formerly Matthew Ryder, youngest member of the Linear Men crossed his arms over his chest. "Don't get me wrong, I sympathize with your position. But I can't. The rules are very clear."
The Superman grit his teeth in annoyance. His unearthly crystal-blue eyes narrowed at the time traveler as the Man of Tomorrow considered crushing him for always being so insufferably rigid. "Its not like I'm asking you to re-order time and move the start or whatever. Just leave the kids alone. I'd think it would fit in nicely with your vow of non-interference. Why'd you even bother coming here in the first place, if your answer was gonna be 'no'?"
"'Kids'?" Waverider echoed. "I'm only interested in one kid. As to why I bothered answering your little summons…" he shrugged, "…I guess I just like seeing that pretty teenaged face of yours up close."
That was it. The Superman's notoriously short patience ran out and he threw up a telekinetic field around the Linear Man, drawing it in, squeezing it tighter, intending to crush him for his insolence. But the time traveler had already gone, disappeared back to Vanishing Point, their base in the time-space vortex. Without even an 'Allonz-y!' to announce his departure.
The Superman's perpetually young face contorted with displeasure.
.40 Years Earlier…
Timothy Drake raised an eyebrow at his friend's costume. Well, Kon did say he would never guess what he was going as. Originally the little Robin assumed that was because the Superboy hadn't yet decided what his costume would be. He had not imagined the demi-kryptonian would dress-up like that.
"So, let me get his strait," Tim began, crossing his arms over his chest, creasing the flower embroidered on crimson fabric of his tunic. "For Halloween, you're going as an inmate from Stryker's Island?"
"What?" Kon blinked his unearthly crystal-blue eyes at his friend. His perpetually young face showing only blank confusion. "No! I'm supposed to be Luke Skywalker. Ya know, farm kid with telekinetic powers."
Tim only raised the other eyebrow. "Kon, you're wearing an orange jumpsuit."
"Flightsuit." Corrected the Superboy. "Its an X-Wing pilot flightsuit. Superman helped me make it. Seriously, Tim, how can you not get this? See my lightsaber?" He pulled a plastic toy lightsaber from his belt. With a dramatic swing of his arm the blade was extended and a flick of his thumb had it suddenly glowing a subdued blue. "And my helmet. I've got the symbols for the Rebel Alliance on it, for cripes sake!"
They stood in the Cave's common room. The Team decided that, since all their respective mentors would be needing their side-kicks' support on the actual night of Halloween (Batman especially, Halloween in Gotham was the sort of thing that gave people's nightmares nightmares), that they all get together and have a small Haloween bash the week before.
Wonder Girl wandered over to them. Dressed in a long pink gown, her golden hair tumbling down her back and a dainty gold crown bearing the Disney logo and a bust of Princess Aurora atop her head. She pulled the little Robin into a headlock and gave him a non-super-strength noogy. "And what are you supposed to be, Boy Wonder?"
"Cass! Get off!" He wriggled out of her grip and climbed onto the back of the couch. Perching there for no other reason than dramatic flair, he began, "What am I for Halloween? Dear lady, 'they seek him here; they seek him there. Those Frenchies seek him everywhere. Is he in Heaven? Or is he in Hell? That damned, illusive, Pimpernel!'"
The whole Team turned to stare at him. Mostly because he was standing on the back of the couch, effectively making himself the tallest thing in the room, but also a bit because no one understood the limerick that had just come out of his mouth.
"So… what are you?" La'gaan asked in confusion.
Tim sagged with exasperation. Then, as if it should have been the most obvious thing in the world, "The Scarlet Pimpernel."
"Que es este?" Asked Blue Beetle, whom had gone for the traditional Frankenstein's Monster look this year.
"Seriously? Don't you people read!?" The Robin hopped down from the couch in disappointment. From his normal height of five foot two he explained, "The Scarlet Pimpernel was the title character in the novel written by the Baroness Orczy in 1903. The book takes place in 1792 during the French Reign of Terror. The Scarlet Pimpernel was an English nobleman who rescued people from the Guillotine before they could be killed. He was the first ever 'masked hero'."
Now it was Superboy's turn to put the Boy Wonder in a headlock. "You are such a little nerd."
"Hey now! Nerds are totally crash!"
Before Kon knew what was happening a blue blur appeared by his side, disentangled the Robin and then draped both its arm over their shoulders.
"Hello, Bart." They groaned. "What are you supposed to be?"
"I'm Sonic the Hedgehog, duh!" Smiled the speedster as if this should have been obvious. He did not look a thing like the anthropomorphic blue hedgehog. "Anyway, we should totally hang out! Just us three. I've always wondered what the Junior Finest were like back when they were actually the Junior Finest."
"What do we become when we're no longer the 'Junior Finest'?" Tim asked.
"Never you mind." Impulse waggled a finger in the young Robin's face. As if to say, 'uh-uh, spoilers'.
As if he hadn't run around throwing out secret identities like they were party favors when he first showed up from the future. A past-watching vacation. Ha! Tim didn't buy that load for a second. No, there was another reason for the speedster's journey to the past, of that Tim was sure. He thought it probably had something to do with the Flash since he'd zoomed off to Central City almost as soon as he'd confirmed that it was indeed the year 2016. But now his fixation on his paternal grandfather had tapered off, the time-traveling speedster's attention instead turning to Superboy and Robin.
"Obviously, we must become the World's Finest." Kon offered. "You probably takeover the mantel of Batman instead of Nightwing and I become the next Superman."
Tim's glare failed to reach the demi-kryptonian as Bart's chin was in the way. He had no desire to become Batman. Let Dick have it. With his obnoxiously lighthearted disposition he could probably handle the weight of the cowl better anyway.
"Oh, lets not talk about the future." Impulse straitened, no longer hanging off them and instead gave each a slap on the back. "The future is totally boring. Lets talk about right now. I want some candy!"
May the gods help those who give candy to Bart Allen.
In Vanishing Point there is no 'future'. There is no 'past'. There is no 'now'. It exists outside of the timestream in the space between the 'tick' and the 'tock' of a clock's cogs. In the pause between breaths. The blink of an eye. Outside of time, yet always right along side it.
Anyone who exists within Vanishing point can see any moment in history through windows that access the ages. For the Linear Men whom live in Vanishing Point, time is their subject of study, its orderly flow their mandate. One might call them 'guardians' of a sort, ensuring that time's passage is never disrupted.
But, really, when one really gets down to it and examines them critically, the Linear Men seem nothing more than glorified nationhood watchmen with phenomenal god-like powers. For all their knowledge of history and abilities to travel through time, watch time, and anticipate events before they happen, they failed to notice something.
Time had already been altered.
Barry Allen, the second man to carry the name 'the Flash' was supposed to have died on February the 28, 2016. But he did not. He failed to meet his end due to the interference of his grandson, Bart Allen –Impulse. But young Bart was not even supposed to have been born yet at that time. His father hadn't even been born yet at that time.
Humans really were amazing creatures. Waverider had to admit. Whether they been meta-human, normal-human or 'human' in name only, it could not diminish the fact that they were clever, creative and stubborn. The were creatures that refused to give up. Refused to accept things as they were if what they were was adverse to the human experience as a whole. They adapted. They fought. They created imaginative ways to achieve their ends.
The ends of the people of 2056 were to change their reality. To do so, they created the first ever working time machine and sent Bart Allen backwards forty years to save the life of the Flash. To alter an event that they identified as the catalyst that started the chain of events that lead to their present.
The actions were already taken. The event already changed. But time is a funny thing. Like the flapping of a butterfly's wings in south Cambodia can start a hurricane in the Caribbean Sea, so too can the changing of one small event lead to a large and strikingly different future, but just because its different doesn't mean it's the future one has hoped for. Bart Allen would have to learn this the hard way.
He was an individual out of his own time and it was Waverider's job as a Linear Man to return him to his right and proper decade –even if that decade was not the one from which he had originally come.
May the gods have mercy on those who give candy to Bart Allen. …Because Superboy certainly won't!
He and Robin were tasked with the onerous job of catching the hyper-active speedster and bringing him back into the Cave. They jogged through the naked trees that covered Mount Justice trying to get a bead on the impossibly fast, impossibly infuriating, little speedster.
"There!" Tim pointed at a flash of blue through the trees. But the moment he said it, he was already gone. "No, there! There! Damn it, Bart!"
"There's an easier way to do this." Kon groaned, pulling off the black gloves of his X-Wing pilot's suit.
The Superboy laid his palms flat on the ground, stretching out with his tactile telekinesis, feeling for the near super-sonic patter of Impulse's bright red Sonic the Hedgehog sneakers. It felt like what Kon always imagined water felt like when an inconsiderate speedboat went zooming over it. The moment the demi-kryptonian felt the speedster step on his field, he pulled the TTK out from under him, rather like pulling a carpet from beneath someone's feet, and Impulse went tumbling face-first into the dirt.
Or, at least, he would have, had Kon not snapped his TTK around him like a bubble.
The so-called 'Junior Finest' picked their way through the trees to where Bart hovered in the air, suspended by the Superboy's telekinesis.
He crossed his arms over his chest, looking peeved. "No fair! You used super-tricks."
"Hey, if it works." Robin shrugged at the demi-kryptonian's side. "Now lets get you back inside."
"But I don't wanna!" Bart wined, sounding far younger than the sixteen years that he was. He began to vibrate his whole body.
"Nice try." Kon scoffed. "But my TTK isn't solid. You can't vibrate through it 'cause there's nothing to vibrate through."
Impulse appeared not to be listening. A few moment's later, the Superboy's hands began to shake.
"Hey! What that-!?" He grit his teeth and refocused his telekinetic power.
Somehow, in his sugar over-dose induced high, Bart had managed to find a way to, rather than vibrate through Kon's TTK field, instead vibrate on a similar but opposing wavelength. It felt almost like an echo and sent odd tingling waves up the Superboy's arms. Finally, his concentration broke, his whole body feeling tingly like pins and needles all over. The TK field holding Bart vanished and the Impulse was once again free to wreak havoc. He sped off without a moment's pause.
"Damn it, Kon!" Tim sprinted after him, as if he had any hopes of catching up.
Waverider was in a forest. He didn't materialize there. Or aparate. Or teleport. He wasn't there, and then suddenly he was. As if taking a step between the ticks of the clock.
"Nice try. But my TTK isn't solid. You can't vibrate through it 'cause there's nothing to vibrate through. Hey! What that-!?"
…And it sounded like his quarry would be appearing in three… two… one…
"Whoa! Who're you?" The boy blinked up at Waveider with a keen inquisitive interest that was only slightly darkened by wary suspicion –the only evidence of the home-time from which he'd come.
"I'm a Linear Man." He said. "A guardian of time, and you… are a disrupter of the timestream."
Impulse's eyes flash with sudden recognition that he was in a possibly dangerous situation. "Mode." He muttered. "Time to jet!"
But with a flick of the wrist unseen by the speedster, Waverider froze Bart in his steps. His body, his position, became a fixed point in time. Unchangeable. Immobile. Until he was released by the Linear Man that froze him.
"What that-!?" Bart tried to move but found he was unable. "What'd you do to me!? This is totally mode!"
"I've come to return you to your proper place in time." Waverider informed him.
It was then that the current Boy Wonder came tumbling through the trees after the wayward speedster. "Kon, I found hi- Who're you!?"
"Tim, this is Linearman. Linearman, this is Robin." The speedster supplied casually, as if he weren't frozen in time and unable to do anything besides breath and speak. "Linearman is kinda holding me prisoner somehow. I think a bit of a rescue is in order. Would you mind?"
"On it." And the Boy Wonder suddenly had his bo-staff in hand. "Superboy! Defense!"
A crackle in the air and sudden halting of the autumn breeze indicated that Kon had snapped a telekinetic shield around them. A few seconds after that the demi-kryptonian appeared from out of the trees, completing the trio. "I heard what Bart said."
Waverider regarded the Junior Finest for a moment, remembering his conversation with Superman. "Oh! Now I get it! Wow, I'm slow."
The trio might have blinked in confusion at this random and seemingly non-senseical babble if they had had time to. But 'time' suddenly became an ambiguous concept for them as the woods around Mount Justice suddenly… -weren't there anymore. They didn't fade, or melt, or dissolve, or do any of the other common visual effects seen when teleporting. One moment they were in the woods and then in less 'time' than it takes to blink an eye they weren't anymore.
The leader of the Linear Men crossed his arms over his chest in irritation. "You were supposed to return the disruptive factor to his own time. Not send two others with him."
"I know." Nodded Waverider. "But I had to do it this way, because that's the way it happened."
A light gray snow was falling all around them. It piled on top of Kon's TK field and trickled down the sides in halting tumbles. The clouds from which it fell were thick and dark, but not at all natural looking –at least, not natural for weather. It seemed more like the billows of a volcanic eruption or the lingering debris cloud of a planet-killing meteor.
Around them, the land looked as dead and lifeless as they sky. They stood in the bowl of what could only have been a crater. The landscape around them might have been mountainous or hilly at one point in time, but it was pot marked with craters similar to the one in-which they now huddled, almost as if it had been bombarded from the air. …Or from space. To the east of them a forlorn gray sea churned with listless waves.
"What just happened?" Asked the demi-kryptonian, not daring to lower his TK field even for a moment. For all he knew, the air was poisonous. "Where are we?"
"What is this..?" Tim ran a hand down the barrier, following a trail of the light gray snow as it tumbled down the dome. "Its not cold enough to be snow…"
"Its ash." Bart gave a sober whisper.
Neither of them had ever heard the speedster sound so serious before. They were so used to Impulse be, well, impulsive. It was a little disorienting to see him now, sitting down in the dirt, having regained control of his body, drawing his knees up and wrapping his arms around them. He gazed out over the slate colored sea, looking at it, but not really seeing it, his mind instead turned inwards.
"How could you possibly know that?" Kon asked.
"Because…" He tore his eyes from the sea and stood. "Because this is where I'm from." Waving his arms in a wide arch to indicate the world around him. "This is my present and your guy's future!" Then a begrudging growl. "I'm home."
They stared at him for a moment. Behind his Scarlet Pimpernel mask, Tim's eyes narrowed at the speedster. He had never believed that story about past-watching vacations, visiting relatives back when they were young and spry… or still alive. It was a nice little fairy tale, but would never work when it came to practical application. This future didn't even look like it could have provided time travel for something as frivolous as a vacation. No, this future looked too desperate. There was probably no such thing as a 'vacation' here.
That left the Robin to speculate as to the true reasons for young Bart Allen's true objectives in traveling to the past.
"This does not look like the future you described to us." Kon crossed his arms over his chest.
Thank you, Captain Obvious. Tim tried not to roll his eyes. To spite of his Cadmus programming, the kryptonian clone did not have his skills and training when it came to analytical thinking and deductive reasoning. Instead of reprimanding the Superboy for not being his intellectual equal, the Robin instead turned his attention to studying their landscape; shelter and clean water, those were his new priorities. Then interrogate Bart and figure out a way back to their own time.
"I lied, okay?!" Impulse snapped.
"But, why?" Continued the demi-kryptonian. "I don't get it. Why'd you come back to our time in the first place?"
At that question, Tim turned back to his companions, presuming enough to answer for the speedster. "Obviously, 'cause his time was so crappy he thought that if he could travel back to the past and change it things would be better."
Bart nodded. "That was the plan." He spread his arms wide again. "But it didn't work! Everything's still the same."
"Of course it didn't work." Tim scoffed at the very idea. "Haven't you ever read anything by Rene Barjavel? If you had succeeded in changing anything, then you would have had no reason to come back, so you wouldn't have, so nothing would have changed."
Both Bart and Kon looked as if Tim had somehow slipped into a foreign language. They gaped at him blankly. Tim sighed heavily. Sometimes he really felt just a little to bookish for his particular social circle.
"It's a paradox, Bart." He tried to explain. "A contradiction. No matter how many times I repeat myself, it won't change. At best, you could achieve a 'self-fulfilling prophesy'."
Bart's eyes fell downcast. As if the Robin's words had stabbed at a point he had already considered and feared was true. Stabbed that fear and dragged it out into the light, cast it at his feet and said, 'Here! This is it, its hopeless!'
Kon, on the other hand, looked like Tim's words had thrown him into a fog. He frowned as he thought, the gears in his head turning. Finally he said, "Damn. That's a bit heavy for me." And began to run through some basic yoga poses. After a bit, he continued, "But the main point we need to focus on right now is getting Tim and I back to our own time."
"Priorities." Tim nodded. "First, we get out of the open. Find shelter. Then we understand our situation. Bart, you are going to tell us everything you possibly can without revealing to much of our personal futures. Once we know the full scope of our position, we can start exploring our options. Agreed?"
They both nodded.
"Alright then. Bart, where are we?"
"Uh… the Cave. This… this crater is Mount Justice."
"Bullshit!" Kon exclaimed.
"No, its true." Insisted Bart. "When you travel through time, you stay in the same spot and time moves around you."
"Like in H.G. Wells' The Time Machine." Tim nodded. He took another long look at the landscape around him, pot marked by craters as if bombarded from space. He was not looking forward to seeing this event unfold in his own future (assuming they could return to their own time), but he filed those thoughts away for later study. At the moment it was crucial to stay focused on the here and now.
"But how can this be the Cave!?" The demi-kryptonian pressed. "I mean –my, god! What happened!?"
"One crisis at a time." Tim told him. "First we find safe ground and get out of this ash. Then we have our expositional onslaught. Bart, pick a direction."
Without any sort of warning, Kon took to the air, and since they were both still inside his TTK field, both Tim and Bart came along for the ride. They shot up to just above where the mountain's peak would have been had there still been a mountain there. Kon looked up and down the coast, recognizing it jagged edge, the inlet of the Happy Harbor bay, the ruins of the town proper, the small cove that hid the beach where the Team liked to swim and Kon liked to sun-bath. There was doubt about it, this was the little bit of coast on which Mount Justice rested, only there was no Mount Justice anymore. Now it was just the 'Justice Crater'.
"Its true. This is…"
"What the fuck do you think you're doing!?" Bart snarled at the demi-kryptonian. "Get down! Do you have any idea how much we stick out, Mr. Bright Orange Jumpsuit!?"
"What?" Kon blinked in confusion, one hand going to tug at the top of his bright orange X-Wing pilot's costume.
"Kon, do as he says." Tim could feel himself slipping into battle-ready mode, thought he could see no clear danger. He hadn't liked being out and exposed on the ground, at the time he just chalked it up to bat-paranoia. But up here in the air, up here even more exposed and attention grabbing in their bright orange and red and blue costumes. Tim didn't just feel exposed, he felt like a target. "We're forty years removed from everything we know. The rules are changed and we need to learn the new ones before we can make moves like this."
"But, look at-"
"No!" The Robin snapped. "First we need to understand. Then we act. Not the other way around. Just do as I say and we'll get through this."
"Can we please continue this argument from the ground?" Bart begged, sounding almost as if he were about to descend into a panic. Tim took special note of his tone and infractions to go over late when he had some time to himself.
They began to descend at a steadily controlled pace. Just fast enough to satisfy Bart, but no where near fast enough to cause the two non-kryptonians any damage upon landing. They were only a few feet from the crater floor when the attack came.
A bolt of energy from the sky. It came at them from an angle, so it wasn't a space-born weapon, and when the trio turned to look, they saw floating in the sky, a woman. Very beautiful, even from this distance, to spite being in her mid to late thirties. Wearing a scant costume in shades of purple, bikini-cut bottoms with an airy peasant-style top. The lavender and violets of her outfit created a stark contrast to her golden skin. She cut an almost perfect hourglass of a figure, just about any female any of them knew would have been deathly jealous. Dark hair billowing behind her like a cloud, green eyes almost glowing as she glared down at them, she spoke.
"That was a warning shot." She called. "You are outside of the designated habitable zone. Surrender quietly and submit to interrogation."
"She sound's friendly." Kon commented dryly.
"Run!" Bart hissed. …And then he was gone.
Tim, always quick to process a situation hopped onto the demi-kryptonian's back and muttered a short, "Move!"
Kon wrapped his arms around the Robin's legs, enveloped them both in his TK field and then shot off as fast as his tactile telekinesis could move them. He was nowhere near as quick as Impulse, but he did put a good deal of distance between themselves and the mysterious woman very quickly.
Bart appeared by his side, slowing down just enough to match the demi-kryptonian's speed.
"Okay," Tim began, shouting to be heard over the wind vortex they created. "Maybe we can have a little explanation before we find cover. Who was that and what's going on?"
"That was Nightstar." Bart said. "And what's going on is we're getting our asses out of here before she either fries us or drags us back to her Commander."