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 Eight: Do the Time Warp Again
Rip was pulling the colored stickers off a rubix cube and replacing them on the correct sides to 'solve' the puzzle when they breezed in through the window. Superboy, dressing neck-to-toe in a bright orange jumpsuit of a Star Wars X-wing pilot, with Robin in his arms, dressed fully in red with the device of a small flower on his chest –the costume of the Scarlet Pimpernel.
"We heard you have a time machine." Said the demi-kryptonian.
The Boy Wonder was silent as he claimed out of the Superboy's arms. Shock. Rip decided after a moment's study. He probably just came from the confrontation with Damian. Poor kid. But he wasn't supposed to know that.
"Psh, 'time machine'." He scoffed instead. "That's so twenty first century. What I have, gentlemen, is a Time-Sphere! Much more sophisticated, can travel through time and space. Its nice, that means we don't have to appear in the same location as we are right now only forty years ago. I'm sure all the reporters that would be working here at the time would just love it if a freaking 'time machine' materialized right in the middle of their bull-pen."
In a slight daze, not speaking to anyone in particular, the Robin said in an odd monotone, "We've seen no indication in this time that temporal displacement or 'time travel' was confirmed and disclosed to the mass public prior to Impulse and Nathaniel Tyron's breakthrough on February the twenty-eighth."
The Superboy glanced at his friend with concern. "Are you sure you're okay? You're acting weird. I mean, weird for you."
Tim was slow in answering, which was also strange for him. But before the Boy wonder could string together enough words to form the sentence 'I'm fine.' there was a rush of air and Bart Allen was suddenly standing on the Superboy's other side.
"Did you leave yet!? Don't leave without me, I still have a mission in the past."
At the young speedster's appearance, Rip pinched the bridge of his nose to stave off what would undoubtedly turn into a headache. He ran a hand through his thick blond hair, he was gonna be hearing from Matt Ryder about this wasn't he? To the Impulse he said, "You do know why you got sent back to the future in the first place, right? This is where you're supposed to be. You can't change the past."
"Or the future." And the Robin seemed to flinch at his own words. "Attempts to alter events that have already occurred through process of time travel would result in a Barjavel Paradox and nullify both the actions taken and results altered. More likely scenarios are that attempting to alter events invariably cause them –self-fulfilling prophesy."
One gloved hand drifted to his belt to stroke one specific pouch. It looked to hold a rectangular object with hard edges that was just barely able to fit inside it. Other than that, Kon couldn't tell what Tim had in his belt without X-ray vision.
"Right…" Bart shrugged. "Anyway I'm still going with you guys! Now lets hurry up and get this show on the road!" The impulsive little speedster zipped to the other side of the room where a large semi-transparent sphere sat, a convex hatch open and lowered to the ground like a gangplank. "Is this the thing! This is way more sophisticated than what Nathan and I built! Hey, how does it work!?"
"Don't touch anything!" Rip shouted and rushed to his Time-Sphere.
"I guess that's our cue to get going." And the Superboy took a step towards the time machine, but paused when he saw that Tim was no longer paying attention. He was staring out the window, across the city at the Nest building. "Hey, Tim, you in there? You sure you're alright? Did future you tell you anything… shocking? Listen, if he did, it'll be okay. I promise, if it was about me, its not gonna happen. I'm not gonna do that. Okay?"
Slowly, the Boy Wonder turned to look at the demi-kryptonian. "He… I… He was about to tell me something about you." Admitted the Robin. "But- but he got cut off." A shadow fell over his face, but it was there and gone in a second. Kon could almost see his friend shoving whatever it was into a tiny compartment in the back of his mind to visited and examined later (if at all). "Its for the best, probably. People shouldn't know their own futures."
Kon's eyes darted from his face back down to his hand, which was still stroking that one pouch on his belt. Kon didn't have Clark's X-ray vision, so he couldn't just look through and see what it was. But judging from the shape, the strait lines and hard edges, it was either a box or a book. Something future-Tim had given him, maybe? Should he ask about it?
"Hey! Are you two coming, or what?" Bart called from inside the Time-Sphere.
"We better get going." Kon gave his friend's shoulder a reassuring squeeze before they both made their to the time machine and climbed inside.
With a soft hydraulic hiss the hatch was sealed behind them and all four men were trapped within the perfect bubble.
"Alright!" Rip fiddled with brightly colored dials and switches as he smiled. "Lets get you back to the past in time to take your mom to the Enchantment Under the Sea dance!"
"Huh?" Three sets of eyes blinked at him in confusion.
"Oh. To save Sarah Conner from the T-800, then." Rip shrugged.
"My name's 'Conner'." Muttered the Superboy under his breath.
"Pass your history final after your excellent adventure?" The time traveler ventured. "Help me out here, guys, I could go on forever."
At Vanishing Point, the leader of the Linear Men tapped his foot in irritation, his arms crossed over his chest. He glared reproachfully at Waverider and Rip Hunter. "So, after all that, Bart Allen just goes back to the past to continue interrupting the time-stream."
"I tried." Waverider attempted to defend.
Rip didn't care. He quit being a Linear Man a long time ago and wasn't planning on rejoining any time soon. He had another goal, his personal mission –ney quest- to find and unlock Hypertime, where all possible futures and hypothetical pasts can be found. He looked up at Matthew Ryder and said with a defiant smile, "Yep!"
As Rip Hunter had said, the Time-Sphere could travel through both time and space. So, rather than materializing in the middle of the Gotham Gazette bull-pen, they appeared on a small resort island just off the coast of California. One moment they weren't there, then the very next second they were. No transition. They were just there.
Much to the astonishment of a beach full of blinking tourists.
The hatch was lowered and Rip swaggered out, throwing his arms wide. "Here we are, Titans Tower home of the- hey, where's the tower?"
Tim and Kon exchanged a look. Then turned to Bart for explanation. The speedster just gave a sheepish shrug and muttered, 'Spoilers'. With a sigh, Tim double checked to make sure his Scarlet Pimpernel mask was still secure over his face. He may not exactly be 'Robin' at the moment, but it would still be unimaginably damaging for Timothy Drake to walk out of a mysterious bubble of unknown technology that just appeared out of nowhere in the middle of a civilian center.
He padded through the sand to Rip. "Just to confirm, this is the year 2016, right?"
"Yeah, this is- Oh, right! That hasn't happened yet!" The time traveler's fist fell into the palm of his other hand as he remembered the order of things. "Forget what I just said. Yes, this is 2016."
Bart and Kon joined them on the beach.
"Uh, guys," began the demi-kryptonian, "not that I'm a master of subtlety or anything, but we're kinda the center of attention here."
And, indeed, a crowd of bikini and swim-shorts clad on-lookers was forming around them and their time machine.
"Right!" Rip said, as if suddenly just remembering where (or perhaps more accurately when) he was. "Well, I better be going. I trust you boys can get yourselves back to where you're supposed to be, what with the super-speed and the flying and all. I got things to do, eras to go, places to see… See you in forty years. Allonz-y!"
He dashed back into the Time-Sphere and was gone. There was no fade-out, disintegration, or dematerialization, or any of the other common visual effects associated with teleportation. Just one moment he was there, then the next he was gone.
40 years later…
The Superman emerged from the basement of the Kent's farmhouse. He replaced the trap-door and unrolled the runner-carpet back over it. He placed Tim's half-dead (mostly dead) body in a healing pod –his healing pod, actually. It was designed for him, for someone with hybrid human-kryptonian physiology. He had no idea how it would work on Tim's completely human body. But it was the only thing on Earth he could think of and had access to that had any chance of repairing the damage to his body and saving his life.
Tim wasn't allowed to die. There was a conversation they needed to have.
Kon walked out on to his porch and sat down in one of the old wicker chairs. He heaved a heavy sigh and gazed up at the Fortress' dome. Canis Major was high over the horizon, Sirius the brightest star on the artificial sky. He watched the unmoving stars, fixed in their positions and wondered about the nature of change and of time. If events were fixed points, as unmoving as the stars he now studied. Or if they were fluid, ever changing and always moving. 'Always in motion the future is.' Unfortunately for Master Yoda, Star Wars was not the answer to everything.
From his own experience, history seemed to be immutable.
Everything seemed to happen exactly as he remembered it happening, just from the opposite point of view. Events and their effects seemed to be fixed, never changing. But then, he remembered Bart's comments about Tyron's collar and his scar. Bart had managed to change the future. Why couldn't he? Why hadn't Tim? Or, had something changed and they weren't aware of it because they were part of the resulting time-stream, not removed from it? Kon didn't know. Questions and theories like that were more Tim's territory, not his. His specialty usually tended to be smashing things.
Could he alter event if he tried?
No. He had tried to alter event, stay friends with Tim. But that backfired. He ended-up growing far closer to Tim than a mere friend. Maybe that was why the perceived betrayal of his clone, and the idea that he was so completely replaceable to him had hurt so much.
Kon cut off that trail of thought right there. He did not want to think about the offspring he killed. Not yet. Not until he could yell at Tim about it.
Instead he turned his musings back to time, time travel and altering events. He had a Legion ring. It was one of the things he'd salvaged (raided) from the Fortress of Solitude just before Clark sealed it forever. The ass. The ring had some temporal properties to it. Could he use it to travel back in time? Probably not. The moment he tried, one of the time-cops –the Linear Men- would come and bitch-slap him for it. The fasted way to summon a Linear Man was to try and mess with time.
He could summon a Linear Man!
Within moments, the Superman blurred inside the house. When he appeared outside once again, he was holding a large man's ring in his hand. Gold with a large back circle cut by a stylized L and punctuated by a star. The ring of the Legion of Superheroes. A ring from a millennium in the future. From the 31st century. Kon slipped it on his finger and though of another place in time.
Kon opened his eyes. A Linear Man he was very familiar with stood before him. "Hello, Waverider." He said. "I have a favor to ask you."
"Linear Men don't do favors." The glorified time-cop reminded him.
"Good, 'cause I'm not gonna ask you to do anything. I want you to not do something." The Superman informed him. "I don't know where you are on your personal time-line in relation to mine, but I'd like you to not travel to 2016 and bring Bart Allen back to this time."
There was a beat of silence before Waverider said, "As it happens, I was just on my way to do that. How did you now about that?" He gave the Superman one long critical stare. "You are well aware of my vows to protect the time-stream, Superman. The rules are very clear."
Kon grit his teeth in irritation at that answer. For a group of people who claimed to 'protect the time-stream' and 'never interfere', they sure did a lot of interfering and messing. He thought about Tim, laying mostly dead in his basement. How would things have played out differently if neither of them had ever come to the future in the first place? It had been Waverider that sent them here in the first place. It was all his fault. His fault! His unearthly crystal-blue eyes narrowed at the time traveler and the Man of Tomorrow considered crushing him with this TTK. He could do it. Just throw us a field around Waverider and squeeze it around him…
It certainly wouldn't be the first time he killed…
Instead, he argued, "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? You should know what I want."
"'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-of-operations in the time-space vortex. Without even an 'Allonz-y!' to announce his departure.
The Superman's perpetually young face contorted with displeasure. It seemed nothing would be changed after all.
40 years earlier…
Kon sat on the porch of the Kent farmhouse. Reclining in one of the wicker chairs, a bowl of candy in his lap, he waited for the trick-or-treaters to arrive. Tim sat in the other chair, board out of his skull. Bart was… somewhere. Kon gave him a bag of candy all his own and told him not to cause a scene. He and Tim weren't going to go chasing him all over the countryside like they did at the Team's Halloween party.
"Ya know, it's been six days." Kon said randomly, after the Erickson's had pilled into their truck and pulled away.
"That's a non-sequitur." Tim commented dryly.
"I just… I think we should talk about it." Continued the demi-kryptonian. "A lot happened in those two days we were in the future and I think we should talk about it."
Tim shook his head. "I don't wanna talk about it."
"Please, Tim. There's something I need you to know."
The Boy Wonder just shook his head again. "I don't want to know our future, Kon. Not our own personal futures. People who know their futures invariably end-up causing them by trying to prevent them."
"Huh?" The Superboy blinked in the dim light. The jack-o-lanterns casting odd shadows over the porch.
"But," he continued, "we should talk about what we know about the rest of the future. Bart said there's gonna be an invasion, something called Apokolips. They're gonna drill holes strait down to Earth's core, after we beat them, there's gonna be civil wars, lots of death, the collapse of world governments… heavy stuff."
Kon nodded. "Bart says his mission was to try and change the past. Do you think it possible?"
"Not likely." Tim reached over the demi-kryptonian's lap and stole a Kit Kat from the candy bowl. "But, we can analyze what we know and make the correct decisions and take the right actions that will preserve life. We already know that several members of our community took-up leadership poisons after the governments collapse."
"I don't wanna control anyone." Kon shook his head. "I'd rather use what we know to try and change our fate instead of make it happen. Maybe if you and I help Bart with his mission he'll actually succeed. We'll be a like a secret team within the Team. It'll be Just Us."
"Just Us." The Robin scoffed.
In a place that is not a place, at a moment that does not exist within any stream of time, Rip Hunter's Time-Sphere hovered.
He found it!
He had found it!
All hypothetical pasts… and possible futures… all timelines of all parallel universes and alternate dimensions laid out before him. Each timeline branching out as all possible choices of all critical decision points created a new line, a new dimension, a new universe.
Rip hovered outside of all universes, looking at a Multi-verse.
The multi-verse. Hypertime.
He found it!
It was unlocked now. Open to any and all that had the means of reaching it and the knowledge to traverse it. The Linear Men called it a 'Pandora's Box of Time', but he didn't believe them. They were far to rigid in their views and treatment of the time-stream. Time-streams. It was plural now.
Hypertime was opened.
…And for those who knew how to listen, though out all the universes, dimensions and timelines, the sound of breaking glass –as of something thick but glassy fracturing- could be hears.