Post by HoM on Jan 6, 2016 5:25:28 GMT -5
THE DAY THE JUSTICE LEAGUE INTRODUCED THEMSELVES TO THE WORLD
THE HALL OF JUSTICE:
“And then Superman was all like--” Hal’s voice took on a deep and steely tone, “We’re the Justice League. We can take it. And the crowd just went wild!”
They were in the meeting room of the Hall of Justice. Green Lantern had one foot on his swivel chair, facing Batman who sat at the huge table, embossed with the JL logo. The Emerald Gladiator was regaling the Dark Knight with the events of the recently-concluded press conference, but Batman was looking bored*.
*Want to know what Green Lantern’s talking about? Read Justice League #1, from 2006
“I know. I was there.” He dismissed Hal’s story as Wonder Woman walked in, smiling at them.
Green Lantern frowned. “What? No you weren’t. It was just the six of us--”
Batman’s chair pivoted slowly to face Hal, and the Dark Knight told him in a level voice: “Just because you didn’t see me, doesn’t mean I wasn’t there.”
Hal looked dubious, glanced at Wonder Woman, who shrugged meaningfully, then gave it up.
Batman’s mouth quirked as he turned from the ringslinger.
Undeterred, Hal laughed it off but when his ring flared he held up his hand and watched as his fingers began to fade out of existence. “What in--?”
Batman didn’t understand what was happening, but he knew it could mean nothing good. “Lantern!”
Batman and Wonder Woman stood abruptly, their chairs clattering to the ground, and moved toward their new colleague, but before they could reach him, the Green Lantern was gone. The two Justice Leaguers looked at each other, confused.
“My pulse is racing,” said Wonder Woman. “Strange.”
Batman felt his neck. “Mine too. Panic response.” He looked back and saw his chair on the floor. “Did we lose time?”
Wonder Woman looked around the room, looking for some sign of what had happened. “I don’t understand. How did--?” Diana turned back to Batman, but he was gone. “Superman is running late,” she said nonchalantly. “I won--?”
Without further fanfare, Wonder Woman faded from existence, followed by the members of the Justice League in the building not already present, then finally the Hall of Justice. In its place was ash and ruin, spreading across the face of the world like mould, until the planet Earth was nothing but a charcoal blot on the face of the universe.
Gone, as if the human race never existed in the first place. And with it, the Justice League.
Issue FIFTY: “TEMPUS MORITUR”
Written by House Of Mystery
Cover by Roy Flinchum & Jamie Rimmer
Edited by Mark Bowers
Fifty issues and ten years later, my thanks to everyone who helped get us here...
THE CRYSTAL PANTHEON; THE 4TH IMMATERIAL CENTURY:
Rip Hunter looked around the glass palace of the Crystal Pantheon, waiting to be called into the Last Courtroom. Whistling while her hands were tucked deep into the pockets of her dark green overcoat, she quietly contemplated the severity of the crimes committed by the man-- the thing-- on trial.
The Pantheon’s agents had tracked her down to a remote island off the coast of Reykjavik on the edge of the 20th century, where she had been sitting drinking and waiting for Christmas Day to come.
Time had frozen around Rip, an effect she’d usually been on the other side of, and she’d awoken-- groggy, limbs heavy-- before the Crystal Pantheon’s ruling class.
“It is time, Rip Hunter,” said Xx, the lead magistrate. The Crystal Pantheon were both a people and the place they existed; ten-feet tall and wearing modest black robes that covered their features, but their names were emblazed on their chests in shields. Xx had worked with Rip before, in an adventure that helped, in part, form the Justice Society Finite on the shores of the Nth Century. Their friendship had been forged in fire, and Xx knew it owed her. “We have chained Tempus and intend to bring about final judgement.
“You what?” said Rip. “How did-- how-- when-- you managed to do what?”
Yy interrupted, casting a glance in Xx’s direction. “The chrono-trickster Tempus was caught meddling in the affairs of a young race in an attempt to derail their eventual ascendance into a hyper-society. Our agents put things right and we have drained him of the energy he uses to leap through time.”
Rip ran her hands through her hair, completely surprised by the events laid out for her. “That monster avoided detection across the time stream for aeons. If you managed to track him down, you need to do more than just lock him down--”
Xx nodded. “Tempus has done nothing but damage the time stream. Once the list of offenses has been heard, we will remove his genetic strain from existence. But as per our society’s beliefs, a criminal must hear their deviancy before final judgement.”
“Tempus then,” said Rip Hunter. “At long last. Let’s get this done.”
A single, tinkling bell rang as Rip stood outside the doors of the Last Courtroom. In the 4th Immaterial Century, space had contracted into a space where only a few thousand of the Crystal Pantheon could survive. Time, for them, was a bubble they rarely ventured out of. But Tempus was worth the risk of bursting said bubble. And as of yet, they had made it through another journey, with their quarry secured and ready for conviction. Rip knew that within time, reality would expand again and the Pantheon would exist no more, but of their people, only Xx knew what came next.
Time was a mysterious thing, and only Rip Hunter knew her secrets.
Rip entered the Last Courtroom, where Tempus stood in the centre of a large, cylindrical hall, bathed in a light that made him appear monochromatic.
“Well, Rip, you’re looking healthy,” said Tempus, smiling smugly as he saw her enter. With a full beard and wearing a three-piece suit that would have made him inconspicuous in most of the twentieth centuries, he cast her a gentle wave, the heavy shackles around his wrist preventing him from lifting his hands much higher than his stomach. “And a woman too! What’s that then, a regeneration?”
“My secrets are mine alone,” said Rip. “But look at you, like a mouse caught in a trap.”
“Ah, yes, well,” said Tempus, flippantly. “I didn’t think you’d make the time to come see me off.”
“See you off?” scoffed Rip. “You’re about to be unravelled, Tempus. And for everything you’ve done… good bloody riddance.”
“The prisoner has been in our custody for twenty-four hours,” said Xx. “In that time, we have isolated the appropriate moment in the timestream we will need to intervene to remove his malignant strain from existence. The Pantheon will freeze that moment and surgically remove the possibility of Tempus coming into existence.”
“I always wanted to know where I came from,” said Tempus, leaning forward. “My history is so muddy, I don’t even know when it is that these marvellous men-- or women, I don’t judge-- will enter my timeline. It’s absolutely terrifying, don’t you think?”
Rip’s brow furrowed. For someone about to be removed from existence, Tempus didn’t seem very concerned. But then again, the man was a sociopath and he considered the timeline his own personal playground. Was there anything in existence that could scare him?
“Yes, well…” said Tempus, his voice drawling out. “Shall we get on with the show? I have places to be, and this list is agonising to listen to. All those terrible things? I feel like I’m being pigeon-holed.”
“You’re a monster, Tempus!” spat Hunter. She felt decades of anger bubble up inside her. “And your luck finally ran out! After this, I don’t have to follow after you and undo every crime you ever committed against the timeline!”
Tempus reeled back and let out a hearty, one syllable, “Ha!” He shook his head dismissively. “But if you keep undoing what I do, does that mean my crimes even count? I mean, what have I done, apart from have a little bit of fun here and there?”
“Silence,” said Xx. “The worst of your atrocities may not have damaged the timeline, but the ripples have caused unlimited repercussions. The potential for the timeline to become brittle and shatter has only been avoided thanks to the work of Rip Hunter,” he gestured toward her. “You are--”
“Ugh, so boring,” said Tempus. “Now, here’s the thing, kiddies. I’m a pragmatic sociopath, I think we’ve established that. So when I heard that the Crystal Pantheon were on their way down the timeline to nab me, I may have stacked the deck in my favour.”
Rip’s eyes widened. There was a rumbling outside, on the fringe of the pocket of time the Crystal Pantheon existed within. Had this been a trap? She began to type furiously onto the device embedded into the gauntlet she wore, tethering her Time Sphere to her genetic signature. A parachute, in case of emergency. But when there was no response from the Time Sphere, still probably parked somewhere in the vicinity of that Icelandic island and currently covered in snow.
Rip began to feel a shiver of panic run up her spine.
“Xx, you need to end this-- you need to remove him from the timestream forever,” said Rip. “He’s done something-- can’t you feel it--?”
Xx turned slowly toward Rip. “Tempus is contained. The reading of crimes must be completed before execution.”
“Oh, yes, please do continue,” said Tempus. “I mean, we have forever.” He glanced around. The members of the Crystal Pantheon, one by one, began to disappear. “Oh, maybe that’s only me.”
“What have you done?” demanded Rip. She drew her sidearm from its holster and levelled it at the villain.
Tempus shrugged and his shackles vanished from his wrists. “I might have travelled back in time and smashed the first crystalline intelligence circuit that formed at the end of the 3rd Immaterial Century… therefore rendering the 4th Immaterial Century… very fragile.” The cage that held Tempus dissolved as he stepped through it, toward Rip. “And that’s not all, my dear Rip.”
Xx buckled over and shrieked in an inhuman tone as Tempus approached them. Rip fired a salvo into Tempus’s chest, but he laughed as a shimmer spread over his chest. “Oh, please.” He gestured viciously toward Rip in a swiping motion and she flew across the room, smashing into the crystalline structures that made up the far wall of the chamber. “Xx, be a dear and transfer your time travel abilities into me, please? You did strip me of all my own equipment when I arrived here, so I think it’s only fair.”
Xx struggled, bending over backwards violently, a move that would have broken any carbon-based lifeform in half. It reached out a glistening hand to Tempus and energy flowed from the crystalline being into the sociopathic time traveller. “Oh, that feels swell, don’t you think?”
Xx began to disintegrate, and Tempus laughed. “Rip, be a dear and stick around. I locked this pocket of time, so the only way you can get out, funnily enough, is if you’re me.” He moved impossibly fast, the abilities of the Crystal Pantheon flowing through him and allowing him to manipulate the timeline like it was putty. He grabbed Rip, who was frozen in time, and wrenched her back by her hair. “I never liked going back to the 21st century. I didn’t know how far I could go, how much I could do, without damaging my own history and rendering myself non-existent. But the Crystal Pantheon have my genetic strain now, they know when and where I’ll be realised. Which ancestor, which grandpappy or grandmammy-- who I really needed to be me. Now I have that, thanks to dear ol’ Xx, and now I’m going to secure my future, and end yours.”
With a click of his fingers, Tempus was gone, and the 4TH Immaterial Century fell apart all around the dazed and confused Hunter.
“Oh, crap, crap, crap,” said Rip, pulling herself up as the timestream began to unravel around the bubble of the Crystal Pantheon.
The 3rd and 5th centuries were colliding, and then the 5th would be overwritten with the changes wrought by the absence of the 4th, therefore becoming the new 4th, and then the 5th would be created anew-- the temporal energies being unleashed would crush Rip, and she knew it, but she had one chance, one slim chance, so she stamped her foot as hard as she could and thanked the heavens when the floor gave way. She plummeted down, toward the edge of the time pocket the 4th Immaterial Century had existed in, and braced herself for impact--
There was a pop as the bubble burst and the chronal energies smashed together, but for a split second Rip was in-between time, naked to the timestream, and as an agent of order in the chaos that was the timeline, she knew that she could work with it.
On impact, the Time Sphere she’d tethered to herself materialised around her, and it began to bounce around, trying to find some safe timeline to land in.
Rip knew where Tempus was going. She only hoped she would be in time to stop whatever heinous act he was intending to commit.
ON THE WAY BACK TO THE PRESENT DAY:
Hurtling back toward their present, the Justice League were discussing the events of the last few days, and the battle they’d just experienced. At what point in their own timeline would they return? Would it be days, representing the time they spent in the future? Or would it be minutes, or no time at all?*
*You’ve not missed anything… or have you?
“I hate time travel,” said Blue Beetle. “I mean, honestly, how can anybody do this day in, day out?”
“We did what we needed to do,” said the Guardian. “We helped stop the Legion of Super-Villains, and the auto-return on the Time Sphere the Legion of Super-Heroes lent us will get us home. The headaches will pass, I’m sure.”
“I just wish the others were here to see it,” said Cyborg. “I mean, did you see Brainiac 5.2’s face when we were the ones who came to help? You know he wanted Superman and the others in the big seven.”
“We were more than enough,” said Big Barda, patting her Mega-Rod.
“How are your upgrades, Victor?” asked Doctor Light. “Your system was under a lot of pressure when you battled Validus, but everything’s holding up?”
“Brainiac patched me up,” said Cyborg, admiring the sheen on his cybernetic components, and the array of new schematics his body could now arrange themselves into. “He said that they’d last for a thousand years, then said something about a closed time loop, and then I kinda glazed over.”
“The less we talk about this, the better,” said the Guardian, clenching his fist. He’d travelled through time before and it always left him with a weight in his chest. “I don’t want discussions of our future interfering with the present.”
“That’s fair,” said Mister Miracle. “Who wants an unfair advantage on what tomorrow brings?”
“I’m just glad that we’re headed home,” said Mera. “As astonishing and as wonderful as the future was... I just want to hold my son again.”
“Won’t be long now, your highness,” said Blue Beetle as he checked the monitors. “Hold onto something, we’re about to--”
THE PRESENT DAY:
--Their 31st Century Time Sphere should have arrived on the island headquarters of the Justice League, known as Laputa, but instead it materialised above a massive chasm and immediately went into freefall. As soon as they arrived, as soon as freefall set in, the Time Sphere faded, returning back to the Legion’s time, leaving the Justice League to head down, toward their deaths--
“What-- the-- hell--?!” shouted Blue Beetle.
Cyborg grabbed Mera and the Guardian, rockets emerging from his feet to allow him to fly.
Mister Miracle activated the Aero-Discs at his feet and took Doctor Light by the hand, while Big Barda did the same with Blue Beetle. The seven of them were hovering above a void in space, the air thick with the smell of long-burned-off charcoal, completely unfamiliar with their surroundings.
“Guys, this is bad,” said Cyborg.
“You’re kidding, right?” said Blue Beetle. “I thought those 31st century eggheads would know how to read a map, right? Drop us off where we got picked up from?”
“They did,” said Cyborg. The team descended slowly toward the craggy, ashen ground below. “Guys, we landed where Laputa should have been. But there was nothing to catch us--”
“We’re at the bottom of what should be the ocean,” said Mera, a hint of uncertainty in her voice as she looked around. “We’re at the bottom of the sea, but there’s no water, no sign of life… what happened while we were gone?”
“I can’t pick up any stray electronic signals, no satellite link-ups,” said Cyborg. “Something went wrong while we were gone, on a global scale.”
“Could I please have a sensor array?” asked Doctor Light, gesturing to Cyborg’s back.
“Sure,” said Vic, his body shifting to accommodate her request and a screen and keyboard flipping out of his mostly mechanical back. Doctor Light nodded in thanks and began to look through the readings his body had taken in.
“Any energy signatures? Radiation?” asked the Guardian. He was looking out onto the horizon, his brow furrowed as something caught his eye in the distance.
“There are none,” said Doctor Light. Cyborg bent over to pick up a handful of ash while the work station he created for Light stayed in the same place. She analysed the results. “There’s zero organic matter detectable. This place is lifeless, has been for, perhaps, five years? I can’t get an exact date…”
Big Barda’s eyes flashed. “Five years ago... the Apokolips invasion occurred,” she gestured to her husband. “We arrived on Earth.”
“Hmm,” said Mister Miracle, “could we have landed back in an alternative timeline?”
“I’m sorry, but what’s that?” asked the Guardian, as the blip on the horizon he had spotted became visible.
Cyborg’s eyes extended and he looked concerned. “Some kind of… storm? Black clouds, purple lightning-- it’s not a good-looking weather event, I’ll tell you--”
There was a loud sound as a shape began to appear behind the Justice League, and within a few seconds-- with the team preparing themselves for anything-- Rip Hunter emerged from the Time Sphere. “You need to get inside! Before that storm loops back round! C’mon!”
The Justice League looked at each, recognised the look of a Time Sphere and heard the horrific, screaming rumble of the storm as it became clearer and clearer-- and spread from one end of the world to the other. They rushed inside, the Time Sphere powered up, and they were suddenly moving through a new kind of a storm, swirling blue and white light rushing by them as Rip Hunter piloted their craft.
“I need to get some distance between us and that time storm, and the only option we have… is…”
Rip pushed down on a lever hard and the craft made heavy clunking sounds.
“That’s fine! That’s fine! We’re--”
Suddenly the ship went quiet, and they were drifting above a jungle planet, the roars and cries of the dinosaurs below punctuating the relative silence of a world pre-humankind. “We’ll be okay here. You’d be surprised at how few interruptions you get when you hide out in the Cretaceous period over what will eventually become Chaoyang.”
As if to prove Rip Hunter wrong, a flock of Archaeopteryx flew by, squawking at the humans inside.
Rip shook her head. “Don’t look at the reptile birds for too long. They hate eye contact. I once learned that the hard way…”
“Who are you?” asked the Guardian. “What happened to Earth?”
“When?” replied Rip. “Sorry. No, I know when, it’s just… something awful happened and I’m still processing it, and when I’m,” she made a chopping motion with her hand, “when I’m, uh, working through things, I guess I talk, just to… not think.”
“Have we met before?” said Blue Beetle, smiling. “I mean, that’s how I deal with all the awful stuff that happens in our line of work…”
Doctor Light gave Beetle a look and he shrugged. “We’re in a Time Sphere, so you’re a time traveller, that much is obvious. Are you with the Legion of Super-Heroes? Do we need to go back?”
“Those anarchists? No, no,” said Rip, laughing. “They run roughshod over time like… wait.” She blinked. “You shouldn’t have survived the temporal storm that was unleashed on the 21st century. You shouldn’t be here at all. I mean, Thank God you’re here-- I detected your Time Sphere’s incursion into the timeline, but I didn’t know-- I wasn’t-- I---” She grabbed the Guardian by the shoulders. “How did you survive?”
“That’s what we’re trying to ask you,” said the Guardian, shrugging her off. “Survive what? Who are you? What’s going on here?”
“Hey, you’re wearing the same kind of clothes as Rip Hunter,” said Blue Beetle. “Are you his partner or something?”
“I am Rip Hunter! Long story short, but do you think that someone who travels back and forth through time gets to be so set on their gender and appearance? I learned early on that while I’m an inevitable part of the timestream, there are things less inevitable about me.”
“Rip?” said the Guardian, taken aback by the sight of her. “My god, man! What’s happened here?”
Rip’s eyes lit up as she realised who it was talking to her. “Jim Harper, you sonofabitch! I almost didn’t recognise you with the new costume,” she embraced the Guardian tightly, “it’s been too long! I guess the shield should have been a dead giveaway-- hell, I’m getting off track.”
“You know her?” asked Mister Miracle, quietly to the Guardian.
“A different version of him-- her, sorry-- yes,” said the Guardian. “But he was older and looked completely different.”
“A mad man known as Tempus travelled in time and did something that wiped the Justice League from existence before they could form in earnest, along with all the forward momentum of the timeline created from the team being together-- leaving us with the dead world we just escaped from. That storm you saw? That was a temporal event I’ve never seen before, and for me, in my line of work, that’s something big.. I can only guess that the reason you’re here is because you were out of time when the storm initially hit-- with the Legion, was it? But if you’re here, then that means we have a chance of--” A loud beeping resounded out of Rip’s gauntlet, and she looked at it instantly. Her brow furrowed and a second line of beeping started, overlapping with the first. “That’s weird,” she said, looking at her gauntlet, “the alarm… there was an echo, just for a moment, like it went off twice. But that’s…”
“Focus, Rip, what do we have to do to undo this,” said the Guardian.
“I think I know where he is, or where he’s been, or is going to have been,” said Rip, her hands moving as she spoke. She held up her gauntlet to the Guardian. “I’m linked to the alarm system for cache of confiscated temporal weapons. The alarm just triggered. If he’s going to do something awful to the timeline, that’s as good a place as any to start our hunt for him.”
“Let’s move,” said the Guardian. “Take us where we need to go to save our timeline!”