T H E ‘ E M B A S S Y ‘
Four Months Ago | Manhattan, New York
The man stood in their living quarters sweating in his armour, whilst Booster and Ted gave furtive glances between each other.
“See, the thing is-- We’re not really looking for a ‘sword guy’…” Ted said, trying to break it to the man gently.
Booster looked back down at the résumé the man had brought in, “Curriculum Vitae” was written large across the top, with the ‘C’ in a truly elaborate exhibition of calligraphy.
“Well, Thor is a 'hammer guy'. And he’s very much ‘In’ at the moment.” Dane Whitman offered in rebuttal.
“That is true.” Ted accepted, holding out a finger. “He IS a hammer guy. But he can also spin his hammer around and fly off with it. If you wave that thing about can you fly with your sword?”
“Like a helicopter?” Dane looked down at the Ebony Blade.
“Sure—” Ted perked up, trying to get Booster on board with some level of interest. “—if that helps. Like a helicopter.”
“Well, no.” Dane said glumly. “It’s a sword.”
“OK. I’ve heard he can spin his hammer around and open up portals. Can you do that with your—what did you call it? Ebony Blade?”
“No.” He once again admitted.
“So, it’s pretty much just good for. Slashing and stabbing, I suppose?” Ted asked.
“Well, AND I can hit things with the flat part too…”
“Well, that’s even sadder.” Booster broke his silence. “Because it’s not even a sword then. You’re basically just holding a metal stick if you’re just going to hit things with the flat.”
“In some ways that’s better anyway…”
“Maybe you could come back in a few weeks and cut the girls’ birthday cake…” Booster offered. Trying to find a way to make the visitor feel useful.
“I keep telling you. They’re not twins. They have different accents for crying out loud. Ice is from Norway, Fire is from Brazil. They’re not related. I don’t know how to make this any clearer for you. I don’t know why you keep tripping up over this!” Ted turned and yelled at Booster. It was seemingly not the first time he'd had to have this argument.
“…after all, the curse on it will just push it to make me kill more if I use it to spill blood…” Dane continued.
“So you mean that sex kitten thing they have where they dress ali—”
“Dude! That’s my girlfriend you’re talking about there! And they don’t dress alike!”
“Well, not alike, alike. But you know. They dress similarly… simpatico. I don’t know. They kind of match.”
“They don’t match at all, what are you even talking about?!”
“…like that time I fought the wicked Mordred and gave him a debilitating blow, before learning the full extent of the cost in using the Black Blade. Ever since then it’s bloodlust has been ebbing away at the edges of my mind…”
Max Lord walked in the room and grabbed an apple off the kitchen counter whilst the pair of Blue and Gold heroes argument was in full swing.
“You know. Style. Not colour, I mean obviously they dress in different colours. But they kind of always just seem to wear something that just ‘goes’ with what the other one wears. Not that you would notice aesthetic…”
“Hey! I notice everything!”
“…sometimes I wonder if I should just cut myself, just to see if that could quell the blade’s dark pull…”
The pair turned and stared at the third man still in the room.
“…wait, did you just say your sword tells you to kill people?”
“…And that you’re constantly considering self harm..?”
“No way our insurance covers that…” Max said, crunching through the apple.
“…and he’ll drive our medical premiums through the roof with the psych bills alone. *Mmm-mm* Cut him loose.”
T H E ‘ E M B A S S Y ‘
Three Months Ago | Manhattan, New York
"--And you will not touch it. Again, because my uncle gave me that." Ted demanded, inserting the 9 ounce disc.
"Again with that? Your uncle gave you everything! You can't claim sentimentalism over everything!" Booster complained from the lounge in front of the television set.
"Five things. Ted corrected. "He gave me five things," counting them off on one hand as he started the Laserdisk player. "The hat; which I've already lost, the Scarab; which L-Ron lost, the model toy car replica of the Scarab he drove on the classic 'Blue Beetle Power Hour' tv show; which I still have... which NONE OF YOU WILL TOUCH - L-Ron, I am particularly looking at you," He pointed at the team's robotic member. "The Criterion Edition version of 'Karl LaFrey and The Plunderers of the Ark of the Covenant' on LaserDisk… and the LaserDisk player he bought for me to watch it on, when he had to go meet with the Producers somewhere around here in New York and they announced there would be a sequel."
Booster opened his mouth to reply, but Ted cut him off.
"Five things. Three of which remain. You will not use the LaserDisk player, and you will not touch the disk. I've seen you try and use the waffle iron."
"...well who can figure out that thing anyway. It doesn't even have an autocook function."
"Literally children... Replied Bea, impatiently waiting for the movie.
"Exactly. Thank you." Ted said, flamboyantly gesturing to Fire as evidence in his argument.
"No. The pair of you. You're literally children."
"Metaphorically." Corrected Hank, not looking up from his laptop.
Bea's right hand burst into emerald flame as she scowled at Hank Pym, who continued working obliviously.
"C'mon Ted! Start the movie!" Janet called out, ending the fight before the combustible situation could grow further.
A brief jingle played from the wall console's intercom system, causing everyone in attendance to groan. The Superbuddies marketing jingle appealed to nobody, and proved an exception to the negotiating rule that 'if nobody leaves happy, then you've probably made a good deal'. Suddenly Max Lord's face appeared on the display, as he had apparently started talking before the receiver had picked up.
"...so you all need to be there before Emergency services can respond, because as we all know..."
Ted clicked the intercom call button on and off a few times until it blasted a long chirp.
"Ahh! What was--?"
"I told you before, you have to wait until the screen flicks over and the bar at the bottom says it's 'OK to talk'. We didn't get any of that."
"Unbelievable. We have two or three supergeniuses on the team and we can't get a comms system that works properly.
"The comms system works fine when used correctly. Hank defended his own work.
"He's right, Max. The problem with designing idiot proof products, I find, is that nature just keeps designing better idiots. Whether they're people who can't program the clock on their own video player, or set up their own printer... Or sometimes nature will even send to the future to bring back strains of superidiots who can't even use a waffle iron properly..."
"Hey! You can't hit me with the same line twice in less than two minutes! That's not fair!" Booster protested.
"What is it, Max? Where's the call?" Janet asked, putting everyone back on task.
"Thank you. A number of our clients in the financial community have called through to inform us of some nutcase marching down Wall Street making demands."
"Some nutcase in a suit? In Manhattan? Can't Spidey just go deal with it? We're about to watch--"
"'Spidey' isn't being paid by our clients to deal with this kind of situation--." Max Lord scowled. "--and neither will we, if we continue that attitude. Now the guy's calling himself Major Disaster. 'He says he'll bring the whole thing crashing down if the banks don't pay him ten million dollars to walk away'. I don't know if he means the stock market, or the buildings, or what he's referring to, but if we don't make a presence before Emergency Services make the scene it will not look good. Max got more exasperated as he went on, yelling at the monitor by the conversation's end, before pounding on his desk with a fist, quickly ending the call.
"Alright, movie's on hold, I'm bringing the Bug around now... This should take us no time at all." Ted said, fiddling with his wrist controls.
T H E ‘ E M B A S S Y ‘
Four Months Ago | Manhattan, New York
“So, I’m Blue Beetle. This is Booster Gold. We called you in to clear up some gaps in your résumé. Now it says here that your power set—”
“Uh huh. That’s what it says here. Seems pretty apparent too. Big unit.” Booster Gold said, pointing at the paperwork and flexing his bicep. “Must be hitting that creatine pretty hard, huh? I’ve been thinking about getting into some kind of program myself. Heard good things about this new gym program thing around here called ‘Dianetics’, there seems to be a bunch of them open in the area…”
"Dia--?" Ted turned and shot Booster a look of disbelief, before he rolled his eyes and shook his head, returning to the task at hand.
“Yeah. As we said there’s a lot of gaps in your résumé here. Also it seems to say your name is—”
The pair looked at each other and then at the new potential hire.
“Well, we have your paperwork on file if anything new opens up…”
I N T R A N S I T
Three Months Ago | Manhattan, New York
The team rode quickly in the Bug. It was fairly open plan and over the years Ted had added more seats for group comfort despite how many of his teammates could fly themselves. He'd even sectioned off a mobile "laboratory" for Hank on board since he'd generally either stay with the Bug or communicate via comm-link from the Embassy.
Ted sat in the driver's seat and casually flicked between visual screens whilst maintaing steady control of the vehicle with a DJ's precision. Keeping focus on the main screen using one of the ship's Doodlebug drones, whilst flying to their Wall Street destination. Janet Van Dyne watched him for a few moments, and seeing that he had control of the situation, used a lever to swing her seat up towards the front of the airship to sit alongside of him.
"So, how's things?"
Ted shot her a curious glance. "Fine. Why? Shouldn't take more than a few minutes."
"Everything alright with Tora?" Jan probed.
"Ah." Ted responded, realising what the concern was about. "She's fine. She's back celebrating her birthday with her family. They have a festival back in her home town.. village..? Let's stick with 'home town'. Whole big thing. We're fine."
"Aha..." Janet replied, as if she was understanding the situation. "And the parents don't get on with their little girl's choice of men?"
"What--? No. We get on fine. I just can't go because work gets crazy this time of year. At K.O.R.D we have our own festival. It's called 'End of Financial Year'. At hers there's folk dancing, the strange fermentation of regional fish and traditional dress. At K.O.R.D we have the annual balance sheet, Profit/Loss and the annual cash flow forecast... which in my experience has so tenuous a bearing on reality that whoever's worked on it has probably consumed numerous bottles of something well fermented beforehand. And the only dancing I do is at the Annual Shareholder meeting." He shot her a clownish grin.
"Proud of that one, huh?" She smirked.
"Little bit." His grin widened.
"So everything's fine?"
"Well, at the risk of jinxing everything - always a concern in our line of business - yeah, everything's fine. We're good. Thanks for your concern though. Anyway, we're here. He's down there. Delta formation. Hank, over to your console! Go! Go! GO!"
Five Minutes Later
Ted and Booster are pinned down behind a parked car. There's flame and the charred smell of bio-electricty in the air.
"How's he doing this? This is crazy, he's one guy!"
"In fairness we've done most of this to ourselves. I don't know about you, but I took a full shot of Wasp's stingers before and she stalled and fell out of the sky for the effort, and if it weren't for the Nomex in the suit Fire would have flash-fried me as well. I had no idea we were so out of form. We're going to have to train more."
Wasp called out from behind another car. "Are you alright, BB? I don't know what happened there, I could have sworn I had kept these set on 35%. That never should have happened!"
"Skeetz, are you picking up anything 'hinky' about this guy?" Booster asked his floating mechanical companion.
"Yeah, any kind of auras, or have you got any kind of future file on this guy?"
"Scanning now, sir... Skeetz began to play elevator music.
Fire continued to lay down covering fire from behind another car, only for the fire to roll onwards beyond their foe and hit another car, where it's gas tank spontaneously combusted and flipped the car back in her direction. She cried out in fear and quickly flew behind Wasp's car.
"Good call, Booster. I take it you saw that too?"
"Uh-huh..." Booster Gold answered in the affirmative.
The music stopped and they would have their answer. "An EXCELLENT theorem, sir! He appears to be surrounded by non-repeating, periodically expanding waves of Nega-Quantum affected energies.
"You get that? Booster asked Ted.
"I think I got the gist. The true nature of quantum mechanics is thus far unknowable, but it can be used to determine outcome via probabilities. I think he's saying the guy puts out a field that somehow expands upon and further generates negative outcomes."
"He's feeding on chaos?" Wasp clarified.
"Huh... With this team we're lucky he didn't destroy the whole city the second we touched down." Fire sneered.
"Non-repeating waves. That means he's doing it deliberately, right? He's controlling it actively, it's not a machine. It's him."
"Got it! Booster declared, seeming to have come up with a plan. "You two lay down covering fire, Beetle and I will take him out! I've been saving something special for just this kind of situation!"
His three teammates gave him looks of extreme skepticism.
"I'm serious! We've got this! Just cover us!
The hundreds of times Booster had let him down in the past flickered before Ted's eyes.
"BB..? C'mon, man. I've really got this." Booster earnestly pleaded.
Janet shot Ted a final sympathetic look.
"Alright, go. Apparently we've got this." He gave Booster a look that suggested he was less than completely certain. Booster flashed back his well-rehearsed smile. And that was when the fear came flooding back.
Wasp and Fire briefly discussed their plan to storm Major Disaster.
"So what've you got? Secret Legion of Superheroes weapon? Pocket Captain America's Shield? What are we talking here?"
Excited, Booster started to fiddle with his suit. "Better. We're gonna wait until the girls make their frontal assault, and then we're gonna jump back minutes before anyone was here and take him out before he starts his plan!"
"Wait, your plan is to screw around with time travel to take out a guy who uses chaos as a weapon? That's less than no plan. That's taking a problem that affects a few city blocks and potentially turning it into something that could tear the universe asunder! That's crazy!"
"I call it 'Blitzing the blindside'." Booster said, barely paying attention whilst he fiddled with his suit's chronocircuitry.
"Wait, we can't do this! This is nuts!"
"Hup... there go the girls! Booster said as Fire and Wasp executed their perfectly choreographed charge from cover.
"C'mon, it'll be fine. Trust me! You've just gotta stay within about a metre and a half of me while we're doing this! It'll work!
Ted was out of alternatives now. His teammates were already exposed and laying down covering fire. Faithfully depending on their attack.
"C'mon! To the end of the line, buddy! Booster held his fist out.
Ted held for a second, but then dapped him up. A light flashed within the suit. A burst of fire ricocheted and lapped against a building. Stone fell.
The pair flickered as the chronocircuitry activated. Stone knocked Ted forward. Time seemed to freeze all around them as the Blue Beetle stumbled. In reality time travelled in multiple directions, between numerous simultaneuous points. Ted reached out for a saviour. He clutched at Skeetz.
And then he was gone.
Everyone turned and faced where Booster had dropped to his knees, and the space where their friend once was.
Major Disaster started laughing. A harsh cackle that stood in stark contrast to the seemingly omnipresent laughter of their lost friend.
Now distracted, Janet walked behind him and stung him into unconsciousness whilst his guard was down.
But the damage was done.
The Blue Beetle was gone. Lost forever in the infinite of spacetime. Who could know what horrors awaited him?
S O M E W H E R E
Sometime | Sure as Hell Not Manhattan, New York
Ted stumbled forward into being. He checked on Skeetz, who was now recalibrating after the shock of time travel. People passed him in the street and stared. Clearly his Blue Beetle costume stood out as strange here. Ted thought about what that likely meant in terms of the timeline of self-proclaimed superheroes. Anything to narrow things down and give him a sense of when and where he could be. Skeetz chimed merrily, having rebooted.
"Skeetz? When and where are we?"
"I am now back online, but it will take time to re-align database and determine chronal position."
"No..." The Blue Beetle had already got a sense of his position. He'd seen a sign on a local movie theatre that said "The Adventures of Pluto Nash".
Ted dropped to his knees and vomited all down the kurb.
"Please be wary, Mr Beetle. The effects of time travel without possessing your own chrono suit can be quite nasty and result in purging stomach conten--"
"Chrono suit be damned, Skeetz!" Ted cried out. "No need to rush with the database. It's 2002 and we're stuck in the Devil's Armpit."
Ted grabbed the floating robot and turned it around to show what he saw. The sign hanging in a park that declared the township to be:
"Raven's Perch, New Jersey".
T H E ‘ E M B A S S Y ‘
Four Months Ago | Manhattan, New York
"So wait-- explain this all to me again..." Ted asked the most recent applicant, rocking closer forward in his chair and pinching his goggles slightly off of the bridge of his nose.
"Am I going crazy, Beetle? Is that what's happening right now?" Booster looked slightly panicked as he addressed his friend.
The bespectacled man sighed in his tan trenchcoat. "We've been over all of this, my name is--"
"Uuuuupp-ahp-ahp-ahp-ahp-ahp..." Booster tried to stop the interviewee, holding a hand out.
"--Ssssssssssssssssssssss..." Both Booster and Ted winced simultaneously at the revelation of his real name.
"We-- we don't do that here." The Blue Beetle tried to gently explain, gesturing between Booster and himself.
"I'm an occult detective. An ardent disprover of the paranormal."
"Yes. Yes, we got that much. Tell me again what you just said your powers are."
"Beetle, I don't--" "Shhhh!" The Blue Beetle leant further in still, waiting for the response.
"I just told you... I don't have any power. Aside from maybe being more resistant to magic than most."
"Nnng!" Booster took this poorly and started to rock back and forth in his seat.
"Yeah, that's what I thought you said--" Ted rocked back in his seat, sucking his molars and feeling secure in the knowledge that he wasn't mistaken.
"I HAVE gone crazy, haven't I BB? You can tell me. I can take it." Booster pleaded.
"No. No, on this one you're spot on. I just wanted to see if I could give him the chance to see it for himself."
"So, you're looking to join a SUPERHERO team, with the only power that you can claim being that you 'Might be a little more immune to magic than most', and the reason you're providing for that to be the case is because you 'don't believe in it'." Ted assertively fired off air quotes.
"Oh thank God, it's not just me..." Booster looked relieved.
"And you don't see the problem with that?" The Blue Beetle cocked a single eyebrow whilst leaning in once again.
"What's wrong with that?"
"Well, the value you're assigning yourself is contingent entirely on your premise that the situation that would require said value... doesn't exist."
Booster pointed wildly at Ted in agreement, then considered the words his friend had actually said with a furrowed brow and seemed further confused still.
"I'm afraid I don't quite follow you."
"Actually, I'm starting to be more unsure of myself all the time even as you explain things..." Booster scratched the back of his head.
"It's a paradox."
Ted sighed. "One of those things you're REEEEEEEEEALLY not supposed to do to the timestream."
"Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!" Booster raised a singular finger, having finally understood.
"And there's another discrepancy here as well, when you first introduced yourself, you did it as--"
"Doctor Thirteen, yes?"
"--yes, and yet, when I look through your resume here under qualifications you've neither been IN medicine, nor hold a doctorate in... well, anything."
"Hey, if that huckster hoax Doctor Strange can call himself 'Doctor', then so can I!"
"I know Doctor Strange. I've actually been present whilst he's supervised over urgent field surgery that had to be performed by steadier hands... he IS a medical doctor. That's not some magical title. He's even kept up with the journals and work for the qualifications to still hold."
"Well-- well Doctor Doom..!"
"--Holds numerous doctorates in various fields. The man's a bona fide genius."
"In fact, if I had to try and convince Hank Pym to refer to you as 'Doctor', I'd never hear the end of it."
"Well... he could call me 'Terry'..?"
Booster Gold and the Blue Beetle both stared blankly at the man in the trenchcoat after his response.
"...I'll just see myself out."
R A V E N ' S P E R C H
2002 | Ugh... New Jersey
The Blue Beetle walked down suburban Main Street with Skeetz floating close behind, all eyes were on the pair.
"Sir, we seem to be attracting a lot of attention."
"Hmm? Oh, I see. Give me a second. I think I've got something for this." The hero said, reaching into his belt and pulling out a length of cord for his grapple line and attaching one end to Skeetz.
"I fail to see how this is any better--"
"Shh..! Someone's coming." As a local police officer approached, making his patrol round. Ted quickly stepped away from his job tying the knot and leaned non-chalantly against a wall.
The cop opened his mouth to say something, before the Blue Beetle pre-empted his question. "Fancy dress party. So I get left holding my daughter's balloon whilst her mother takes her to the bathroom." He said, pointing to the line and floating robot.
"Ah." He confirmed, seeming happy with the answer and walking on by.
"A children's balloon. Why was I built with the ability to feel shame?" Skeetz moaned as the cop walked out of earshot.
"My best guess? Because if humans have to deal with humiliation on a daily basis then why should you get off easy?" Ted answered.
"Let's get off the street, anyway. I need time to sit down and think." Ted walked into a large diner named 'The Jukebox' - if the overbearingly large sign on the windows and giant fibreglass '70s jukebox on the roof, seemingly designed to illustrate the fact for any who lacked the ability to read - were anything to go by.
Ted took a booth for himself and ordered coffee when the waitress made her first round.
"Now let's figure this out." He said to Skeetz once the cup was left in front of him. "Raven's Perch... Where have I heard of that place before?" He said to himself.
"It wasn't an article, or I'd remem-- Ah! I've got it!" He put the cup to his lips, treating the caffeine as if it were a reward for his recollection, before wincing at the burnt roast selection that passed for coffee in this diner.
"Magneto, Skeetz. Check your old archived news. Years earlier Erik Lehnsherr... or maybe he's in your files as Max Eisenhardt, committed one of the greatest acts of domestic terrorism ever on American soil. He attempted to set off a mutagenic bomb with the intention of deviating the evolutionary course of humanity along the Eastern seabord. Ironically, his plan was itself foiled by a group of five mutants. Eventually those went on to become known as the first X-Men, but that's not important right now. The point is, Magneto failed, but a very small amount of material leaked into the local reservoir, creating a marked increase in mutant appearances over the years in surrounding cities and townships like... Ravens Perch." Ted tapped on the table to emphasise the town where they now were, before realising how big a scene he might be making and leaned in closer to Skeetz to whisper. "So we may not be as out of luck as first appears... There may be someone here whose help we can recruit. We just have to keep our eyes open."
The next booth over, three kids were sitting down talking to a middle aged man.
Skeetz responded, lights flickering, indicating towards their booth. "Sir, we might not have to wait long..."
"We didn't say 'No', yet..." The young man with the goatee answered.
"Just a second..." Ted got up, and stood over their table. "I've got a job for you all, right now. I'll pay you all--" The Blue Beetle hesitated, thinking of a price. "--five thousand dollars a piece. But my one term is that you cut that shyster loose right now."
"Hey, do you mind! We're talking business here!" The middle aged man protested.
The young lady held her hand out at the man sitting opposite, before replying to the Blue Beetle. "Five thousand dollars? For each of us?"
"That's what I said."
"And you've got this money?" Asked the other teen.
"Well, I'll be able to GET the money. After the job's done. I mean... TECHNICALLY I have the money, but I wouldn't be able to pay you until after it's done." Ted replied.
The three kids looked amongst themselves dubiously.
Ted scowled at the middle aged con man. "I don't walk around with fifteen grand on me, if that's what you're asking."
"So what's the job?" The girl asked.
"I'm a superhero from a few decades in the future, I'm trying to figure out how to get back to my time. Once I get there I can pay you all your money."
"HA HA HA HA HA! Hang on! I've gotta write this one down!" He laughed and pulled out a notepad and pen from his top pocket whilst Ted winced at the middle aged man's caustic laughter at his story. It did sound pretty suspect, now that Ted heard himself talk about it out loud.
He almost expected himself to be laughed out of the room along with the other man, until...
The three teens seemed to disappear into space, only to reappear a brief time later.
"Alright. We discussed this amongst ourselves. We're sticking with him." They pointed to Ted.
"Well, as far as we're concerned you BOTH sound like a couple of con-men, but given a choice I'll go with the one with a face like his who actually sprung for a superhero costume and a-- robot?"
Ted rubbed his chin. "'A face like his'? You mean honest?"
"Goofy." She clarified. "You don't look clever or conniving enough to come up with some kind of scam like that."
The kids got up from their booth, and the four left the diner together.
"So I take it you don't have to put up with con-men where you're from?"
Ted stopped and thought a few seconds about Max Lord before responding. "Ours wears nicer suits.
"I'm Laura, but you can call me 'Fateball'. That's Jesse Metuchen, AKA Jughandle, and that's--"
"--Mize. Or Stuart Welles."
"The Mize." He corrected flatly.
"But he prefers 'The Mize'." Jughandle explained.
"The Miiiiiiiize." He repeated, trying to put a "cool" tone to it.
"Hmm... He REALLY prefers the Mize." Ted noted.
"So what do we call you?" Jesse asked.
"This is Skeetz, but as for me, we'll just keep it to 'Blue Beetle'. One of the first things you realize in this superhero gig is 'The Less People Who Know Your Other Identity, The Better'." Ted explained. "Life can be messy otherwise."
"So what exactly are we working with here?" Fateball asked.
"What do you mean? He asked.
"Well, Jughandle can open pocket dimensions outside of the timestream, where he's basically oblivious to harm and time can slow down for anyone in there. That's what we did in the diner--"
"'Oblivious'?" Mize asked.
"--Me, I have photokinetic reflexes. I can duplicate different actions I see."
"I don't think you mean oblivious. Imperious? Is that the word? No... Impervious? Impervious to harm?" The Mize continued talking to himself.
"So far I've used it to learn about four or five different fighting styles."
"Muay thai?" Ted asked.
"What's that?" Fateball asked.
"It's a fighting style. Uses elbows and kness as well. There's a movie out next year, Ong Bak has this guy Tony Jaa who's really good. If your powers work how you say, you'll probably find it helpful. That said... I don't see how that connects with your name 'Fateball'."
"Oh! Yeah, I have photokinetic reflexes, PLUS of course I have my fateball." She produced a Magic 8 ball swinging by her side in a bowling ball bag. "I ask it any question, it's answers always turn out. ALWAYS."
Ted arched an eyebrow in curiosity.
"Here, I'll show you. Blue Beetle here wants to get back to his time. 'Will We Get Blue Beet--"
"Whoa! No! Wait!" Ted stopped her, yelling out.
The three kids stopped, turned and stared at him.
"Let's... Not ask that question. At the moment there's still a degree of quantum uncertainty. Wiggle room we can use to get me back to where I want to be. If your fateball works how you say, if that answer comes back bad, then I'm stuck. Right now, I'm Schrödinger's Cat."
"What--? Mize spoke up, apparently for all of them.
"Didn't any of you kids take physics? Schrödinger's Cat? The thought experiment Edwin Schrödinger used to explain the problems with Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics to Albert Einstein?"
The three kids looked at him blankly.
"Okay, in order to describe the nature of quantum superposition... there's a cat in a box--"
"--along with a flask of poison - or Schrödinger said hydrocyanic acid, a radioactive device and an internal monitor - some kind of geiger counter, for example - that can detect radioactivity to the point of the decay of a single atom decaying, and flick a switch which destroys the flask."
"You could have just said 'Smart science guy' when I asked what you do..." Fateball complained.
"I don't like where this is going for the kitty..." Jughandle said to Mize.
"Well, the Copenhagen interpretation states after a while that the cat is both simultaneously alive AND dead. The quantum superposition. Yet if someone were to look in the box, they would see that the cat was EITHER alive OR dead."
The three stared at him in horror.
"People in your time are SICK, man!"
"This wasn't MY time! This was back in 1935!"
They still looked disgusted.
"Anyway... my point was, that like the cat I'm in the quantum superposition. Simultaneously able to get back to my time AND stranded here... entirely contingent on the decaying of a single atom. But if you ask the fateball that question, then that's like opening the box. No matter the answer, it's a fixed point from then. Unchangable. Quantum superposition ends and reality collapses into one of the two possibilities."
"Ohhhhhhhhh! You don't want me to ask the fateball about whether you make it back, because if the answer's bad then you're stuck here?"
"Yes!" An exasperated Ted answered. "...like the cat. Fate gone from being contingent on the decay of a single atom to being unalterably set in stone."
"Ah OK. I gotcha."
The four continued walking down the street before Ted realized there was still one unanswered question.
"And what about the Mize? What does he do?"
"Oh, he decays atoms..."
* Panels pulled from 'The Craptacular B-Sides #1, Published 2002
T H E ‘ E M B A S S Y ‘
Four Months Ago | Manhattan, New York
Ted rushed the platter of dips surrounded by crackers onto the coffee table between them.
"So... Mister-- Thor..? Son? Mister Thorson? No. That doesn't sound right."
"Thorson would be if he had a kid." Booster corrected.
"Let me try that again, can I get you anythiiiiing, Thor? Mister Odinson? I can call you Thor, right? Coffee? Beer? Mead?"
Thor had picked up a cracker and was holding it up to the light, inspecting it like some kind of a curio. It looked tiny in his huge hands.
"--chai? Coffee? Soup? Ovaltine?" Booster continued Ted's questions, in a mocking tone with his best impression of their mutual friend.
"Hey, you're making me sound like Hank!"
Booster said nothing and just levelled him with a smile. Ted's eyes widened behind the goggle lenses.
"Oh my God I sound like Hank..."
'Thor' ate the cracker, picking up another as he smiled. He picked up another one and eyed it curiously. "Too which God do you refer? I promise you I can put you in good standing. If someone is in need of smiting, then I would recommend myself. I may be the God of Thunder but I may as well be the God of Smiting, for I am mighty!” He chuckled to himself. He turned to Booster Gold. “Servant boy, I will have the largest ale you have. Preferably two, your ale is not very potent.”
"Servant boy..?" Booster muttered, shooting his Blue compatriot an incredulous look, only for Ted to mouth the word "Go" at him. Booster threw his hands up in frustration before the Blue Beetle hissed at him in a harsher whisper, directing him to the kitchen. "Just go!"
Booster Gold sullenly trudged off to the kitchen.
"Ha ha haaaa..." The Blue Beetle laughed uncomfortably to their guest. "Aaaaaanyway, we asked you here today since you've had considerable experience in the heroing field... you know, like Justice League, the Avengers, general... divine duties, I suppose. We were wondering if you'd be interested in joining our merry band of... hup!"
Ted had gone to sit down without looking and inadvertantly sat on the edge of the arm of the chair, almost falling on the floor before regathering his balance, and desperately trying to mask the accident with more fake laughter.
"Ha ha haaaa... Friends. Buddies. Our merry band of Super Buddies."
Booster trudged back into the room with a four pack of brown bottles, still in the cardboard. He took one bottle out, holding it towards Ted, just as the Norse god grabbed the remaining three. Booster watched him and shrugged, deciding this meant the bottle he now held was meant for him, he removed the lid using his gauntlet as a bottle opener and kicked back on the lounge.
‘Thor’ used ‘Mjolnir’ too, surprisingly delicately knocked the cap off the three bottles of beer. Picking up the first bottle he tipped it, and his head back, the liquid running down his throat and into his stomach. The bitter taste lingering on his tongue. Shrugging he took a sip out of the second one. “I have had many offers for many different superhero organisations. While I am intending to stay loyal to my friends among the Avengers. Your group intrigues me.”
Suddenly a man in an exuberant red and yellow costume opened a door and jumped out, making a cliched superhero pose.
"I 'HEARD' you've been talking about me."
Ted's voice resonated with an implied sigh. He'd had to deal with this one far too often, apparently. "No, you didn't. I told you to wait in the other room. Stop doing this."
"Hey? Who's this guy?"
"Don't ask--" Ted warned, moments too late.
"Tis I, The Incredible Phone Ranger! The one who answers the call when innocence rings! The one who--"
"Dammit! You set him off!"
"--scourge of the--"
"Yes, yes... and you always come calling at Dinner time. Look, are you happy with your long distance? Because we're not. Go wait in the other room until we're done in here." The Blue Beetle scolded.
"Oh man... You have beer and crackers in here?" The strange red and yellow hero broke character, his voice reverting to a more natural, but nasal tone.
"Just... wait in the other room." Ted pinched his goggles off of the bridge of his nose, exasperated.
Thor laughed slightly at the figure in yellow and red. “Is he one of your number? Who else numbers among you?”
"Presently, we're otherwise engaged as far as he's concerned. I fear if he tries that again we may just have to disconnect him entirely." The Blue Beetle scowled as the Phone Ranger slinked out of the room, back to wherever beer and crackers weren't.
Before 'Thor' could respond there was a rumble of thunder, a look of panic crossed his face, Ted unable to adjust to this panicked Thor could only watch as the behemoth of a Demigod stood up and stuck his hands into.. pockets? That he apparently had in amongst his mail armour? Out of it, he pulled out several business cards. "I must away! Before I take my leave, here are my contact details. The first number goes through my Avengers headset, the email is held by a S.H.I.E.L.D agent then relayed to me as well as a postal address-" sticking his hand into another impossible pocket he pulled out a small stone with several runes engraved upon it. "-I have enchanted this stone to be able to contact me from anywhere. It will essentially broadcast your likeness before me."
Seeing Teds confusion he flashed a coy, but equally panicked grin. "The Thunder is my Bat-Signal. You know, God of Thunder?"
"Wait-- who else is able to control the thunder in the first place to call you?" Booster Gold asked, for once with his finger on the pulse.
Ted looked at the cards and the rune stone skeptically. He arched a single eyebrow. None of this was adding up.
'Thor' laughed "Clearly other Gods of Thunder." As there was another greater rumble of thunder 'Thor' walked out the door, before it closed there was the brief glimpse of a small coastal town. Before Ted and Booster could react however there was a crashing through the window as a hammer came through the window and crushed the chair that 'Thor' had previously been sitting in.
Shortly after another Thor came climbing through the window. "LOKI! WHERE ARE YOU?"
"He went THATTAAWAAAY!" The pair said, pointing to the door the first 'Thor' left through.
The second charged out being pulled through the house by his famous hammer and an unbridled primal rage.
The pair stood in silence in the wreckage of their own home. They'd lost a wall, a window and the door had seen better days. There was an uncomfortable pause before Ted finally broke the silence.
"How are we going to explain this one away?"
"Kool-Aid Man?? Who'd believe that?" Ted replied.
"I think I'D believe that..."
"You? Well, yeah-- maybe you would... But-- Hmmm... Maybe I can-- Ted ran off into another room for a few minutes. Booster walked over to the kitchen and grabbed two more beers out of the fridge.
Ted came back with one of his Doodlebug drones and a small brown box.
"What's in there?
"K.O.R.D. prototype fine tissue nanites. They use 3D printing tech on a microscopic scale. I introduce them to the part of the wall that's still standing, program them to repair the remainder of the wall."
"Whoa... you can do that now?"
"Well, they're still in the testing phase, so I can't legally sell them yet. And they'd be exceedingly expensive if I could. And they're slow... But they'll eventually get the job done." Ted released a nanite spray into the broken part of the wall, he opened up his wrist gauntlet and started programming the nanites to sample the broken remnants and task them with producing the components to repair the wall. He waved his wrist across the gap to scan the task area. And stepped back to watch.
"Slow?" Booster asked.
"Well it's only a small section of wall, not particularly thick... I'd say seven hours?"
"Seven hours?!? We could fix it ourselves in less than that!"
Ted turned and stared at Booster. "No. You couldn't. And they're tiny robots, what do you expect?"
"Well that doesn't solve our problem though, does it Ted? How are we going to explain this?"
Ted smiled and held up a finger. He brought out the Doodlebug and set it to hover in the air. Using his wrist control he programmed the doodlebug to scan the unharmed segment of wall, flew the doodlebug over to the gap, where it then projected a hologram of the wall over the wreckage.
Ted turned to Booster and smiled.
The pair sat back on the lounge and looked at their work as they heard the front door open. She walked through The Embassy with her head in her phone, completely preoccupied. Ted and Booster quietly stared as she walked through the room, hoping everything stayed business-as-usual. But her head was so deep in her phone she didn't notice the Doodlebug floating there. After a crash she got up furiously rubbing her head and searching the floor for her phone, a hologram of the wall being projected onto the ceiling.
"What did you two idiots do?!?"
"I-- err-- we--..." Ted stammered.
"Well, you see, the Kool-Aid Man..."
"UGH! I DON'T EVEN CARE!!"
Fire picked up her phone and stormed out. The Blue Beetle and Booster Gold watched as she left, green steam rising off her hair.
R A V E N ' S P E R C H
2002 | Ugh... New Jersey
“So THIS is superheroing..?” Jughandle sarcastically asked.
“In this context, THIS is superheroing.” The Blue Beetle confirmed.
“I had no idea superheroing was done on a bus. Apparently my parents had me superheroing my way to school every morning.” Fateball replied.
“And why ARE we on the bus?” Jughandle asked.
“Because Mize doesn’t own a car.” Ted flatly said.
“Nonononono. I OWNED a car.” Said the Mize. “I just don’t drive because… well…”
Ted inhaled deeply. He was exhausted, and conversation felt like it was draining the last of what he had left. “Because you have next to no control of your powers and you rapidly degraded your car every day when you drove it, until the thing literally fell apart underneath you on a main road. Like a teenage Mister Magoo.”
“What’s Mister Magoo?” Fateball asked.
“It’s before your time. Which *YA-AWN* funnily enough puts it even further before my time.” The Blue Beetle explained.
The bus pulled out of the terminal and slowly trundled down the street.
“But why the bus?” Jughandle asked.
“Because the bus costs us twelve bucks each, whilst Amtrak would charge us over fifty per head to barely get us there any earlier. And because if Mize could do that to his car, I AM NOT getting on a plane with you.”
“And why do we need to go to Boston in the first place?”
“Because we just do.” His patience frayed.
"Because whatever this superheroing we're needed for is needed in Boston, obviously." Fateball reasoned.
"Exactly. Listen to this one boys, she'll see you right."
"Boston. The City of Brotherly Love..." She continued.
"OK. You can stop listening to her now."
"I thought it was the City of Trees?"
"Nah, WE'RE from Joisey..."
"Great. I'm stuck on a bus with pre-pubescent Marx Brothers."
"Animaniacs." Ted simplified.
"AND the Warner sister!"
"Alright, that's enough of that, now. Can we have just a few moments of quiet. I't's been a long day, time travel really takes it out on you apparently--"
"--especially without a chrono suit, sir."
"Yes, thank you, Skeetz. So if I could just have a little quiet, I might actually try to squeeze some sleep in before we get there."
Four Straight Hours Without Consecutive Minutes Of Silence Later
Ted stared straight ahead with bloodshot eyes, breathing deeply.
"I think we broke him." Mize said, waving a hand in front of the hero's face.
"I'm a man of means by no means, King of the Rooo-- --hoik!"
Ted moved swiftly and grabbed Jughandle by the collar. Eyes twitching, capillaries about to burst, if the brain in behind them didn't first.
"I'm OK... I'm OK. Just STOP singing. I am so tired... I can't be held responsible for what's going to happen next if--"
"Oh hey, we're here!"
The other three watched uncomfortably as Ted sobbed gently and deeply.
B O S T O N
2002 | Errrr... Boston, Massachussetts
The four walked around the streets of Boston in uncomfortable silence, the three teens periodically glancing back at the older superhero until he eventually punched through the thick atmosphere.
"It's OK. I'm OK. I'm sorry about before. I'm also pretty sure this is happening out of some weird cosmic karmic alignment because of how I was around my own teachers when I was your age. I am just very tired right now. So very tired. Let us never speak of the bus again."
The other three paused, considering what he said before Fateball finally spoke up.
"So where to now?"
"It's just up ahead here. Just a bit further." The Blue Beetle pointed a few houses further down the street.
"This is just a suburban house." Mize surmised. "What kind of supervillain would live here?"
"Look," Ted said, levelling with the three teenagers at last. "I've just got to get in here and find a way to leave a message with my current location somewhere that the others will find it. So Jesse, jughandle us."
Jesse looked pensive. "I dunno. Isn't this breaking and entering? Like, in a suburban house?"
"First, suburban house, Legion of Doom headquarters where Metallo 'dwells'. Technically it's all B & E." Ted shrugged. "Secondly, what 'Breaking'? The entrance points will all be in tact. You're circumventing the regular dimensional planes to trespass on private property. And finally, I could get us in without you, it's just easier this way."
The three disappeared through space and reappeared on the other side of the door.
"Well how would you have got us in?"
Jesse wigged out, feeling tricked to sneak into the house. "The key?! You had the key?! Then why'd you have me bre-- make us trespass?!"
"I don't 'have' the key, I know where it is. I'm not as agile as I used to be and it's a pain in the ass to get to. Also it doesn't lock the deadbolts properly. They'd know we were here after we left. This way's better. And let's be honest, more fun too. Just relax. There's not going to be anything we have to deal with here that can't be handled."
"Deal with..? Jughandle didn't like the sound of that. This weird hero talking about killing cats and 'Handling' situations that need 'dealing with'.
"Just relax. Everything's going to be fine." The three teens just stared. The more he attempted to calm them the less he seemed to have their trust. So instead he sighed and went upstairs towards his old room.
Ted let his bedroom door swing open and really felt the emotional side of time travel as his childhood bedroom from eighteen years earlier was revealed before him. He hit the light and stepped inside.
"Whoa... This is a kids room. This whole thing feels messed up." Jesse said, as he looked around the room.
Ted sighed and gave an exasporated look at the three younger heroes.
"So what are we doing in here?" Fateball asked, whilst her and Mize walked into the room. Ted started to inspect items on the shelves.
"I'm looking for something I know they'll look at, so I can send the others a message to know where I am. So they can come back and pick me up."
Toys, DVDs, books, Ted swept across each looking for the perfect thing. Then he was distracted by something else. "Oh. My. God!"
"What? Whaddid you find?" The Mize asked, picking up the LaserDisk player to look behind it.
Ted had a big grin on his face, before he slowly paced his way across the room. He picked up a fedora and slowly and gently put it on his head, before pointing at it with a look of amazement and joy which was completely lost on the others.
"It doesn't match your blue suit."
"You're not going to take some kid's hat are you? That's busted."
"I haven't seen this thing since 2002..." He said to himself. "This all actually kind of makes sense..."
"C'mon man. You're not really going to take this kid's hat are you. I mean, how would you feel if somebody did that to you?"
"I'd feel confused, angry and frustrated over the issue for the next eighteen years of my life, until I had a moment of absolute clarity and found myself getting a hat." Ted replied.
"Alright, well that was oddly specific, but yeah. It'd suck. Don't take the kid's hat."
"Do you STILL not realise what's going on here, Jugs? It's HIS hat, this was HIS room, all of this is HIS stuff."
"Whoa... So we're IN a superhero's bedroom?"
"Well, I wasn't a superhero when I was--" He stopped, seeing the new joy in Jesse's starstruck eyes as he walked all around the room, seeing it in a new light. "--sure, whatever. Soak it up. Superhero's bedroom. Don't break my action figures."
Ted went back to looking around the room for something to leave a message on when it came to him. The Scarab. He still had the replica model car in the future. Even when most of the other toys and things were boxed up and left to dust. The Scarab sat in pride of place on the mantle of the Embassy. Super Buddies Headquarters. He'd leave a message there, on the car. Heck, maybe he already had and it was already there. Like his hat. How often does it get closely looked at really? All it would take is one glance, though...
And he'd told Booster to never touch it.
If there was any way he could possibly guarantee that Booster Gold would get his - probably unwashed - hands all over it, the second Ted wasn't around to tell him not to touch it... it would be to tell him he can never touch it.
"The Scarab it is."
Ted walked across the room and grabbed the model car in it's perspex display case and set to work figuring out how to crack it open.
"I think I've just found my ticket out...