Most of you are wondering where I've been and what I've been up to.
I haven't really been in a good place the last couple of months. I'm an atheist, (which should be pretty obvious) but I live in a really conservative society, and it got out that I don't believe in an almighty sky daddy.
After more than a dozen intervention sessions and being dragged off to "Deliverance" where men pray and splash me with water to get me to "see the wrongness of my ways" I got sick of shit, left home, traveled a long bloody way and I've been staying with a friend from college.
This is usually the part where I tell you that I'm in need of help and give you my pat - on account, but I don't believe in earning money from writing fan fiction. I don't believe I should fucking get paid for playing around in someone's hard-built world.
I'd rather create my own.
And I did.
As of last week, my novel Janus and Oblivion - Book 1 of The Nightmares of Alamir hit the Amazon Stores. Inspired by Overlord and I'm a Spider, so what? it's the reason I haven't updated any of my stories in a long while. I've been working on it between jobs and it's the first book in what will hopefully be a series of books. It's also got a paperback version - and it'd be cool to realize that I've actually made something of mine.
I'd like to give a shout out to Wysrd, lubabpaul, Dominus1389,justlovereadin, CursedWriter69, Tsunashi777, eddy14, Gosster, Podge0303, nwordmuffin Beowulf Anarchy, Bolondka, Riftar Pokemaster, MKaius, Ascandas and everyone else who sent me so much as a "We miss your work" or a "You dead?" it gave me the unexpected motivation to keep on writing.
If you'd like to support me, rather than donating to me for writing fan fics, please buy my book - Janus and Oblivion, and it'll mean the world to me.
Now, back to the story.
Re-Cap: Shit went down last chapter, Zack met the Presence. Nezumi got smoked, Zatanna's fate is yet unknown, and our protagonist faces the greatest foe that has stifled philosophers since ancient times: making an important decision.
The sewers reverberated with humming. Feminine humming of an upbeat tone in repetitive iambics basked in the clacks of irregular footsteps. Boots connected against muddy water and cobbled stone. The humming matched each step. A beam of light extended from a torch and parted the darkness where dozens of sewer rats bathed in a mix of sewage water and unmentionables.
"Shoo! Shoo! Scram you damn dirty rodents!"
The rats of Gotham's sewers scurried. Three fell into the water and thrashed. Bubbles and ripples emerged as they diverged different paths, and the sound of humming resumed. Boots emerged from water and grime, and landed on stone. A long, satisfied sigh graced darkness and foul stench.
"There ain't no place like home!"
The sound of creaking metal followed the declaration. A circular door swung open slowly, the telltale signs of age and rust announcing itself with a long winding squeak. Boots once more continued to clack against stone, and the door shut with another proclamation of the damages of time.
"Pumpkin! Pumpkin I'm back! And I brought something!"
Boots clacked a final time, before small huffs, and they were removed from soft tender feet.
"Brrr! It's chilly in here! We oughtta light something to keep warm. Don't want to be catching a cold so soon after gettin' free."
Plain feet connected with ceramic floors. Step, by step, they advanced. "Mistah J? Pumpkin? Where are you?"
The feet stopped. "Are we playing a game Mistah J?"
Rats scampered across leaky pipes overhead. Steady droplets of water dripped unto an ever growing puddle. Fluorescent light bulbs flickered, increasing and decreasing continuously in brightness.
Muffled noises engulfed the hideout. Whams and thuds followed. The barefoot woman increased her pace immediately.
"Mistah J! You didn't tell me we were having a gue –"
Grocery and shopping bags fall to the floor like thunder. The sight before her is something that is familiar and foreign at the same time. A man upside down and held by his ankles. His face battered and broken and bruised. Splatters of blood on his clothes and around him. All of this, she knows, all of this, she has seen before.
Except, she has never seenit be him who was tied up.
She has never seen a blond-haired, blue-eyed teen, clad in a dark singlet, slamming his fist into his stomach. She has never seen two people, dressed like spooks with their black suits and thick shades, standing beside the teen like bouncers.
"WHAT D'YA THINK YOU'RE DOING TO MISTA –"
"Shut up and sit down."
Her lips slam shut and her but slams unto the floor. She stares at the traitorous things in confusion. At her lips, that would not budge. At her legs, that would not rise. Instead, she merely sat, and stared onwards, stared at the boy, who slammed his fist into her pudding's stomach, again, and again.
"Harley, I'm sure you're familiar with these two."
The boy gestured at the bouncers. It takes her a second to recognize them. From the nightclub. The one that slammed a drug into her system and the other one that she riddled with bullet holes. Now, there were no holes. There were no bullets or evidence that she killed them – and she knew she did. She knew.
He sees the look in her eyes. He smiles. Something foreboding runs down her spine.
"I met God and he told me he disappointed he was in me, so I thought I'd meet the other end of the spectrum and see what they thought."
The boy cracked his knuckles. He turned his direction once more to her pudding, and he slammed his fist into his stomach again. Her pudding's mouth was covered, but the muffled cry still hurt her.
"But when I met with him, before I can even get out a single word, he does… this."
The gag falls off his mouth, and her pudding… laughs.
He's laughing, laughing more hysterically than she can ever remember him laughing before. Laughing until water is leaking from his eyes and he does not stop laughing. The sound is foreign and familiar, uncomfortable and soothing. The laughter does not seem to have a final point. It peaks, and when it reaches a moment where it appears to stop, it starts off again, stronger and better than before.
The boy gags him again. Two tired eyes turn in her direction. "I asked him what he found so funny. He barely managed to stop laughing for a single second to give me an answer. Do you know what he said?"
She shook her head.
A chair materialized out of thin air. She blinked, and the boy was sitting on it. "Everything," the boy said. "And he continued laughing. He looked at me… and couldn't stop laughing."
Wheels emerged from the chair, and the boy swiveled around in it. "It had me thinking, you see. The reality, or unreality of things. Your boyfriend over there is one of the few people in the world who can recognize a joke when he sees one. If the reaction he had when seeing me has any meaning, it means there's a joke being told, and I didn't get it."
She wasn't getting anything. Nothing at all was making sense. The boy seemed to be aware of this, but was talking to her anyway. Some part of her, the part that was Harleen Quinzel, Ph.D. in Psychology, could recognize the signs of someone who was desperately seeking attention and affirmation. Encouragement, understanding and companionship. She did not know how to give it to him when she could neither move nor speak.
"I'm the Consultant, in case you were wondering who this crazy person that tied up your clown is."
She felt herself choke a bit. The man responsible for the Disheartening. The boogeyman that her pudding said he would like to meet. He probably didn't want to meet him like this.
"I had an excellent butler once, but the Spirit of Vengeance killed him. I don't know any other psychologists, and even though you're semi-insane and a criminal, I heard you're good at your job. So I'm going to ask you one question, and one question only. If you say anything else, do anything else, or make any moves –"
The female bodyguard removed a sleek black pistol from her suit pocket, and she pointed it directly at her pudding's temple. She understood immediately.
"Are you familiar with the Ship of Theseus? The Grandfather's Axe?" The swiveling chair turned into a throne. The boy sat, crossed his legs, and placed one hand on his cheek.
She could move her lips again. She turned her gaze to her pudding. Her pudding was rolling his eyes at something. She wasn't sure if this was the question she was to answer.
"It's tossed around in philosophy, when arguing about the self. To paraphrase, Theseus leaves Macedonia with his ship and a thousand men and sails to Egypt. Along the way, they fight sea monsters and face storms, and the parts of the ship are broken and replaced. Many of the crew die and are replaced. The hull, the deck, the sails, more and more is taken away and replaced. By the end of his journey to Egypt, every single part of the original ship, and every member of the original crew has been replaced. Is it still the same ship?"
The boy spun around on his throne. "The Grandfather's Axe works on the same principle. Your Grandfather has an axe. Your father replaces the handle. You replace the head. Is it still your grandfather's axe?"
Sweat dribbled down the back of her neck. She didn't know where the Consultant was going with this. She was not equipped to interpret the craziness of people aside from her pudding.
"So let's bring in another thought experiment."
The temperature dropped. She could see her breath coalesce in front of her face.
"You are a nearly omnipotent, nearly omniscient, nearly omnipresent being who whisks away a selfless, virtuous soul from their world, and puts them in a new world without any memories, without any inkling, any speck, any aspect of the things that made said person selfless and virtuous."
The Consultant's eyes sparkled.
"In this new world, you put them in the worst place in existence, with the belief that they will continue to be selfless and virtuous, while lacking any of the experiences that made them selfless and virtuous. You take away everything that made a good person good, and expect the person's innate 'goodness' to outshine his circumstances. The question is…"
The throne vanished. The man approached, his feet silent. His haunting blue eyes stared her down.
Her lips, dry and cold, opened.
The Consultant clapped.
The gunshot deafens her. She flinches from the noise and the residual high-pitched whine. When her eyes open, it is to the sight of brains splattered across the floor. The smell of blood and specks of gray-matter outwards in a conical pattern from the point of impact. The gag slips off his mouth, and what is left of his face is exposed in a wild, happy smile.
Her jaw slams upwards and her lips are locked like she swallowed an overly sour lemon. The Consultant is saying something. She isn't listening. She can't hear him. Her gaze is fixated on her pudding. On his permanently etched smile and the top part of his head that is nothing but shattered bone, blood and chunks of exposed flesh.
"Here's a follow-up question." The Consultant placed his right hand over her head. "Without any memories of ever meeting or encountering the Joker – is Harley Quinn still Harley Quinn?"
There was nothing but amusement in the Consultant's cold blue eyes.
"Practical Philosophy 101. Let's find out."
Another scream was buried within the sewers of Gotham City. A woman, fell backwards, bereft of years of memories, love and affection. A boy dusted his hands, took a deep breath and released it, exhaling pure satisfaction.
"What should we do with the Joker's body, sir?"
"Copy his bio-signatures and eliminate every last trace. Every speck of blood, every potential source of DNA. The Joker may be dead, but there isn't any reason the world needs to know. Not while we can use his reputation."
"Understood sir. And sir, if I may?"
"It's good to have you back sir."
"It's good to be back, Mr. Whiskers. It's good to be back."
The Evil Overlord's List – Part I
Some of the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. In this case, an unseen circumstance has enabled the Batman's Rogues' Gallery to be freed from Arkham Asylum, and to wreak chaos on Gotham. It is up to you to put them in their place and continue your plans for the domination of the city.
Recruit or Eliminate the Joker [Complete!]
You chose to eliminate the Joker.
~~~~~~ DC – Remastered Edition ~~~~~~
The bike tore through the streets. Fast enough to whip up skirts, send papers flying in the wind and be perceived as nothing more than a blur, I embraced the rush of the wind against my face and could not help the wild smile breaking out against my lips.
I tore past a red-light and past a hidden patrol vehicle. The officers did not give chase, for they were implanted homunculi agents, and this was my city. Gotham was my city. I could walk into the police station, shoot a four-year old in the face, and walk out without issue. More than eighty percent of police officers there were mine. The twenty percent would protest, but it would be a rather short protest.
The roar of the engine and the sensation of high speeds sent the adrenaline pumping in me into overdrive, and my lips opened to laugh. I laughed, and I laughed even further when I realized how much of an idiot I'd been for so long.
I doubted the Presence expected me to travel down this path. I didn't mind. He made it easy for me. He told me, reminded me, of a person I once was, of this wonderful selfless person who he picked and brought into this world and then gave free will –
And he said he was disappointed.
Thinking over the conversation again and again and again, that was where he made two fatal flaws. The first was having expectations. The second, was reminding me.
"Hey, there god, presence, whatever." I said to the air. Over the roar of the bike I could barely hear my own voice. "I don't know if you're listening or not, but… I want to thank you."
I made a hard left down a street, whizzing by several of Legend Industries legionnaires who were patrolling the area. Discreetly, they saluted. I observed them protect key landmarks, assist people in daily construction, and be the face that I needed them to be.
"You asked me, what I would do, now that I knew the truth."
Round a corner, I spotted deals going on. NZT was spreading like wildfire, and the more people who ingested it, the more people I could overtly or covertly manipulate. The more people that would find themselves smarter than normal, but lacking direction and purpose and a way to channel that smartness. The more people who would be going to the polls to vote Makarov Dreyer, and agreeing with every decision and policy he made.
"I decided that I'll do whatever it is I want to."
New buildings were being constructed by Legend Constructions. The blocked roads were occupied with workers in their bright orange vests and protection hats, with heavy machinery lifting bars and concrete. Banners indicating the names of the facilities were still obscured with black polyethylene. 'Rehabilitation' centers. Correctional facilities. Research laboratories. Places to channel intellect towards the building of a super-city. Towards the transformation of Gotham to become out of the cyberpunk genre, only without the usual oppressive corruption.
"Timothy was a great guy," I told the wind. "It's great that he faced so much and was able to keep being a good person. Good that he inspired hope. But, you're wrong about one part."
I slowed the bike as I approached school areas. Slow enough to be seen, slow enough to avoid needlessly running over a four-year old crossing the street.
"Timothy wasn't selfless. He didn't want to be a burden to other people, because he didn't like the feeling he got when he realized how much he burdened other people. He always smiled and was cheerful and happy, because he was desperate to give people a reason to want to be around him. A reason to like him, even if it was putting him on a pedestal as a person who didn't let life get him down. He was cheerful, because being a downer paraplegic would make people abandon him, and more than anything – he didn't want to be abandoned."
A bus filled with schoolchildren came up beside me. Two girls were at the window, I winked at them, tossed them my signature smile, and left them giggling as I revved the engine of my bike and tore away.
"Killing yourself because you don't want to ruin other people's lives sounds great. He died because he wanted the people around him to be happy. It's noble, when you put it that way, instead of he died because he didn't want to be the reason people around him were sad."
The sight of a familiar high school approached, and I reduced my speed once more. The bike purred to a stop. I craned my neck and stretched my arms.
"To wake up and realize that you were the cause of your loved one's unhappiness. To see their agony. Listen to their turmoil. Watch them hold bitterness as they make sacrifice after sacrifice for your sake. They would, they would do it, because they love you. But you – you can't stand it. You can't bear to watch it. You can't live with it."
"I'm not Jesus. I was never an extraordinary person with extraordinary limits of selflessness. I was just a person… like everyone else, just a person. Maybe it's a misconception, maybe it's not. Maybe I'm remembering things wrongly since you only gave me brief glimpses of my past life, or maybe I'm not. But I do know one thing."
I spotted my target approaching, and I took a soft, deep breath. "I'm not that person anymore. Timothy is dead, along with everything that made him Timothy, good and bad. Now, I'm Zack. Zack Cabrera. Son of Eva, child of Gotham. I'll do questionable things because I want to. I'll make the world a better place because I have to – I mean really, this world is seriously lacking in lightsabers and space colonies."
I turned to Gotham's cloudy sky. "I guess what I'm saying is, I'm not a paragon of good or Satan's personal shoulder demon. I'm just a person. I'm just a flawed, selfish human being who's going to live his life how he wants it."
"I'm sorry that disappoints you. I'm sorry I realized too late how little I should care about your disappointment."
I closed my eyes, and took in another fresh breath of Gotham air.
"Best regards, the-man-who-will-one-day-overthrow-you, Zachariah Cabrera."
It felt like a new day.
"Who are you talking to?"
Evelyn stared at me uncertainly. Her backpack was slung over her left shoulder, her clothes were notably of a different, more colorful, newer shade than what she wore previously, and she tapped her left foot on the ground.
"Oh, don't mind me, just talking to God."
I reached for her bag and took it off her shoulders. "I didn't know you believed in God."
"Believe isn't really the word I'd use. He's more of an estranged dad who barely paid attention to you growing up but still expects you to enter an Ivy League College and become the next Stephen Hawking."
"Who's Stephen Hawking?"
I opened my mouth. "…I really need to study up on the famous physicists we've got in this world."
She rolled her eyes. "Right, because you're not from this world."
"That's an odd way of saying I'm out of this world, but yes, you're right on all counts."
"That's not what I –"
"Too late!" I tapped the seat. "Hop on. I'm about to give you the Aladdin magic carpet experience."
She stood awkwardly, staring at the bike. I could tell some whispers and comments were coming up from other students who saw her. I could hear the sound of her good-girl image dying with soft, breathless whimpers. She climbed on, inelegantly, and I procured a helmet around her size before placing it on her head.
"Does this magic carpet come with a seatbelt?"
"Jasmine trusted Aladdin to be her seatbelt."
"Not her smartest move, trusting some shady character who appears out of nowhere with untold riches." Evelyn said. "Why did she do that again?"
I revved the engine. "…Because he sang?"
"I don't think that's – wait, don't tell me you're going to –"
"I can show you the world~!"
The taste of coffee lingered on my lips as I savored the aroma. For a Starbucks knock-off, I did have to admit that they made some decently good brews. Of course the waitresses kept giving me their numbers much to Evelyn's constantly growing irritation, and it was merely one of those days where I felt I could sit back and relax.
"So who's the leading physicist that proposed the concept of parallel realities? Quantum entanglement? You know, the proposition that every decision we makes creates a branching timeline in which the choices of that decision play out, and each further choices creates more decisions and creates an infinite number of universes."
I swallowed more coffee than I should have and almost choked. "You're joking."
Evelyn rose a book. Thick hardcover with the word PHYSICS emblazoned on in red on top and the picturesque Albert Einstein doing his rendition of the Thinker on it. "It's right here."
"Let's see that."
Stephen Hawking didn't exist in this world, and although some of his work was enabled by Einstein, there was no bloody way Einstein of the DC universe was the one to propose multiple realities.
Then again, the Einstein of the real world was a super-genius who could sit down at his table with nothing put pencil and paper and accurately deduce that the universe was constantly expanding. In a world where super-geniuses like Einstein were a normal occurrence, Einstein of this world had to be tremendously smarter than them to have ever made the history books. His intelligence was no doubt above and beyond the version I knew.
"Well that's impressive."
"It's Einstein. Of course it's impressive." She grabbed the book from my hand. "And what's the deal with you suddenly asking all these physics questions?"
"Would you prefer if we researched our... Chemistry?"
"You don't get out of this by flirting." She said. "You've been researching speculations on time travel, on alternate realities, Schrodinger's Cat, Quantum Theory –" Evelyn shook her head. "It's like you're trying to change something – but all of this is theoretical, not unless you're the Flash."
I sip the coffee in front of me. A slow, long sip.
"Does this have anything to do with why you and my brother got back home so late that night three weeks ago, and were so out of it? Lucian has been acting weird ever since."
"Oh, that?" I placed the coffee back on the table. "I took your brother to a strip club where he got a blowjob and got laid for the first time. Real charisma booster."
Evelyn's face rapidly gained a red hue. "You – you what?"
"Feeling left out?"
"No!" she said. "I can't believe – he's – we're – I mean –"
"So, you are feeling left out." I rose my hands in silent protest. "I'm a reformed man, and all for gender equality. If you feel you no longer want to be a virgin –"
"And so was your brother. But he's a guy, so it's not really an issue if he got laid and liked it. Ah, but if you do, people could go to jail, no matter how much you say you gave your consent. Double standards. Sucks right? If only we were in the Middle East."
She immediately starts grabbing her books. "I'm telling my mom."
I rose my thumbs. "You do that. In the meantime, please use protection if you want to experiment with –"
I watched her storm away with a face the shade of a tomato. I knew it was more out of her own embarrassment than any real anger or heat. Still, she would tell her Naomi, because she was, in fact left out. The truth that most parents did not want to know was that once their children hit their teens, they fantasized almost endlessly about the wonders of sex.
Still, I watched her leave, and picked up my cup of coffee before sipping some more. There were other things I was thinking about, other things I had been thinking about since meeting the Presence. He provided me with far more information than he most likely intended to, and I was going to make full use of that information to the best of my abilities.
The Evil Overlord List – Part I
It's time to fight smart and not hard. To avoid idiotic mistakes, and to take the smartest path to victory. Cheating? Underhanded tactics? Cowardly behavior? I think you mean – Common Sense.
Item One: Kidnap/Abduct Scarecrow and Poison Ivy to create the Super-Drug [Completed]
Item Two: Create an army of Homunculi [Completed]
Item Three: Have your army infiltrate the Police and have them distribute Super-Drug [Complete]
Item Four: Makarov Dreyer Runs For Mayor [Complete]
Item Five: 'Reform' the Villains of Gotham
Allergic to Red: Make your army an antithesis to Stormtroopers and Redshirts [Complete]
On Their Own Volition: Have any Villain/Hero join your cause without forcing them [Complete]
Total Makeover-City Edition: Eliminate Gotham's Crime Rate/Turn Gotham to a Utopia
Title: God of Gotham
Anarchy of Gotham
"Great to know removing memories doesn't count as forcing someone to join me."
Dr. Harleen Quinzel was currently employed under Legend Industries, currently being 'tutored' on expected methods to properly evaluate and reform the criminals of Gotham. Of course, Legend Industries was also helping her with her rare form of Dissociative Identity Disorder, which happened to have taken away a huge deal of her memories from the past several years when she worked underneath a notorious criminal.
It was a shame she wasn't crazy anymore. There was a certain sexual appeal to her when she was.
I sipped the last of my coffee, and pushed aside the empty mug before rising to my feet. The TV volume in the coffee shop was low, and I could see something on the new about an upcoming debate between Mayoral Candidate Makarov Dreyer, and the current Mayor, Hamilton Hill.
Not if I have anything to say about it.
"Alpha Command, patch me through to Agent 041 of the Aphrodite Squadron."
"Agent 041, Betty Hammond, reporting sir."
"Ensure that a rather scandalous debacle involving Mr. Hill makes tomorrow's paper. Domestic assault, pedophilia, rape accusations – something shocking and rage inducing. Hamilton Hill is lacking financial backers since all the crime families are dead and he is standing on his last legs. I want those legs to become stumps and have him gored by the populace."
There was only one task left to finally complete the first stage of this plan, and this task was something that needed time. The elections were in a couple of months, and I already knew Makarov Dreyer would win by a landslide, there was no particular reason to rush the timeline.
I have all the time in the world.
As of now, it was time for me to do something else with said time. It was something I'd thought of after meeting the Presence. However, the exact mechanics of how I would do it was something I needed to research upon, something I needed to know and understand before I decided to take such a massive leap of faith. Also, it helped to have an in-depth knowledge of the certain individuals of the world with this particular power in mind.
"Alpha Command, get me an Agent of the Aphrodite Squadron. Tell her to put on something orange… we'll be stepping out for a while."
Hall of Justice
It was a shame how grossly unappreciated and undervalued one of the true heroes of the DC Universe was. Almost as shameful as how easy it was to hack into the Hall of Justice's computer systems with Master Animation. Perhaps, that, was indeed just slightly less shameful as to how easy it was to infiltrate the Hall of Justice.
Granted, the real hideout of the Justice League was the Watchtower, and the Hall was nothing more than a front, it still possessed members who lived in the hall and utilized it in order to ensure said front was working effectively.
"Is this our target, sir?"
The nondescript Agent, asked, as we stood over the sleeping form of one of the actual true heroes of the world. A pizza box obscured his face and loud snoring noise escaped from his throat, but there was no mistaking that this was indeed the person I was here for. More accurately, I was here for his technology, but who was keeping count of these things?
I removed the pizza box from his face. The blonde hair and smooth futuristic googles was hard to replicate. I could not kill him because making overt moves against the Justice League like killing one of their members was not a smart thing to do. Instead, I rifled through his mind for the information I needed, and within minutes, I found it.
Recreating it from the schematics and memories was difficult, but Alteration granted me domain to shape anything and everything I wanted to make. The small, golden orb in the form of a watch came to life, technology from a time far beyond what even my wildest imaginations was capable of.
"Sir, if I may ask, what value does this orb possess?"
"It's smaller than Rip Hunter's ship."
Several seconds of Alteration, and the orb flared to life.
"Thank you, Michael Carter."
Michael Carter, otherwise known as the hero, Booster Gold, awoke with a snort and a start, collapsing over his chair and landing on the ground with a thud. He blinked, searching around his room and finding no one.
"…last time I order pineapples with my pizza."
Shrugging, Booster Gold yawned, and went back to sleep, unaware of the value of the information his mind had unwillingly distributed.
The air was cleaner than I remembered. It lacked the distinct taint of dark magic used in the Disheartening. It lacked the oppressive, downtrodden aura of silence brought only by the hammer of death and oppression. It was still smoggy, and it was still cloudy, as Gotham was meant to be – but it was noticeably different.
"Sir… we – I can't communicate with anyone from the Alpha Division!"
"Well that's expected. They don't exist yet."
The homunculi stared at me. "…sir?"
"I recreated the schematics of the technology Booster Gold uses from the 25th century. When we left the hall of justice, we did more than just teleport to Gotham."
The sight of old cars moving slowly around the street instead of the hybrid cars I was used to was a bit nostalgic. Everything, actually, was nostalgic.
"Sir… where… where are we?"
"Gotham City." I responded. "Sixteen years in the past."
It was rare to see my homunculi express emotion. Funny, and certainly worth a picture. Perhaps I should drop sudden bombs like this on them more often. I suppose they would find it exasperating, but I certainly would find it funny.
"We're here for two things and two things only. The goal is to change just a little – enough that would make a difference, but not enough that will trigger the Flashpoint Paradox. It's why I didn't drain a speedster's powers and run back in time."
"Listen, and listen very, very closely, everything must be done according to the letter. This is your most important mission yet. Do you understand?"
The agent bowed. "As you command, sir."
To alter the past in a manner that would not irrevocably alter the present. To go against my magically given curse of hubris and attempt to undo the sacrifice that was made. Some would claim that this was hubris upon hubris, madness upon madness. Some would look at me and spit in my direction for perverting the natural order.
I didn't care.
The Presence asked me once, "Did she feel real to you?"
My mind could not stop thinking about it. It could not stop replaying, over and over again, the nightmare that the Spectre put me through. Seeing it, seeing the mistakes I made, it stuck worse and harder and harder than it should have. It was an indescribable itch in my throat that could not be scratched. A fire in my stomach that could not be quenched. A pain in my chest that failed to be soothed.
Finding my younger self was easy. I was in the abandoned building, as I would be for some time, for the days and weeks and months following her arrest and capture. It was easy, to make myself invisible. Easy, to sneak into the building. Easy to find him – me.
There was something odd about looking across myself, and seeing it. Seeing the barely one year old infant sitting in a dilapidated building, idly creating his first minion, a zombie rat. I was smaller than I expected, and my eyes were bereft of any light in them.
I wanted to speak. To tell myself 'it'll be okay' or 'you'll figure it out' and give some words of encouragement. Or maybe to yell at him and say, 'don't be an idiot' or 'killing the justice league shouldn't be your main goal'. One way or another, I wanted to look at the child bereft of everything he knew, confused and hurting, and I wanted to comfort him. Me.
But I couldn't.
I would change everything if I did that.
So, instead, I did what I came for.
Looking over the undead rat that would one day become my minion, I added an Enchantment. Hidden, deep, and it would only activate under specific conditions – it was something that would not change the future greatly.
Done with my first task, I turned away. One last look at the child I was, one last temptation at the urge to do something, and I pushed onwards – leaving without ever being noticed. The past was done and dusted, but the future, my future – it still held potential.
Making my way to the courthouse was difficult, as my feet pounded with impatience and my heart pounded even louder. Reaching there, under the cloak of invisibility, I hesitated. No – it was not wise to be in the courthouse. There was no telling what I would do if I saw her. I would wait until after.
After the verdict was read.
After she was sentenced.
After she left the courthouse.
After she was taken to Blackgate.
I waited, and I waited. A day. Two. Out of sight. Out of mind. Change nothing, do nothing. Nothing but waiting.
"Sir," the call came. "I've spotted the dispatcher."
I waited no longer.
ID – Create blurred me to life inside a small prison cell. She wasn't facing me. Her blonde hair was a mess. Her prison overalls were hideous on her. It made my stomach burn again. I wanted to make the people who put her in such clothes suffer –
The woman who appeared outside of her cell is stout. Ugly. Muscle-filled, shaved head and tattooed. A sneer is on her face. A crudely sharpened toothbrush is in her left hand, resting between her thumb and index finger.
"Carmine Falcone sends his regards."
It the moment history changes.
A small disturbance in the light. A switch is made. A blonde woman barely has time to be confused, before she is replaced by her exact body-double in the exact same clothes. The stout woman does not realize anything is amiss. She charges, shank slamming into the stomach, then removed and into the intestine, then removed and into the chest, then removed again, and into the throat.
My blood boils at the sight of her clutching her throat, gurgling blood.
It's not her. It's not her. It's not her. Remember – it's not her. It's not her.
The stout woman backs away as prison guards rush the room. They slam her against the floor, shouting and barking orders. The alarm rings. I give one look to the downed gurgling woman who, as far as the world is concerned, is a dying Eva Cabrera.
"Mission complete sir."
I swallowed the saliva in my throat uneasily.
"It was an honor… to serve you, Overlord… Commander."
There are no retries for her, not while I've disabled them. Agent 42 of the Aphrodite Squadron dies as Eva Cabrera, a perfect biological match. I left the scene, no one ever the wiser, and I return to my Instant Dungeon. I return to my Instant Dungeon, where a blonde haired woman is staring at me fearfully, backing up away in confusion.
"W-what's going on?"
She was the one. She was here.
Not an illusion. Not a dream. Not a nightmare. Not something crafted to mock me.
She. Was. Here.
"I told you to be back by eight or you'd skip breakfast."
I could see it in the way her eyes stretched.
"Welcome back, mom." I managed to croak. "Welcome home."