Fate’s Tower, Salem, Massachusetts:
Inza Nelson paced about the room. Many in her place would not give the room the distracted, distant glances she gave it. The objects, tomes, and artifacts in this room alone contained power and secrets that gods, demons, and cosmic beings would kill to have, and over the years many had done so. But Inza did not gawk at them. As it was, she’d burnt out on the supernatural long ago. No, her attention was on the memory of a conversation that had taken place moments before — one all-too-familiar to her.
“Kent, how can you go off again?! We barely had a second alone during the Crisis, and now that it’s over, you still have to go off to do his bidding?”
“Inza, honey…” Kent’s tone was soft, his eyes pleading, and Inza slightly regretted starting the argument — slightly. “Nabu is worried. This odd blocking of the multiversal barriers is not normal. A simple finding of the right vibrational frequency should allow us to reach the other Earths, but not even Jay can reach them, and that means the natural order is being tampered with. And you know how Nabu feels about order being lost.”
“Nabu can ask one of the other Lords to look into it! Haven’t you done enough? I don’t mean to argue, but we need to spend some time together.” She sighed deeply. “I’m even starting to miss the days when all you did was keep Wotan from taking over the world.” That got a laugh. Good; maybe he would change his mind.
“Inza, I know this is unfair, but with Jim yet to show up and the other lords concerned with their shimmering higher realms, I’m the only one with the capability to check into this. It’s a shame the other lords don’t get involved in this plane of existence more, for disorder is everywhere.” He lowered the golden helmet onto his head. “And I am Order’s champion. Your beloved one will be with you soon, Inza Nelson. You have the word of Fate!” With that echoing tone, Kent/Nabu waved his arms and was gone.
“I’d rather have Kent never going off to the cosmos in the first place,” Inza said to the air as she started to pace while in thought. She once again wished for an ordinary life; the only friends she could even bear to visit were her JSA friends. At least with them she didn’t go through the pain of seeing time take its toll while she still looked as she had decades ago. “I’d rather have an ordinary life,” she said aloud again.
“Oh, really? And what would you be willing to give for it?” a deep, older man’s voice said behind her. Inza turned in shock and saw standing there a well-manicured, heavyset, mustached, cigar-smoking man regarding her.
“The hell?! You can’t be in here — the tower’s warded against all threats!”
“I’m not a threat, Mrs. Nelson, which is why I was able to come in. I represent a power older than Order and Chaos both, and I can give you and your husband a life away from them, if you wish. But you’ll have to trade with me. After all, my name is Barter!” He took another puff on his cigar and smiled.