by Doc Quantum and Dan Swanson
“Get us out of here, Rex,” said Canary, carrying Star Lass in her arms. “We’re not ready to take on either Mekanique or her Legion of Doom just yet.”
“Agreed,” said Timepiece. “However… whatever action we choose to pursue, we should pursue it soon. Whatever Mekanique’s true intentions are, she has had all the time in the world to plan. We cannot say the same. I think we should try to reconnoiter with Squad B as soon as possible.”
“Anything, just get us out of — wait!” Canary stopped; her memory tugged at her suddenly at the mention of Kid Terrific’s team. “I remember something. Something… Mekanique showed me. It all seemed like a dream. Squad B — they were walking right into a trap! Mekanique had been waiting for them all along! Oh, God, if only I had seen more. But… I do remember something else. That damned robot showed me Squad C as well — Hourboy’s team — but she must have done another mind-wipe on me. I recall her saying she had erased my memory before. It was like… like she was playing a game with me or something, letting me see the fate of the other teams. But I didn’t see enough. I don’t know what’s happened to them!”
Timepiece sat motionless as always, merely listening and thinking. He was the least expressive of the Legionnaires, but the mention of his brother being part of Mekanique’s manipulations made him wince. “Gernsback, where is Squad B?” Rexford spoke to the cube affixed to his hover-chair.
“Scanning… scanning. Squad B’s whereabouts are unknown.”
“A moment, Canary. Gernsback, scan all recent chronal movements and rescan for whereabouts of Squad B and Squad C.”
“Scanning… scanning… scanning… scanning. Squad B’s whereabouts are unknown. Squad C’s whereabouts are unknown.”
“Fascinating. Obviously, we will have to go it alone for now. It would be best, at this point, to return to Knight Base, let our friends recuperate, and figure out a plan then.”
“Sounds good to me. Horus is looking pretty bad,” said Drake Burroughs, holding onto a very weakened Hawk Lad. The Feitheran Legionnaire was in the worst shape of all of them, troubled by feverish dreams of past lives and a lost love, but Greenfire himself wanted nothing more than to get the hell out of this time trap.
Timepiece activated the chronal field, causing a crackling of energy, and the five Legionnaires soon vanished from sight, if there had been anyone watching.
And there was.
Three androids stepped into view, having been ordered to remain dormant for the duration of the Legionnaires’ visit. They had completed their probing of the test subjects, as Mekanique called them, to their master’s satisfaction. All that remained was the clean-up.
“LD-7 to Mekanique — the Legionnaires have left the building.”
“Excellent, Lightning-Master. I wonder why it took them so long to get rescued in the first place? I thought we’d have to hold on to them forever…”
The twenty-third century:
The Legionnaires materialized on an empty planetoid. Greenfire instinctually erected a bubble of air around the group, but none of them had expected this.
“Where’s Knight Base?” cried Canary.
“Checking,” said Timepiece. “Gernsback? … Gernsback? Hmm… no response. Checking subspace radio frequencies manually.”
“What’s going on?” asked Burroughs. He’d had enough of this.
Rexford Tyler ignored him and continued to listen in on the chatter in his headset for another few moments while the others’ frustration levels grew steadily. Finally, he spoke to the group. “Not meaning to alarm anyone, but Knight Base does not appear to exist.”
“Wh-what do you mean? Was it destroyed?” asked Canary, dreading the answer.
“Was it moved?”
“Well, then, what?!”
“It does not exist. It never existed.”
“Oh, boy…” groaned Burroughs.
“Friends, it appears as if we have failed in our mission. The timeline has been changed, and we — the heirs of the JSA — do not exist. Furthermore, without the assistance of Gernsback, we are stranded.”
“This cannot be happening,” Canary breathed.
“Correct. It has already happened, and we must bear the brunt of it.”
After Hawk Lad and Star Lass awoke, Timepiece had to explain their circumstances. They, apparently the last surviving members of the Legion of Justice, were now stranded on a distant asteroid that had been the site of their headquarters in another timeline. While they were in the past on their mission, Mekanique had somehow changed history, and in this history, the Legion of Justice had never existed. And their asteroid headquarters, Knight Base, had apparently never been built. All that was keeping them alive right now was a bubble of air held in place by a green energy sphere erected by Greenfire when they had returned to their time and this cold, dark airless rock. Meanwhile, Gernsback — Rexford Tyler’s AI program who had remained attached to Knight Base in the twenty-third century — had as a result also vanished in the time change.
“Without the assistance of Gernsback,” concluded Rex, “we are stranded!” With those words, Rexford Tyler had introduced his teammates to their current situation.
A few minutes of discussions and finger-pointing followed. Finally, Canary cut to the chase. “Greenfire and Star Lass can both fly, and Drake can drag the rest of us along in a bubble.”
“Not really,” Rex replied. “We’re almost three light-years from the nearest civilized planet — assuming it even remains civilized in this new timeline. It would take us at least five years at their top speed! We don’t have food, water, or air for a trip like that.”
“I’ve got an idea,” Burroughs spoke up. The others ignored him.
“So let’s just jump back to the twentieth century again, before Mekanique gets a chance to change history!” suggested Horus, who had revived from his fever but still had a powerful headache. “Now that we know what she’s trying to do, we have a better chance of stopping her. And even if we get stuck there, we could live out our lives on Earth in the past. Better than dying here!”
“Can’t. Remember that the time-jump calculations are so complex that they can only be done by Gernsback.”
“And not calculated all that well, if you ask me,” Burroughs muttered in the background, tired of being ignored. But nobody paid him any attention.
“I have a computer built into this chair, but it doesn’t have the power we need. The calculations are very complex and would take days without Gernsback. And we can’t just jump blind — we wouldn’t even know if we were jumping forwards or back in time.”
“You know, I have an idea…”
Horus ignored Drake again and asked, “What about a boom tube to Earth? I thought you could order your chair to create one.”
“Sorry, same problem. Without Gernsback to do the computations, we’d be jumping at random. We could end up anywhere in the universe, and 99.99999 percent of the universe or more is more dangerous to us than where we are at present. Let’s save blind time-jumping or the boom tube for our last-ditch effort.”
“Guys, what about–?”
“Later, Drake!” Canary brushed him off. “Rex and Theresa need to think!” She turned to the pair. “Your great-grandfather invented the warp drive, Theresa. Surely you’ve studied it?”
“Yeah, he based it on the cosmic rod, tying the control circuits to an adaptation of Quinn Mallory’s dimension-hopping slider device. I have a cosmic rod embedded in my nervous system, but we don’t have a slider.”
“Suppose I ask the–?” When he was interrupted again, Drake stalked away. Nobody noticed him leaving the group. Where would he go, anyway?
“Hey! We don’t have the slider, but I do have a time-cube built into my chair. Time travel is a lot like dimensional travel. If you remember the schematics for the slider, we might be able to adapt the time-travel circuits.” Rexford was as excited as they had ever seen him.
“Good — let’s get started!”
They worked for a couple of hours. Star Lass created a whiteboard where they could draw schematics and do calculations, and they plunged eagerly into the work. For Canary and Horus, it was like being back in an engineering class at the Legion Academy for which they hadn’t done their homework. But Rex and Theresa sometimes wandered into blind alleys totally unrelated to their current situation, and their two teammates were able to draw them back on course.
“Wow! A weapon to safely destroy a Sun-Eater? That will be great, the next time we run into one. But we don’t even know if they still exist in this reality.”
“An improvement for Virtuality?” Virtual reality had replaced 3D television in every home. Now you could actually be part of the programs. “When we get back to our own universe, you can probably patent that, and we’ll all get rich. We’ll even be able to pay back the Empress of Elaigar for all of her money we spent. But we have to get back first.”
“An ultrasonic tissue rejuvenator? What a great invention. If you build one now, we could fly back to civilization even if it took hundreds of years! But we’d get pretty bored.”
The prodding worked, and Rex and Theresa slowly made headway.