by Dan Swanson
Mekanique watched as the time-wave erased the Joh Fredersen incarnation of Vandal Savage from existence in the year 2227. She focused on Savage’s face as all the colors on the screen started to fade. He was lethargic, and she was starting to think he would never realize his doom, and then suddenly, his body jolted as if from an electric shock.
She laughed out loud at the look of horror on his face as he realized that his timeline was being erased — and he himself along with it. He tried frantically to move, but by now his body had become insubstantial. She was stealing his greatest accomplishments from him, the erstwhile absolute monarch of the world, and he knew it, and there was nothing he could do about it. She laughed again as the picture was overwhelmed by snowy static.
“I love it when a plan comes together!” she said, quoting a line from a TV show as she gloated in her final victory over Savage. She was finally free to pursue her own destiny.
She contemplated her next self-assigned task. The Robotman body should be completely refurbished, upgraded to be the technological equivalent of her own in anticipation of its soon-to-be new resident.
On the monitor, the snow slowly cleared to solid gray, and then outlines of slightly different shades of gray faded into existence. The gray color gradually changed to pastel colors, and as she watched, Mekanique was horrified. It was impossible, but Savage still existed. He had somehow resisted the time change. His expression was as stunned as her own, but it quickly changed to exultation as the colors regained their full brightness.
Vandal Savage was now seated in a sunny meadow. There were buildings in the background, but Mekanique’s attention was on her deadly nemesis.
He turned to stare directly at her and smiled savagely, then raised his hand in an ancient salute of contempt — as if he could see her watching. She recognized that smile; she had seen it many times before, and it always meant something deadly was about to befall one of his enemies. The air around him suddenly pulsed with a golden glow, and the wound in his stomach closed. He snapped his fingers and vanished from her monitor. She reached her keyboard.
But then Savage reappeared instantly in front of her. Before she could complete her action, he pressed a stud on his belt, and she was frozen in place.
“A traitorous robot — once I would have thought that impossible! Rotwang failed me again. No matter. It is my destiny to triumph over betrayal. I could destroy you instantly — but I will need a replacement for a lost paperweight. You will do nicely.” He looked around and smiled. “I see we are in Limbo. This will make an excellent base of operations until I can restore Metropolis. And restore it I will.” Savage was unusually talkative.
“You must have been planning for centuries, eh, traitor?” he sneered at her. “And all your plans brought to naught in seconds. What terrible bad luck! Ha!” He snorted his disgust. “As usual, I make my own luck. I underwent a mystical ritual of my own design even before returning to the past, to prepare me to accept Cthulhu’s eldritch power, and that power was flowing into me during the entire confrontation in the pyramid, continuing even as I fell into the pit. The Old Ones, Cthulhu’s ancient race, is immune to petty changes in time such as the one you engineered, and now I am as well.”
Trapped in an unresponsive body, all Mekanique could do was observe. But she knew that Savage had not expected to survive the time-change and that he had been as surprised at this effect of Cthulhu’s power as she herself had been. That look of horror on his face as his universe faded had been genuine. His continued existence was no more than luck, no matter that he claimed it was the result of his advance planning. She wondered why he bothered to lie.
During the days that followed, as he explored his new fortress, Vandal Savage occasionally talked to her. He either didn’t know, or didn’t care, that there were millions of sensors scattered throughout the fortress and that Mekanique could look out through any of them at any time, even though she could do nothing else. So she observed his every action, and his actions gave her plenty to think about.
“This fortress is quite extensive. It must have taken you many decades, perhaps even hundreds of years to steal all the equipment you needed and carry it into Limbo with you, bit by bit. I notice you’ve stolen extensively from the Illuminati. Did you know that many, many trusted members of the Illuminati died when they were unable to account for vital equipment missing from their inventories? Your thievery caused the deaths of innocent men and women.”
She knew better. Of course she had known of the deaths, but it had never weighed heavily on her, nor did it now. Nobody that Vandal Savage would entrust with advanced Illuminati technology was innocent.
“It’s clear that you never expected human guests! No kitchen, no washroom, no bedroom. And I have no idea what the big empty storerooms are for.” Nor would she ever tell him. “But I have the perfect solution for the amenity problem.”
He set the time monitor to 1943 and zoomed in on a small harbor on the Mid-Atlantic Coast of North America.
“Sharktooth Bay. My onetime ally, Dr. Henry King, is about to suffer a serious setback at the hands of our mutual enemies, the Justice Society of America.” (*) The view slid through the wall of a tower, revealing a top-floor laboratory and Brain Wave holding a plunger-type detonator.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Brain Wave Goes Berserk,” All-Star Comics #17 (June-July, 1943).]
“He thinks that plunger will set off concealed landmines that will destroy the JSA — but the Thunderbolt has arranged a devastating surprise for him. Still, he will survive.”
Just as Brain Wave began to depress the plunger, the action stopped. “This is a very useful device, madam!” He bowed mockingly at the helpless Mekanique. “Dr. King’s shrinking ray was assumed destroyed in the explosion. No doubt none will note its absence.”
He was out in the frozen timeline for only a few seconds, returning with a pistol-like device. With no further notice of his colleague’s impending disaster, he quickly readjusted the monitor.
“The one thing I regretted most about crossing to Earth-One was leaving behind my yacht, the Conquest. A lovely vessel, outfitted with all the amenities infinite wealth and power could provide, provisioned to cruise nonstop twice around the Earth, and a crew fiercely loyal to me alone.”
The monitor focused on February, 1987, an expensive private villa on the western shore of the Croatian island of Cres, shortly after two A.M. The entire crew was asleep, even the officer of the watch, who would soon learn a lesson about working for Vandal Savage. Savage stepped from the fortress into the bridge of the yacht and blasted the man with the shrinking ray, then swept him up and threw him overboard. He stepped off the boat and onto the dock, shrank the yacht to the size of a toy, then picked it up and stepped back into the fortress. He carried it into a large, empty storeroom, where he enlarged it again. The crew would have a shock when they awoke. And yet another shock when their missing captain returned and explained their new circumstances.
He bowed again to Mekanique. “I am forever in your debt for this opportunity. An efficient solution to some of my more pressing needs. Elegant living quarters, a chef beyond compare, and a staff of loyal servants. I wish I could invite you aboard to dine.” He shook his head in mock regret. “A pity you are otherwise occupied. No matter; shortly I will begin my campaign to restore Metropolis!”
If he was now immune to changes in the time-stream, why was he provisioning for a long stay in Limbo? She sensed that her own time was limited, and she redoubled her efforts to find a way to escape. Mekanique could split time much more finely than mere humans could. Normally she didn’t bother — most of the important events in her world occurred on the human timescale, so why wait for subjective years for someone to finish a sentence? But at her best perception speed, she could stretch seconds into subjective decades. She did so now.
Perhaps the desperation of the situation inspired her, because she suddenly thought of a way she might escape, which was an extreme long shot. She used the sensors scattered through her control room to minutely examine her own body, concentrating on the forearms, searching in all wavelengths and at highest magnification. Yes, perhaps.
She moved to the next phase of her plan. But even if she was successful, she still had to count on Savage behaving as she predicted he might. Finally she was as prepared as she could be. She had no idea if she would be successful. Just in time, too, as two of Savage’s new crew members carried her to a lab in another part of the fortress. Savage was tossing the silvery brain sphere of the original Futura gently up and down in one hand, while the other was poised over a panel of switches.
“While I will miss your eloquence, madam,” he mocked her, “I’ve decided I would like my original servant back. I can see now that it was Rotwang who betrayed me, not Futura. Unfortunately I cannot currently punish him — but I will change that. Farewell.”
He pressed a switch and turned Futura’s brain off.