Monday, December 24, 2012

Earth-349: The Atom

by Anton Psychopoulos, Ph.D. Disclaimer #1: This story is set on a hypothetical parallel world within the pre-Crisis DC Universe, based on a story in Superman #349, but is not limited by that story or any other. Disclaimer #2: Some characters appearing in this story are based on copyrighted characters owned by DC Comics, Inc., Marvel Comics and others. Their use here is not intended to infringe or disparage those copyrights. Disclaimer #3: This story is not recommended for persons under 18 or the easily offended. The last time Martha Palmer had awakened naked, on a cold floor, with no idea where she was or how she'd gotten there, had been several years earlier, well before she had become the Atom. The experience had not improved with age. Resisting the urge to stretch her stiff and aching limbs, Martha opened her eyes to cautious slits, blinking repeatedly to make them focus, trying not to give away to any watcher that she was conscious. A sudden draft, tickling between her legs, confirmed Martha's suspicion that she had already given away plenty to any watcher. Her eyes focussed reluctantly on some pattern of vertical lines. Wallpaper? Fence pickets? Oh, God, jail bars? No. These bars were metal, but gold-colored. And the floor under her wasn't concrete, but more metal. Martha rolled her eyes slowly upward, trying to get a glimpse of the ceiling. There didn't seem to be any. The bars just continued up and up, curving overhead to form a rounded framework from which hung . . . A swing. "Son of a bitch!" She sat up suddenly. In spite of her shock and outrage, her mind noted the way her body moved, the floating, "weightless" feeling of being reduced to a size where inertia doesn't work quite the way it does on the human scale. Her scream brought an enormous shape moving towards the cage from the misty distance. "How nice. my little birdie is awake," thundered the immense black and yellow mass. It leaned closer, and Martha made out an immense masked face. "Welcome to your new home, little birdie. You are now the property of . . . Yellowjacket." Martha looked up at the black cowl, brow furrowed, head cocked. "Henry?" Yellowjacket recoiled from the cage, hands to his cowl as though checking that it was in place. The Atom jumped to her feet, shaking her sliver-sized index finger at the immense figure. Yes, she was about six inches tall, a common size for the Atom to assume. At ant size, she'd have had difficulty in standing on two feet. "Henry Pym, you son of a bitch! Stealing my research wasn't enough, you had to kidnap me and steal my costume?" Pym cringed behind his mask, actually seeming to grow smaller. A little. "That's not fair, Martha. We were both building on Dane's research --" "You didn't even know what a micropion was until I pointed them out on Darrell's CERN printouts! If it weren't for me, you'd still be fiddling around with hallucinogenic gases." Henry's hand lashed out, flashing past the cage like an express train. Knives lanced through the Atom's feet. She fell to the floor, and the electric current stabbed at every place her flesh touched metal. Fighting panic, Martha got to her feet, dancing in agony, and lunged for the wood-and-plastic swing. Seated precariously on the swing, the Atom caught her breath, forcing herself to become calm. She saw Henry's black-gloved finger pressing a button on a golden column she guessed was the cage's stand. He grinned at her, releasing the button. "That was your first lesson, little birdie. Yellowjacket did not go to the trouble of catching his little pet in order to hear her screech at him like a crow. Your function in this house is to sit on your little perch and sing sweetly." Martha started to get down from the swing, but Henry's finger flicked towards the button. "Stay on your perch, birdie. I like seeing you there. "Swing, birdie." Like a child at a playground, the Atom began pumping her bare legs back and forth, driving the swing into a small oscillation. "Faster, birdie." Higher and higher went the swing, until Martha saw the floor and the cage roof on each pass, her brown hair flying into her face, her breasts slapping against her chest. "Sing for me, birdie." "Henry," Martha gasped, breathless, the swing slowing, "Henry, that's enough. You've got to stop now." She saw the black glove coming but could do nothing to brace for the impact. The metal cage screamed as the Atom was flung against its walls, crashing back and forth as the world lurched around her. "Stop calling me that!" Yellowjacket screamed, shaking the cage in both hands so Martha rattled inside it. "Henry Pym is dead! I fed him to a spider! Ant Man is dead, too! I squashed him under my shiny new black PVC boot! Giant Man is dead! I, uh, I shot him!" The Atom had just enough presence of mind left not to say You left out Goliath, schizo boy. "Now, who am I?" "Yellowjacket. You're Yellowjacket." "Good. And what are you?" "I'm your little birdie." "You are learning fast. Not bad for a little bird-brain." He dropped the cage, letting it swing freely. "Back on your perch, birdie." Favoring her bruised left leg and her aching right wrist, Martha climbed back onto the swing. "Sing for me, birdie." Trembling with fear and humiliation, Martha was unable to think of any song but "Workin' on the Railroad", but that seemed to please Henry just fine. When she was done, she continued with "Barbara Allen" and was halfway through "Lord Randall" when Henry suddenly interrupted. "Would you like some clothes to wear, birdie?" Martha was surprised by his sudden question and his softened tone of voice, but quickly chirped "Oh, yes, please, Yellowjacket, sir!" Taking the Atom's servile twittering at face value, Henry opened the cage (nearly knocking Martha from her perch as he fumbled with the latch). He'd spent enough time interacting with relatively gigantic people that he knew better than to reach into the cage and try to grab her; he held out his hand, palm up. slightly cupped, and allowed her to climb onto his fingers. Holding her near his body, he carried her to a department-store sized desk and set her down on its worktop. He flicked on a reading lamp and seated himself, smiling down at her. On the desktop, Martha could now see the wall of Henry's study. Numerous degrees and awards hung in neat uniform frames. Uniform frames indeed: pride of place went to the red and blue outfit of the Atom, pinned to a sheet of white cardboard like a butterfly. Martha winced; that was no way to treat a suit woven from irreplacable fibers of spatially distorted dwarf star matter. She wondered if the pins had damaged the wafer-thin control circuits in her gloves. Henry pulled open a drawer in the desk. It made the desktop under Martha's feet shake as though a subway train were pulling in. He laid a shoebox on the green paper blotter and lifted from it a poisonous-green nightgown. Martha saw at once that it was a piece of doll clothing, made from some light, thin fabric, but to Martha, at doll size, it was as coarse and stiff as burlap. Gritting her teeth, Martha pulled it on, trying to ignore the scraping of the cheap petroleum-based fibers, cooing as she smoothed it over her limbs. The Atom turned for her captor, trying not to stumble over the too-long hem (it was a very short nightgown, but made for a doll nearly twice Martha's size). "Oh, Yellowjacket, it's lovely!" "Heh. And you look lovely in it." Henry shifted in his chair, recrossing his legs. The Atom hoped he wouldn't be able to see her tiny smirk. Henry pulled a tiny plastic envelope from the box, opened it and shook out the contents onto the desktop. Martha untangled them and found a black garter belt and a pair of stockings. "These aren't doll stuff, they're reduced." "Something that dumb bitch Janet left behind." Martha looked up warily as she pulled on the stockings. "You aren't, uh, seeing Jan anymore?" "No. Stupid cunt. I gave her everything. I gave her shrinking powers. I gave her a costume. I was going to give her wings. Even I didn't have wings." "Er, really?" The stockings were laddered, but they probably looked all right from Henry's perspective. Martha stretched a leg out experimentally, lifting the stiff curtain of the nightgown to show off her minute thigh. "Lovely transparent wasp's wings that would sprout from her back whenever she shrank down. She would have loved them if she'd tried them. Dumb bitch said I was crazy." Gee, the Atom thought, he wanted to make her into some kind of half-animal freak, he makes me into a caged pet, who would think a guy like that was crazy? Henry stroked Martha's extended leg with the tip of his index finger. "How about you, my little pet? Would you like some pretty wings, birdie? Some nice birdie wings with yellow feathers?" Martha reached back between her shoulder blades as though she were imagining wings growing there. "Oh, Yellowjacket . . . my goodness!" Henry squirmed in his seat. "Dance for me, birdie," he suddenly demanded. Martha began swaying from side to side, then peeled slowly out of the nightgown. Pressing its rough fabric against the front of her body, she teased him with it through a few steps, then tossed it aside and began stroking her body as she skipped and pirouetted across the blotter. The Atom stopped, facing her captor, and began squeezing and pulling at her breasts. "Yellowjacket," she rasped, "won't you let me . . . touch you?" Henry swallowed hard. "I won't shrink down," he warned her. "Oh, no, I like you all . . . big," she cooed. Casting aside caution, Henry Pym unbuckled his tights and pulled them down, then reached out a hand to convey Martha to his crotch. The heat and the heavy smell made Martha want to make a very unromantic face, but she leaned against Henry's penis as though it were a column in a Greek temple, tracing over a vein with her fingertips. "You're so big," she stage-whispered, hoping she wasn't laying it on too thick. She glanced up, and saw that Henry was mesmerized by her performance. Martha leaned forward and licked at the irregular, salty surface. She looked up at Henry pleadingly. "If you'd just come down a little, so I could get this lovely monster into my mouth . . . ." She whined the word "mouth" as though she were a child begging for a taste of a favorite treat. Henry glared down at her suspiciously, but Martha threw her arms around his cock and hugged it, rubbing her tiny mound against the shaft in one of the strangest dry-humps in history. He shuddered and plucked her from his lap, no longer taking care not to hurt her, and twisted a knob at his belt. He climbed onto the desk as he shrank, stopping while he was still well over a foot tall. "You won't try anything," he insisted, "not when I'm still twice your size and eight times your weight." Martha stepped cautiously forward, her eyes exactly at his crotch level, and nuzzled his member cautiously. "I don't want to try anything, sir," she insisted in a good-little-girl voice, "except that wonderful cock." She fitted the act to the deed and her lips to his glans. It wasn't all that good a fit, since relative to her his penis was a foot long and as big around as a soda can. She was barely able to get the monster's head in her mouth, and while Henry enjoyed the sight of her struggling with his penis, he knew he needed to be smaller to enjoy her fully. Stepping back, he twisted the same control knob and reduced himself to nine inches. He still towered over Martha, but now she could fit his penis into her mouth, and did. It was still the biggest penis she'd ever had in her mouth, and in spite of herself the Atom had to admit she was enjoying it. If only Henry weren't such a screwed-up creep, they could have had a very good relationship as superheroic colleagues. But then, they could have had that as graduate students, too, but Henry had been messed up even then. She pushed up his yellow shirt, stroking his chest with her tiny hands, trying to give him pleasure with the touch o fher skin against his. He took the hint and pulled the shirt off over his head. The black cowl came with it. Martha tugged Henry's pants down to his knees. He didn't object. She pulled at his boot top, and he lifted his foot to help her undress him. When Henry was naked, his costume piled on the desktop, Martha cupped her hand by her mouth, as though to whisper something to him. He bent down from his nine inches of height to her six, until his ear was level with her mouth. He didn't expect her to be able to lift her foot that high, or for it to connect with his chin with so much power. "Eight years of ballet," Martha snarled as she lunged for his Yellowjacket costume. Henry staggered towards the Atom, trying to get the belt away from her before she could enlarge herself. He wasn't expecting her to suddenly wrap it around his neck and twist the shrinking knob. Between the blow to the jaw and the shock of involuntary reduction, Henry barely perceived Martha tying his hands with his own tights, then climbing the wall to knock down the frame holding her costume. The next thing he perceived clearly was Martha, in the red and blue of the Atom, knocking his desk telephone off the hook and painfully dialling a long series of digits with a pencil held in her arms. And then she grabbed him and things were very confusing again. Henry had a concussion, that had to be it. Otherwise, why would he still have the feeling that he was at reduced size when all the people around him were normal sized, or only a little above average? He shook his head, trying to make sense out of the babel of voices around him. They were speaking some soft, fluid language he didn't recognize, though it sounded vaguely Asian. Their clothes were strange, too, sort-of Asian, sort-of European 18th Century, but really like nothing he'd ever seen before. The occasional American T-shirt or baseball cap only heightened the oddness of the rest of their dress. Martha was there, too, but her clothing was too weird to credit: she seemed to be wearing her Atom costume, but it always vanished when she was at full size. And she seemed to be taller than he was, which wasn't right. Thinking of clothing made him notice that he was still naked himself. Somebody handed him what he thought was a towel, and when he just stared at it, somebody else took it and wrapped it around his waist, tying it into a loincloth. They were in a huge chamber like an airplane hangar, near a large object that might have been a shed erected within the huge room. Henry stared at it for nearly a minute before identifying it as a speaker phone, as seen from a very small size. She'd reduced the two of them to electron size and carried him along a telephone connection. Darrell had theorized such a thing, but Henry'd had no idea the Atom could actually do it. So apparently he really was small, less than six inches in height. But then these people . . . ? He could make out occasional loanwords in their speech: "telephona", "criminalu". And they seemed to be calling Martha "Nardac Martaa" and "Quinbuta Flestrin", but the rest of their speech was just so much jabber to him. But they seemed to be taking him into custody, respectfully listening to Martha, who was speaking to them in their language. Finally, Martha turned to Henry and spoke to him in English. "As a Nardac, I'm entitled to give two people per year a summary sentence of up to thirteen moons. I'm only sentencing you to six, and I think you'll find it rewarding work, if not exactly cutting edge." She gestured at the people around them. "They want you for their rural electrification program; they don't have nearly enough qualified engineers. "Personally, I envy you. This is a beautiful country and the people make good neighbors. My duties as Martha Palmer and as the Atom prevent me from spending as much time here as I'd like. "I'll be back in a couple of moons to check on you. You should be settled in by then, probably fluent in the language. In the meantime, co-operate with the Lawfuls and try to enjoy your stay in Lilliput."

Friday, September 28, 2012

Earth-349: Batgirl by Anton Psychopoulos, Ph.D. Disclaimer #1 This story is set in a hypothetical parallel world within the pre-Crisis DC Universe, based on a story in Superman #349, but not limited by that story or any other. Disclaimer #2 Some characters appearing in this story are based on copyrighted characters owned by DC Comics, Inc., Marvel Comics and others. Their use here is not intended to infringe or disparage those copyrights. Disclaimer #3 This story is not recommended for persons under 18 or the easily offended, especially those who are uncomfortable with themes such as transgender, transformation, she-males, blackmail, rough sex, dominance/submission, non-conventional pregnancy and sex acts which, though perhaps not technically illegal, raise difficult issues of family relationships. Disclaimer #4 SERIOUS WARNING: This is a much kinkier story than previous Earth-349 stories. I’m not kidding about persons under 18 and the easily offended maybe wanting to skip this one. The island of Potomac had been a council site for tribes living along the Verazzano Sea long before the first whites appeared there. That history, along with the opportunity to settle a territorial dispute between Gloriana and Marysland, had made it a reasonable site for the capital city of the new-formed United States. As large as the Federal government had grown in recent years, Washington was still an island town that a person could bicycle across in an hour, a place where you could pretty much count on meeting someone you knew on every trip to the grocery store. Even so, it had been a couple of weeks since Barbara Gordon had seen her brother, and she was looking forward to it. A first-term Member of Congress just didn’t move in the same circles as a college student, and Batgirl’s sporadic vigilante assaults against street crime and racketeering seldom overlapped with Captain America’s semi-official missions for the FBI and the military. Dick had enrolled at Naomi Franklin University in order to be closer to Barbara, but they had soon learned that if they wanted to spend time together, they needed to schedule dates and make an effort to keep them. So it was that after a long day of meetings and briefings, with plenty of reading of white papers and teletype printouts in between, Barbara found herself gingerly removing a pan from the oven, trying not to let her pristine white sweater come in contact with the tomato sauce and meat juices that nearly overflowed the pan. She had just laid it across a pair of potholders when the bell rang. A quick check at the peephole in the door and the hidden peephole at knee level, and she admitted her brother. She noted with approval that he had dressed well for the occasion, too. “Does this mean you’re finally giving up those cowboy shirts you brought back from Earth-348?” “Funny you should mention that, because actually this jacket is from there, too. The Allied commander decided to design his own uniform, and it caught on in a big way.” “A really sharp jacket. Hard to picture it as part of a military uniform, though.” “It looks more martial in green wool than in red velour. So, what did you make? Smells like something Italian – manicotti?” “Forget that, Mister Boy Detective. It’s stuff, of course.” Dick’s smile did Barbara a world of good. “Stuff! Neat-o!” They went immediately into the kitchen-dining room and began dishing up bubbling-hot “stuff”. Good old stuff: elbow macaroni, crumbled ground beef, tomato sauce and shredded cheese, all stirred together and topped with more cheese. Sarah Gordon’s second-best dish, after her clam chowder. Almost no work, and as good as lasagne. Better, maybe, since there were no hard crisped noodles in the top layer. Stuff, a salad with a lemon-based dressing and cold club soda was just what a couple of homesick Gordons needed on that Thursday night. “So Babs, you said on the phone that you thought you were wasting a lot of energy today,” Dick said between forkfuls. “’Fraid so. It’s the EEC. Nobody knows what’s going to come out of it, but supposedly the Foreign Affairs Committee has to have a position on it anyway. Bricks without straw, I’m telling you.” The Entente Extraordinaire et Conditionale had convened a month before in Berlin. Depending on whom you asked, it was anything from just another international talkfest to a constitutional convention for the United States of Europe. With U.S. and Soviet forces removed from the Continent, nobody knew what political or economic shakeups might be in store, from Ireland to Crimea. “Yeah, they’re going nuts over it at the Triskelion.” The War Department was in the process of moving into an immense three-sided building. For the first time, all the armed services, and the newly centralized intelligence agency SHIELD, would be headquartered in one place, already known by such nicknames as George’s Hat and Target One. Captain America, though officially unofficial, was a frequent visitor. “And that’s enough Washington talk. How’s school?” “No, let’s talk about Batwoman!” A new voice, high-pitched and nasal, had intruded. Both Gordons turned to see a big-headed, potbellied creature floating cross-legged in the air. It wore a long-eared, long-slippered parody of Batwoman’s costume, with a luminous zigzag on its narrow chest in place of a bat. “Hello, Bat-Mite,” Barbara said evenly. “What can we do for you?” “You can go and have an adventure, of course! Gee whiz, Batgirl and Robin together again, and all you guys wanna do is have dinner?” The imp waved a pudgy hand and they were dressed as Robin and Batgirl. They objected loudly, especially when Barbara noticed that her yellow chest emblem had been replaced by a bat-shaped peekaboo cutout that showed a good deal more cleavage than she would have displayed voluntarily. Brother and sister looked at one another, exchanging grim nods. As absurd as the little imp was, he was potentially very dangerous, and had to be handled carefully. Bat-Mite had appeared one day in Gotham, insisting cheerily that he was Batwoman’s biggest fan in a dozen dimensions. He was smiling and enthusiastic, eager to help out in Batwoman’s crusade against crime. Unfortunately, his “help” tended to consist of useless suggestions, annoying kibitzing, or extravagant applications of his seemingly magical powers in very inappropriate ways. At various times, he had given Batwoman superhuman powers that interfered with her usual methods of doing things, or loaded her utility belt with improbable devices without bothering to explain how they worked. Lately, though, he had begun to seem more like a malicious practical joker, pulling stunts like turning Batwoman into a girl and her young partner Huntress into an adult. He’d even helped criminals escape, so that Batwoman would have “an opportunity to display her brilliance” by catching them again. It seemed as though he were getting bored with Batwoman, and was playing roughly with her the way some children did with toys they have outgrown. Dick tugged at the collar of Robin’s cape, trying to loosen it, but it seemed to be made in one piece, of something that wasn’t cloth. Barbara stepped close to the hovering creature, speaking in her most saccharine tones. “Look, Bat-Mite, Dick – Robin -- and I are tired, we’ve been really busy lately. We need to rest up for our next adventure, and –“ “You wouldn’t be so tired if you weren’t wasting time on all this Washington stuff,” the Mite said petulantly. “You should be back in Gotham, helping Batwoman.” He turned suddenly on Dick. “And quit trying to take your cape off! Robin is who you should be, not that dumb old Captain America!” Dick glared at the little imp. “Captain America is the name I use these days. I doubt if I’ll ever be called Robin again.” Broad chubby cheeks turned pink with indignation. “Whether you’re Captain America or Robin, you’re still just a...dick!” The imp gestured vehemently, and Dick vanished. No, not quite vanished. Barbara felt a strange uncomfortable sensation between her legs, looked down, and saw at once what the creature had done with her brother. “No. No, don’t do this.” She raised her hands to Bat-Mite pleadingly. “Please...put him back.” The creature chuckled. “You want him put back, you can put him back yourself.” * * * * * It had been a trying week for Batwoman. Still recovering from a small flesh wound in her left shoulder, she’d found even routine crime-foiling a challenge. Otherwise, Barbara would not have found Roberta Wayne at home as early as midnight. It had been a difficult drive, all the way from Washington: the ferry ride, the toll booths, the service stations. Barbara had not tried to change out of Bat-Mite’s costume, merely peeled back the cowl and thrown on an overcoat. The costume was surprisingly comfortable, but the crotch didn’t seem to have enough room for her new package, especially when it became erect. It seemed to do that at the oddest times, she noticed, and wondered if having a penis was always like that. If Roberta was surprised by a midnight visit to Wayne Manor by an unmasked Batgirl flashing a rounded pink bat-emblem, she didn’t betray it, merely hustled her inside. Barbara shrugged out of the coat and simply stood, feet wide apart, and let Roberta see for herself. “Bat-Mite did this?” “Yes. This is Dick, transformed. He said I could put him back myself.” Roberta nodded curtly. “Yes, put him back. Where he came from. All right then.” Roberta turned for the stairs. Barbara hurried after. “What do you have in mind?” “One of the guest rooms.” “But – should we just go through with it, just like that?” “I don’t think we have much choice at this point, but to play the game by Bat-Mite’s rules.” Swallowing hard, Barbara followed. She’d really been hoping that Roberta would come up with some other solution, but if Batwoman said there was no alternative, there probably wasn’t. She was terrified of the prospect, and she cringed in shame by how her transformed brother swelled and throbbed between her legs as she thought of what lay ahead. The room Roberta chose had been her mother’s bedroom, and still had the flounced and ruffled white decor that Martha Wayne had chosen. As Roberta efficiently cut her out of Bat-Mite’s costume with a utility knife, Barbara looked around the room. It was a good choice, in the opposite wing from Roberta’s two young children (and their butler). But Barbara was acutely aware of the likelihood that Roberta herself had been conceived in that same room. “Listen, we don’t want to give Bat-Mite any excuses for giving us the runaround. We probably shouldn’t use a condom or other barrier.” “It’s all right. I had a tubal ligation years ago. And I know you and Dick are both disease-free.” Finally naked, feeling extremely self-conscious, Barbara climbed onto the bed and lay there stiffly beside the older woman. Naturally, Barbara’s erection chose that moment to wilt. It showed no sign of returning while she clumsily manipulated herself. It felt very strange to lie there next to that body, so familiar, yet which she’d never seen completely naked before. Roberta Wayne was not quite forty, her body a study in hard ropy muscle and scar tissue. It was not a conventionally attractive body, but Barbara saw the beauty of passion and obsession in it, the beauty of a bodybuilder or a tattoo fetishist. Barbara turned these thoughts over in her mind, trying to find a way around two painful truths: 1) she was not attracted to women and 2) she loved and was intimidated by Roberta Wayne, and dreaded to subject her to an unwelcome intimacy. Roberta took the organ in her hand, stroking it gently at first, then more forcefully, then lowered her head between Barbara’s legs. Barbara closed her eyes, bit her lip, tried to relax enough to let Roberta’s clever tongue do its work. Suddenly, both of Barbara’s hands were on Roberta’s head, forcing it roughly up and down. When Barbara shoved Roberta’s head away, the penis was purple and throbbing, veins standing out on its sides. Barbara muscled her mentor into position on all fours and entered her at once, with no pretense of foreplay. It was a brutal coupling of hard thrusts, loud wet slapping noises, savage grunts and hair-pulling. At the end, Barbara threw back her head and roared out in triumph as she felt the ejaculatory pump firing for the first and only time in her life. As soon as her orgasm subsided, Barbara withdrew, trembling with fear and shame. She crouched at the edge of the bed, staring anxiously at Roberta. “Please...I’m so sorry. I don’t...I don’t know what came over me.” “It’s all right. I expected it. When I took that psychological profile of you a couple of years ago, I noticed that you had a strong need for a dominant/submissive aspect to sex.” “Yes, but...I’ve had two lovers, and with them I, er...” “You were extremely submissive, yes. You have a deep-seated feeling that comes out during sex, that the female must submit to the male. Only this time, you were the male, and I was the female. So, you had to dominate me.” Roberta moved toward the cringing younger woman. She reached out and tried to lay a hand on Barbara’s cheek, but she flinched away. “It’s all right. You did just fine.” Roberta looked up at the empty air above the bed. “She did, didn’t she? She did what you wanted. Happy now?” Bat-Mite materialized just under the canopy. “You bet, Batwoman. Boy, that was great, seeing you use your brilliant detective skills to figure out what you had to do, and your athletic prowess to –“ “Enough. Just restore Dick to normal.” “Okey-dokey. And while I’m at it, Batwoman, you deserve a reward for being such a good sport.” Roberta started to object, but too late. With a flash and sparkles, suddenly there were three bodies in the bed. Finding himself naked between the naked bodies of his sister and birth-mother, Dick was understandably surprised, but he managed to remain silent. He watched and listened, running his tongue over his teeth as though there were an odd taste in his mouth. Roberta looked down at her body, her face expressionless. “Clever. He removed my scars. That would include undoing my tubal ligation, no doubt.” The imp giggled. “You guessed it! Congratulations, Babs, you’re going to be a father! Oh, and Batwoman, don’t worry about inbreeding. Dick was the frank, but the beans were Barbara’s. She really is the father.” Roberta nodded. “Fine, then. We’ve played your game to the end. Now get out.” Roberta stood up in bed, coming nose to nose with the creature, speaking in a colder voice than either of her former students had ever heard. “Leave Earth, and don’t come back. If you ever bother anyone in this dimension, or cause someone else to come here and cause trouble, I will kill you.” Bat-Mite looked at Batwoman for a long moment. He didn’t look angry, or frightened, but he did look as though he might be about to cry. Then he straightened up and sighed. “You’re no fun anymore,” he said, and vanished. Dick slithered out of bed, trying not to look at Roberta or Barbara. He shuffled for the door, muttering, “Guess I’ll have a shower.” Roberta looked at Barbara. Neither made an effort to cover herself. “Roberta, I was the one who said –“ “Only because you spoke up first. And you were right. You aren’t to blame for this, that little monster is.” Roberta reached out, and this time Barbara allowed Roberta to touch her. "It'll be all right. If I'd been asked, I'd have been proud to choose you for a father. You have good genes. Jim Gordon's genes." Barbara forced a smile. "This isn't quite how I'd imagined giving Dad his first grandchild." Roberta pulled dressing gowns from the closet for them. Barbara went to stand outside the bathroom door, waiting for her turn in the shower. More Earth-349 stories can be found at 349 Contact the author at

Another New Job

Half a day, five days a week (on a different day from that other job). Although it's a job which is proverbially a bad one, the worst part of it so far is actually that so often I drive in to work and only get to work a couple of hours before they throw me out on my ear and I have to drive home. Lots of gasoline burned for nothing. But hey. A little and a little and a little....

Monday, August 27, 2012

Now This is Ironic

My latest effort at making myself more functional and worthy of continued existence involves seeing a hypnotist. Yes, really. And golly gee, what a surprise, real hypnosis is nothing at all like what it is in fetish porn stories.

New Job

Half a day once a week is better than nothing. By just a teensy bit.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


I felt really good about getting my new job last month. The irregular work schedule, well, that was to be expected, and it was a good thing to be racking up so many hours in a hurry to do things like pay child support and save Mrs. Psycho and myself from bankruptcy. But there is a price to be paid for working a schedule that irregular. I am making mistakes, and it is only by luck that it hasn't cost people more than they have already. Have to get onto a regular work schedule.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

It Really Was, No Kidding

Not that I expect you to ever believe it.

Most likely I will go to my grave unforgiven.

Such is life.

Life goes on.

Earth-349: Cleo Rogers in the 25th Century

By Anton Psychopoulos, Ph.D. Disclaimer #1: This story is set on a hypothetical world within the pre-Crisis DC Universe. The DC Universe is owned by DC Comics, Inc. This story also makes use of characters and concepts owned by other publishers. The use of these copyrighted elements is done only for the amusement of the author and his readers, and is not intended to infringe or disparage those copyrights. Disclaimer #2: This story is not recommended for persons under the age of 18, or the easily offended. Lieutenant Antoinette Cleopatra Rogers, late of the AEF, now of the Niagara Gang, sat up gingerly and looked down at her chest. Hesitantly she cupped her hands over her new, much-larger breasts. “Pretty good job,” she said cautiously. “Not sore at all, no numb places I can find so far, no scars….” She hefted one, weighing it in her hand. “Did they have to be so big?” Dr. Huer smiled behind his bushy white moustache. “I’m afraid so. The Intelligence Gangsters do their best, but there is only so small that they can make the equipment they need for this mission. I do hope they won’t get in your way, but….” He shrugged. “No, I’ve been practicing with a loaded brassiere that’s actually bigger than these. It’s just that, well, they make me feel like a middle-aged lady, like one of my mother’s friends.” Huer chuckled. “In your day, large breasts were out of fashion. Every woman wanted to be a – what was it you called them?” He flailed his hands in the air. “A flapper,” Rogers confirmed. Rogers put on her new bra and pulled her tunic over her head, adjusting the lightweight plastic chainmail to fit over her new breasts as best it would. “Um, I think I felt something shift inside. I hope I didn’t turn something on prematurely.” “Don’t be concerned. It is my understanding that the equipment will work automatically at the right time, and will be otherwise harmless and undetectable.” Rogers shrugged, dismissing the matter, and went out of the medical tent to rejoin Major Kane. Kane smiled as he looked her up and down, then saluted smartly and turned to lead her across the field. He was a handsome man with slicked-down hair and a waxed moustache that had played a large role in their becoming lovers soon after she had awakened. He was a pilot of what they called simply “flyers”, and had shot down enough Mongols to earn the nickname “Killer”. He’d also been one of the first 25th Century Americans to accept her story of her bizarre origins. Rogers had been greeted with suspicion when she first awoke, a stranger with no “gang” to call her own, but when she had persuaded the Niagara Gang that she really was what she claimed to be, they had accepted her like a hero out of legend – which in a sense, she was, having actually been born in the old USA and served in its armed forces. The Americans of the 25th Century lived in small bands, variously called “gangs”, “orgs” or “cump’nies”, which were something like nomadic Indian bands and something like guerilla units. Although unable to live in fixed places or engage in any but the most elementary farming or manufacturing lest they attract the attention of the rulers of North America, in the vast stretches of countryside between the insular Mongol cities, however, some thirty or forty million free Americans maintained their independence and had even managed some very slow scientific progress over the centuries. Everyone saluted as she passed, and several of them called out, “Good morning, Loo-tenant!” The rank of Lieutenant had not survived into modern times, so her holding it gave her an added cachet of historical splendor, and earned her reverent greetings from those who could only call themselves “Captains” and “Majors”. The gangsters who had watched with such reverence as she passed would have been very surprised indeed to see what happened inside the hangar, as Kane methodically tied her hand and foot before stowing her in the cargo compartment of his flyer. He held a canteen to her lips, cautioning her, “Not too much – we have a long flight ahead of us,” before he slapped a swatch of adhesive tape over her mouth. “I wish I could leave you unbound until we get close to Xanadu, but there won’t be any chance to land and wrap you up once we’re on our way, so it will have to be like this.” Rogers felt a flutter of unease, a feeling that she should not trust this man. But he was her lover – if she couldn’t trust him, should they be so intimate? So surely he was indeed trustworthy. Besides, she had her orders. He pulled something out of his pocket and held it up before her eyes. It seemed to be a tiny hourglass, what they called an egg timer back in the 20th Century, on a chain. He placed it carefully around her throat, tucking it between her new breasts. “There will come a time when your situation becomes truly desperate. When that happens, break this. It might help.” He kissed her gently and slammed the hatch shut, leaving her in darkness, unable to so much as scratch the itch his saliva had left on her forehead. Kane’s flyer was the fastest and longest-ranged that any gang in America could field, lofted by antigravity and propelled by force-beams. Still, it took an awfully long time to fly across the breadth of the American continent, the Pacific Ocean, and a good deal of Asia to reach the Mongol capital. Rogers had not been on such a flight herself, but she knew what was happening outside her darkened cargo bay, how Kane would be streaking in long parabolas that bounced over the dense lower atmosphere like a stone skipping across a pond, rising briefly into the airless reaches where the stars were visible in the daytime. As one who had flown the fragile first generation of aeroplanes, how she yearned to see the fruition of flying as a mature art form…. To distract herself from such envious thoughts, Rogers began thinking about her own strange history, from her childhood in an orphanage to her joining the American Expeditionary Force’s Army Air Corps in 1917 to her becoming a mine inspector after the war, to her being trapped in a collapsed shaft, her life preserved by some miraculous mixture of gases so that she could sleep for nearly five hundred years and one day… …be trussed and gagged and about to be delivered to the ruler of the world as a pleasure-toy, a bribe to curry favor with him. Or so the Mongol Emperor supposed. Only a handful of bosses in the Niagara Gang knew her real mission, or the nature of the devices hidden in Rogers’ new bosom. Rogers herself did not know – she supposed it was some sort of spy equipment, intended to learn some secret by scanning the Emperor with radio waves or the like. Her entire mission was to get into the Emperor’s physical presence and then to get away if she possibly could. The possibility existed in her mind that she was carrying a bomb – two bombs – but as desperate as the free Americans were, suicide missions were not their style, especially with an unwitting bomber. Strange things had happened during Rogers’ five-century nap. Unfortunately, the period immediately after Rogers’ own time was one of the more obscure. There had been another Great War – or had there been two? Or three? There had been a plague, but nobody knew whether it had caused the collapse of old America, or if it had been so devastating because America had already collapsed. There had been a natural disaster that she thought must have been a giant meteor strike, or had several cities been turned to craters by impossibly big bombs? She had been able to clear up a few misconceptions. The notion that a great war had begun on September seventh, or maybe December eleventh, was clearly a garbled recollection of how the first Great War had ended on November eleventh, 1918. There were other things that supposedly had been done during the 20th Century that simply made her head hurt to think about them. Had there really been trips to the Moon? To Mars? Or were these just projects that humanity had promised to themselves? Had there really been a proliferation of people with powers like those of legendary figures like Hercules and Morgana? Had beings come from the stars? Had surgeons really made animals talk and go on two legs? What came after the great wars and great disasters was all too well-known, alas: sometime late in the 20th Century or early in the 21st, the Mongols had come out of Asia and conquered Europe and then the Americas. Everyone called them “the Mongols”, but Rogers didn’t know whether they really were descended from the followers of Ghenghis Khan, or if that was just the name the Americans had given to their conquerors. It might even have originated as a term of derision, the way her own comrades had called the Germans “Huns” even though they knew perfectly well that they weren’t. For all she knew, the masters of the world could be Chinese, Japanese or one of the smaller Asian nationalities. There was even a legend that the ancestors of the Mongols had come from the depths of space, and were not entirely human. The conquerors called themselves “Han”, a name that meant nothing to her. Rogers was startled when Kane suddenly opened the hatch. She must have finally fallen asleep. He hauled her out and hoisted her over his shoulder, carrying her easily even though she weighed nearly as much as he did. Her stiff muscles screamed at being jostled, though she did not allow a whimper to escape from behind the tape. From her vantage point, Rogers saw mostly the grass Kane walked upon, though if she craned her neck she could get glimpses of smooth-sided buildings that seemed to be surfaced in glass or tile. He stopped at some kind of checkpoint, conversed with guards in the Han language which she did not speak. He stood her on her feet and showed her off to them, groping her in a way that made her glad she was already on intimate terms with her partner. Still, she was aware that she would be handled just as freely by whomever took custody of her, to say nothing of what the Emperor might do with her. She shuddered at the thought, but reminded herself that she had a mission to carry out, and should not be distracted by squeamishness. Or by her disturbing feelings of arousal. The five Mongols she could see wore what looked like silk pajamas, though they were possibly made of some synthetic fiber, like most American garments. Bright pink, with blue cuffs and lapels and assorted accents in yellow, they did not look much like uniforms, except for being identical. They wore disintegrator pistols much like those of the Americans, but no helmets or even caps. They were smaller than Kane and Rogers, but not conspicuously thin or flabby. Kane, accompanied by two Mongol guards, passed through sealed doors that hissed as though they had airtight seals, walked down corridors lit by some kind of artificial light that they didn’t have in America, rode in some kind of elevator and finally set her down on a couch in a small room of some sort, and conversed with a robed functionary who came out from behind a desk to examine her. Rogers had at least been briefed on this part of the scenario: normally, a girl being presented to the Emperor would be bathed, perfumed, painted and dressed in silks. The entire point of delivering Rogers to the Emperor, however, was to offer her up “raw”, so he could savor the full experience of conquering one of the half-legendary wild Americans, still in her tribal dress, smelling of American food and American sweat. The Imperial pimp, or whatever he was called, was balking at the proposition, and was trying to persuade Kane to at least have the creature given a cursory scrubbing before ushering her into the Presence. For her part, Rogers would not have minded at least a shower and a chance to piss, but she knew the Mongol would never have thought to consult her, even if she had spoken his language. Finally, Kane and the Mongol bowed to one another, and her lover turned and departed with one of the guards, leaving her alone with the procurer and the other guard. The Imperial functionary gestured to the guard, who cut away Rogers’ bonds with surprising delicacy, and with gestures directed her to walk behind him and in front of the guard into the room beyond. The room was not by any means the most sumptuous Rogers had yet seen in the palace. Indeed, it was almost spare, with walls of a plain peach ivory color, the ceiling a pale blue that seemed to also be the source of light, the floor covered in a springy brown substance that extended from wall to wall. One wall had a broad, unadorned archway without even a curtain. The only furniture was a low couch that was little more than a huge white cushion on the floor. From beyond the archway, a calm, smoothly modulated voice called out. The procurer stopped and lowered his head, then knelt. The guard jabbed Rogers in the back, but rather than drop like the procurer, she came to full attention, and when the Emperor entered, she snapped him a brisk salute. Rogers had expected the Emperor to be a more elaborate version of the procurer, in robes even more resplendent, with moustachios and fingernails even longer, and with some sort of crown in place of the functionary’s black satin pillbox hat. Instead, he wore a plain cream-colored robe and was bareheaded, and had only two small tufts of hair at the corners of his mouth, and two more on either side of his chin. Like every other Mongol she had seen, his face was smooth and unlined, his hair black and glossy, yet she had the impression that he was a good deal older than the others. The Emperor looked her over and inclined his head a fraction of an inch, then he gestured and the procurer and the guard both bowed and departed. “Good afternoon, my dear,” the Emperor said in a deep, musical voice, in American which was clear, though oddly accented. “Good afternoon, Sir,” Rogers replied, remaining at attention. He paused a moment and then made a small sound. “Such quaint, exotic ways your people have. I have met other Americans before you, but none quite so…unspoiled. I look forward to spending the next few days with you, as much as my duties permit. I hope you will enjoy your time as my guest, also.” He reached out and stroked her cheek. His hand was smooth and soft and cool. “You do not seem too terribly afraid of me. I like that. It is something of a novelty for me. He moved his hand to her upper arm, feeling the muscles there. “Not afraid, and not repulsed, even though I must seem even stranger to you than you seem to me.” Rogers had to admit that she actually found the Emperor quite attractive. He was almost exactly her height, a good deal taller than most Mongols, and well muscled. She had never had sex with a man in as cold-blooded a fashion as her current mission called for, but she did not think she would find the job unpleasant. Both hands came up now, and cupped her breasts. He squeezed them with the same casual, proprietary air as he might a pair of melons brought for his breakfast. Rogers felt that odd shifting sensation in her right breast again, and wondered whether the equipment, whatever it was, had been activated. She presumed there would be no way for her to tell, but she was wrong about that. The Emperor’s eyes widened, and he backed away, seeming to shrink. No. He really was shrinking, growing smaller and thinner, his well-formed limbs turning into slender sticks under his robe, his torso becoming a squarish shape, much wider than it was deep, like a beetle’s. His handsome Asian face became narrow and chinless, with bulging froglike eyes, and was made even more repellent by its expression of extreme fear and malice. By the time Rogers realized that his body really was changing, he was quite unrecognizable as the Emperor, except for his five-foot body being entangled in the same pale-colored robe. Rogers had finally broken from her rigid attention, backing away from the Emperor. Now she stopped and tried to compose herself. Was this bizarre transformation caused by the equipment hidden in her body? What else might it do, to others or to herself? She reached for the hourglass, wondering whether she dared break it and take a chance on whatever it was Kane had given her, but before she could get hold of it, she found herself unable to move. Rogers noticed that the Emperor, or whatever the creature really was, had also been frozen in place. Next, she noticed that an odd rhythmic grinding sound was coming from somewhere, and the light in the room was changing as though something were moving in the space to her right, though she could see no object. The grinding sound rose in pitch, and then she could see something. A large object, like a top the size of a small barn, appeared as though it were emerging from a thick fog, nearly filling one end of the room. When it had fully materialized, the side of the object opened and a metal ladder dropped down. Quickly, four people in green uniforms emerged and laid hands on Rogers and the helpless Emperor. They were fair-skinned, like 20th Century Americans, and wore green coveralls with red piping. On the left breast of each was a jagged black figure crossed by nine short lines, a stylized representation of a mended tear. On the right shoulder was a red shield-shaped patch with a writhing green snake inside it. A large and handsome blond man and a brown-haired woman grabbed Rogers, while an even larger man and a slender teenaged boy grabbed the creature who had supposedly been the Mongol Emperor. They carried the two like a pair of wooden cigar-store Indians inside the top-like object, which seemed to be bigger on the inside than on the outside. At the center of the interior space was a circle of seats with restraining straps. A large ugly man with a bare chest was already strapped in. The paralyzed captives were strapped into seats on opposite sides, and then the four in green strapped themselves in. The ugly man, who seemed to be wearing only a ragged kilt of bearskin, gave a whistle of admiration and then spoke in what sounded like 20th Century English, with a Brooklyn accent. “Man, in and out again in under a hundred heartbeats. You bozos are really good at this.” The blonde man smiled tightly at the compliment. “We find a rip in time, we stitch it up. That’s what we do. We’re rip hunters.” Rogers noted that the people were actually speaking in two voices, one coming from their lips and the other coming from small boxes at the throats of their uniforms (and in the case of the caveman-like person, on a leather thong around his neck). Their actual speaking voices seemed to be muted, to make their translated voices easier to hear. She wondered, sitting helpless in her seat, how that worked. Among other things. The grinding noise resumed, thrumming through Rogers’ paralyzed body as she lay in her seat. She felt an odd sense of movement, although she would have been hard pressed to say in which direction they were moving. Her captors spoke only as necessary, apparently guiding their craft on some sort of flight. After a few minutes, the feeling of movement stopped, and then so did the grinding noise. The blond man and the woman grabbed Rogers again, while the large ugly man picked up the supposed Emperor as easily as though he were stuffed with straw. They carried the paralyzed captives down a long corridor, then an even longer flight of steps, then down another corridor that was smaller and more dimly lit than the first one, a corridor lined with blank doors. At last, they stopped at one door, unlocked it and carried Rogers inside. They laid her on a cot and left her there, still paralyzed, but after the door had shut with a distressingly solid sound, an odd light came on briefly in the ceiling, and when it went out she could move again, with some effort. She sat up, rubbing her limbs and turning her neck from side to side. The room was small, barely big enough to hold the cot and the sink and toilet that were its only other furnishings. The door did not even have a knob on the inside, and the light had no obvious source. The scene was clean and tidy and suggested an advanced technology, and it was unmistakably a jail cell. She was in jail. The hoosegow. The nick. Not for the first time, but she didn’t like it any better than before. She reached inside her tunic, pulled out the hourglass and looked at it. Something to use if her situation became desperate. She reckoned this qualified. But what, exactly, was this glittering black powder, with occasional sparkles of red and yellow? An explosive? Poison for killing herself? A priceless substance to use as a bribe? That same strange unease, the suspicion that Kane was not to be trusted, stirred inside her. What if it were some sort of booby trap? The idea of her carrying a booby trap between her “boobies” made her laugh, and the laughter made her dismiss her misgivings. She held the little glass bulbs in her fingers and snapped the narrow stem between them. Two streams of glittering powder poured upward from the jagged necks of the two bulbs, powder which swirled in the middle of the room like a dust devil. Gradually the dense swirling cloud pulled itself together even more tightly, taking on a humanlike size and shape, its boundaries more and more sharply defined as though it were swirling inside an invisible bottle. The amount of sand within that defined volume seemed to be increasing, as though more of it were arriving from somewhere. The density increased until it became opaque, and then took on the appearance of a solid surface. And then suddenly it was as though some illusion had been dispelled, and the human-shaped cloud of sand was a solid object in the shape of a woman, nude and hairless, with very large breasts, a tiny waist and broad-flaring hips. The thing’s skin was black and glossy, like Bakelite, except for small rectangular panels of red here and there upon her body, and yellow bands like piping that outlined the panels and also her eyes, lips, nipples and labia. All of these anatomical features were disturbingly lifelike, in a way that no designer of the 20th or 25th Century would, she was sure, put on a statue or mannequin. And then it turned its eyes toward her and spoke. “I am Hourglass, another product of Bannermain Laboratories. I have a programmed lifespan of one hour, during which time all of my resources are at your disposal.” Rogers stared at the creature. “You are…a machine?” The entity nodded. “That is an acceptable first approximation, in the sense that I am not biological. I will continue to exist for the next fifty-nine minutes and fifteen seconds, during which time my powers and abilities are at your disposal, including the manufacture of various useful materials, the reshaping of objects around you, protection of you from violence and environmental hazards—“ “Can you—Hourglass, can you get me out of here? Can you get me home? I think I have been transported through, um, time.” The creature paused for a moment, then nodded. “I detect anomalies in the particles of your body which indicate at least two dislocations in time. I cannot take you directly to the location, in space and in time, in which you originated, but I can transport you to a location where you will be physically safe and from which you will be able to obtain transportation back to your point of origin in both time and space.” Hourglass shifted her feet and widened her arms, almost as though offering to enfold Rogers in its arms. “Please remain still and hold your breath while I surround you.” Rogers wondered why she needed to hold her breath, but complied. After a moment, she saw that Hourglass was again dissolving into a swirling cloud. In moments, the dust surrounded her until it blocked out all light, though she did not feel the touch of anything but a breath of wind. She felt a sensation of movement which was similar to but not quite the same as she had felt aboard the time-top. Then the cloud thinned again, and Rogers began to see a very different space than the cell where she had been left by the rip hunters. It was a corridor with walls that looked like polished stone with no seams or joints, lined along both sides with doors set close to one another. Hourglass formed once again from a cloud of tiny bits, standing in the corridor beside her. “You are now safe in Limbo. I will be able to serve you for another fifty-one minutes and forty seconds.” “And then what? You turn back into powder?” “No. My molecules will disperse into carbon dioxide, water vapor and harmless trace amounts of other substances.” “And that’s it? You just won’t exist anymore?” “That is my designed lifespan.” “That’s – I’m sorry, in that case I won’t waste your time arguing about it.” Rogers looked both ways down the corridor. There were doors everywhere, all apparently labeled in English (she wondered about that, but didn’t want to take the time to investigate). Some had simple utilitarian names like “Dining Room” and “Office Supplies”, while others were more obscure. What did “Timely, Wisconsin, 1889”, “Atlas, Cibola, 1958”, “Central City, Califia, 1961” and “Transverse City, Huron, 2099” mean? And why were they grouped in a row that way? Were they locations, and dates? Could it be possible that in this place, time travel was literally as easy as going through a door? Hourglass was just standing there, seemingly content to allow her few remaining minutes of life to run out while Rogers dithered. She chose a direction and headed down it, barking, “Follow me” to the machine. “Hourglass, tell me about this place. You called it Limbo – where is it and, uh, when?” Passing doors that promised access to “Tel Aviv, 1967” and “Stalingrad, 1943” and other places she had never heard of, Rogers stopped short when she came to a window. There were doors to either side, but looking through the window, Rogers could detect no sign of any rooms to either side. And that was the least of the surprises the window had for her. Rogers was looking out upon a vast sky like nothing she had ever seen before, spread with what seemed like more stars than she had ever seen even on the clearest night, some of them big enough to appear as tiny disks in the sky, each one too brilliant to look at directly, and in all the colors of the rainbow. She had a feeling that there should not be such a thing as a green star, but with her limited knowledge of astronomy she couldn’t swear to it, and besides, maybe the objects were not stars at all. The view was so awe-inspiring that Rogers did not notice at first that Hourglass was responding to her last command. “…outside time, but rather experiencing a short closed loop of time all its own, reusing the same time endlessly. This is why Limbo is often depicted schematically as a figure eight.” Rogers shook her head. She felt as though she could almost understand what it was saying. “So, what should I do now?” “If you wish to return to your place of origin, you should be able to find a door which opens thereto. If you wish to explore the Palace of the Time Being, I will try to protect you while you search for that door. Unfortunately, I cannot help you locate the door, because of the nature of time and space within these confines.” They came to another window, and Rogers looked out again. This time, she saw what at first she took to be the Earth as seen from space, but as she watched she realized that it was actually just a partial sphere, with another sphere inside it, showing between the gaps. In fact, there were a whole set of nesting spheres, each of them incomplete, at least four of them, going down and down…. Rogers pulled her head back, shaking it slowly. “It looks very different from when I looked out that other window.” Hourglass nodded mechanically. “The images you perceive are all interpretations generated by your brain, in an attempt to make sense of the shape of spacetime itself, something the human nervous system did not evolve to perceive.” Rogers wondered whether that was an adequate explanation for such detailed imagery, but felt too rushed by Hourglass’s limited lifespan to pursue the matter further. A door marked, “Edo 1795” opened and a pair of middle-aged Japanese women came out, wearing what Rogers thought were called “kimonos”. Their faces were painted an astonishing chalk-white. Rogers didn’t know if this were the height of eighteenth century fashion or if the women were some kind of stage performers. They went through the adjoining door, marked “Tokyo 1998”, just as the next door down, labeled “Crystal Tokyo 2966”, was opening. Rogers took in the gleaming silvery bathing suits the two women wore (Rogers thought the two were a bit … overripe … to be wearing such skimpy outfits), then did a double take – they appeared to be the same two women she had just seen in archaic clothes and face-paint. And she had seen the one door opening, and a hand emerging, while the other door had not yet closed. The women had almost met one another. A tubby, moustachioed little man in a brown and gray uniform a little bit like those that the “rip hunters” had worn came walking down the corridor. The contrast with the commander of the time-top that had snatched her could not be greater, yet there was something about him that said he, too, was a hero. The two women saw him and greeted him with excited squeals that might have been more suitable to girls half their age. The man put a hand to his forehead in mock-exasperation (or possibly even real exasperation) and sighed, “Not you pair o’ doxies again! You’re nothing but trouble.” He sounded as though he meant it, but he put up no resistance when each woman took one of his arms and they walked on together, passing Rogers and Hourglass with barely a glance. Rogers noted in passing that the man’s sleeve bore a patch in the form of a fat red spider. “Look,” Cleo said to Hourglass, but then noticed that they were approaching a much larger doorway, one with an armed guard standing by it. Hourglass spoke a few words to the guard, who nodded and turned to a keypad on the door and entered a code. It opened and the artificial being led Rogers inside. A tall, thin figure shrouded in a ragged purple cloak stood with its back to Rogers, looking out a window much larger than the ones in the corridor. Rogers approached, not getting too close to the ragged figure, and looked out. This time the view was even more disorienting, since it seemed to be moving. She seemed to be looking out from a window in a building on the back of some immense hairy animal the size of an ocean liner as it moved along a branch on a tree the size of a planet. As she watched her point of view shifting as the animal moved, beginning to feel motion sickness, she saw a fruit hanging from a nearby branch. When she realize that the “fruit” was a world that might have been Earth, she turned away from the window, holding her head. “Ratatosk, the great squirrel, runs up and down the branches of the World-Tree,” the cloaked figure said hollowly. “One of the stranger ways we have of perceiving the branches of time, but it is good to see that the tree still stands, anyway.” The figure turned toward Rogers. She could not see its face inside the hood, but she still felt its gaze on her. It stood erect and showed no sign of age or decay, yet it bore a dignity and gravitas like that of the Mongol Emperor, many times over. “You are Lieutenant Antoinette Rogers,” the creature said. “And I am the Time Being.” “All praise the Time Being,” Hourglass said at Rogers’ side, and then the construct dissolved, evanescing just as she had promised, leaving behind not so much as a wisp of dust. Rogers stared at the space where Hourglass had been. “She still had half an hour to go,” she complained. “It had served its purpose,” the Time Being said simply. It offered Rogers a hand wrapped in tattered bandages. Rogers numbly took it, feeling the creature’s thin but powerful fingers. “I had the devices which are now implanted in your body delivered to the Niagara Gang, and caused them to understand that you should deliver them to the false Emperor. Major Kane gave you the glass containing the construct in order to ensure your survival, and your safe delivery to me.” The Time Being gestured at the window and it vanished, leaving a smooth expanse of wall in its place. He turned toward the center of the great room, where Rogers now noticed a pair of chairs, one much larger than the other. They sat, the Time Being in the large thronelike chair. “I am engaged in a great struggle across time, from its earliest moments to its end, and across the vast breadth of parallel and alternate time, with an entity known as the Scarlet Woman. Each of us desires to rule over all of time. The difference is, I wish to maintain the diversity of history’s sweep, while she wishes to create a single culture and a single empire that will persist from the dawn of humanity and survive until the Sun goes out. Also, I seek to protect and preserve the many branches of history, while she wishes to pare the great tree of time down to a single strand.” He turned and walked past her to a table that she didn’t think had been there a moment before, though its feet were planted in undisturbed dust. He picked up a bottle and blew the dust off it and uncorked it. He turned over a dusty glass and poured red wine into its clean interior. He gestured at a second glass and she nodded. “She is based at the end of time, in a palace that stands amid the wreckage of Earth’s final city. You were jailed in the dungeons beneath it, where thousands of captives from all eras of history are held. “There she feeds the last generation of her subjects on wealth she steals from past ages. She reaches back through time to rob one civilization after another, drain it of its natural resources, steal its technology, amuse her decadent followers with its arts and music, kidnap people from past ages to be their slaves.” Rogers said nothing, merely sipped at her wine, wondering idly what era it had come from, and whether its odd taste even originated in grapes as she understood the word. “I, for my part, live here in Limbo, outside of time, and reach into it only to support my own organization, taking only what we need and compensating the owners whenever possible.” Cleo wondered whether the people through the ages who had interacted with the Time Being and the Scarlet Woman would agree with his assessment of their respective groups. She remembered a conversation she’d had once with a French farmer, who’d said that the armies of the Allies and the Central powers behaved in much the same way when they passed over his lands – “Dey say, ‘Horse, give it to me’, ‘Bread, give it to me,’ ‘Money, give it to me’.” “It is because of our very different attitudes towards history that the emblem of my people is a spider, representing the vast web of time and possibility, while hers is a snake, representing a single span of time. “Each of us act through agents, most working in place in a single period of history, a few travelling to different eras to work our will. Most of our agents are simply people we have attracted to our service, though each of us are assisted by other kinds of people, like the Time Phantom who impersonated the World Emperor until you unmasked him.” Rogers shook her head, wondering at the immense scale of this war across time. “Where did the two of you come from? Do you have a common origin?” The Time Being shrugged inside his tattered cloak. “I don’t actually know. My memories are not to be relied upon, especially about the earliest events of my life. What with regenerations and memory implants and the occasional fusion of two different versions of me, it’s hard for me to say with certainty how old I am, or which of my memories are authentically mine. If I remember being a child on the continent of Atlantis some thousands of years before your time, is it a real memory, or a dream? If I recall being a young man on the continent of Zothique some millions of years after, is that me, or the memory of someone whose skill at glider-flying I was implanted with? “It is possible that the Scarlet Woman and I both originated from the same culture, or the same project. We may have been lovers once. We might even be the same person.” Even as dazzled as she was by the Time Being’s revelations, that brought Rogers up short. “I’m sorry; I thought you were a man…?” “That, too, is subject to change, by various means. Over the eons, the human race has spawned many variants, including hermaphrodites, both protandrous and protogynous. So, I might be fated to grow into the Scarlet Woman, or vice versa. “Rather than inquire into my origins, though, you might be better served to inquire into your own. Just how do you suppose you came to spend the first part of your life in one millennium, and the second in another?” “I…I was overcome by gases in an abandoned mine, and lay in a state of suspended animation…didn’t I?” The Time Being chuckled. “You have not questioned that story until now, have you? “You were trapped in that mine, yes. Gases seeped from the walls, yes. Within minutes, you were unconscious. Soon after, you would have been dead, except that a team of my agents rescued you and transported you through time to the year 2419.” Rogers gasped, and took a stiff drink of her wine. She looked into the darkness inside the Time Being’s hood, trying to meet his unseen eyes. “And your reason for telling me this story?” “In no small part, in order to see how you would react. Just as a large part of the purpose you serve in the 25th Century is to see what would happen if I did that – assuming my story is true, that is.” Rogers rolled her eyes impatiently at that last comment. She got up and started pacing the room, sipping at her wine more cautiously. “So, what am I to do now? Become part of your staff here in Limbo? Go back to the 20th Century? The 25th?” The Time Being got up also and began to walk beside her. He restored the window and they looked out at the cosmos together. “You may return to either period, or to some other if you prefer. You will not serve as my agent, except to the extent that your actions in either century are liable to serve my interests. However…. “What if I told you that, if you return to the 20th Century, you will become the founder of what will become a multi-million dollar aviation company, then a Senator, then President of the United States? “What if I told you that if you return to the 25th Century, you will die in combat with the Mongols, betrayed by Kane, within a year?” Rogers swallowed hard. “Then again, what if I told you that if you choose to resume your life in the 20th Century, you will grow old alone and die forgotten? But if you return to the 25th Century, you will one day be hailed as the Chair of the Supreme Committee for the united planet Earth?” Rogers smirked. “Judging from the way you seem to do things, I’m guessing that each of those things happens to me on different branches of time. But it doesn’t matter, does it, because I still have to choose for myself, don’t I?” She looked out the window, admiring the view, which at this point was a huge bright object like a star, except that smaller objects that also looked like stars were constantly falling into it. She watched until she saw one of the bright objects slip past the window, and saw that it resembled a whirlpool of dots of light, like a whole swarm of stars. She turned away from the window, shaking her head. “All right. I’ll go back to the 25th Century, and take my chances with the Mongols…and with Kane.” She stood at attention before the Time Being, waiting for him to give someone an order or turn on a machine, or whatever would be required. She saw the Time Being raise one long finger, and then she was gone. The hooded creature looked at the space which had once been occupied by Cleo Rogers. He sighed as he began resuming his true form, and wondered whether there really were any such persons as the Time Being and the Scarlet Woman. [See more Earth-349 stories at] [Contact the author at]