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David van Domelen
Please note: This is an edited copy of this story, reduced to only the Patrol aspects of the story. To read the complete issue of CONSTELLATION #19, please visit the racc archives at the Eyrie, in the /pub/racc/lnh subdirectory. For more information on the Legion of Net.Heroes, visit their Home Page.
The last several weeks had been a blur of tests, questions and information for Constellation. After meeting Greymask and Cosmic Defender in the ruins of Los Angeles, he'd been whisked away to a 'secret base' in Montana. Of course, it was more of a ranch with a few labs and some really good security. Nothing like the kinds of secret bases he'd gotten used to in the Looniverse. Heck, he knew people back there with apartments more complex than this place. Still, it was good to have a place to be accepted for a while, even a sort of guarded acceptance like he got here. Wandering alone across the country for nearly two months hadn't done too much to improve his mood, or his sense of alienation.
The Machine was about as close as he'd gotten yet to feeling like he was back with a sort of family. The Raiders knew him too well as a former villain for him to really fit in. The LNH was...well, too weird for him, which was saying something. And his original family was lost to him long before Lord Ebon killed them all.
He remembered the first day he'd been able to relax and socialize with the Machine, after the worst of the Quake had been dealt with....
|"Stargazing?" came the voice behind him.|
"Hm? Well, sorta. The stars are about the only thing that seems to stay constant in the different worlds I've been to. No matter what the people may do, the stars just keep on spinning in their paths," he replied, not yet turning to face the woman behind him.
"That's awfully deep for a comicbook character," she noted. At that he turned to face her. It was Astra, the team's brick. Her body had been destroyed by her Gauntlet in a freak accident, leaving her a force-field shell. Still, she seemed to have gotten over the worst of the obviously major psychological trauma that caused. He still wasn't sure if she was really as old as she looked...he doubted it.
"Don't call the kettle black until you've checked a mirror, Astra. Some people think all realities are fiction to some other reality. There's a pretty good chance you're a comicbook character too."
"Touche." Astra walked over to his side, her feet only barely making impressions in the snow. If there'd have been a strong wind, she probably would have been blown over, she was that light. She looked at the stars on Constellation's own body. "They keep changing. Ironic, isn't it?"
"Well, with most people, whereever they go, the only thing that always stays the same is them. With you, the stars in the sky stay the same, but you change."
Somewhat self-consciously, he clouded over his body with Astral matter, covering the stars. He tried to change the subject. "So, um...I've noticed this world is alot more realistic than the one I was last in."
"How so?" asked Astra, exactly mimicking Constellation's own words. He recalled some mention that she could mimic any sound with practice, due to the fact her voice was merely samples of her old voice mixed and played back by the computer brain still residing somewhere in her body. It was a fairly disturbing effect.
"Well, for starters, everyone has names. I mean, other than codenames. For a long time I was just Constellation, and before that I was named Flood. It wasn't until I had to choose another name that I picked a "real" one. What's your real name?"
Astra paused, and he could instantly tell that she didn't go around telling people her name. Maybe not even her teammates.
"Oh, sorry...if you want to keep it secret I won't..."
"No, that's alright. I'll tell you. Just don't tell anyone else, okay?" Astra waited for him to nod, then continued. "Nicki Rush." When she saw the brief flash of expression cross his face, she added, "Yeah, it's a weird last name. My great-grandparents came from Russia, and the guy at Ellis was new. He mixed up the lines on the form, and they got in as the 'Rushun' family. He couldn't spell too well, either. Grandpa shortened it to Rush when he tried to get work, since Russia wasn't too well liked here by then. Kinda like Macon Dead in Toni Morrison's book, but not quite as badly done. Geez, I'm babbling now."
"No problem. Actually, I was just thinking how I knew a man with the last name of Rush back in my home dimension."
"Ow, you sound like you didn't like him too much."
"Not really. He was a real bastard...worked for the government's Superhuman Control type agency, and was a supervillain on the side, named Doublecross. He's the guy that decided where I spent my first jail term, back before I reformed."
"Don't be. Not your fault."
Both just stood there for a moment, and the wind began to pick up. Astra was the first to break the silence.
"Well, I forgot my weights, so I gotta get in out of the wind. Sam's making some munchies...that's why I came out here, actually. To see if you wanted to come in and watch a movie with us. Get some downtime after all that work in California?"
"Sam? Would his last name be Lyons?"
"Yeah! How'd you know?"
"I didn't...but a friend of mine in another world named himself Sam Lyons. Coincidence just seems to keep following me here...."
Appropriate enough that his new life fall to ashes on Ash Wednesday. Wier had been more dour than usual while running a set of tests on Constellation's ability to manipulate Astral Matter. Weeks ago he had ascertained it had nothing to do with the way the Gauntlets manipulated energy, and he'd been baffled by his lack of success in finding any explanation. Today he had a new gadget to measure all sorts of things, and while poring over the results his brow furrowed.
"Floyd," began Wier, who preferred 'real' names to codenames, even though in Constellation's case the real name was Constellation, "I'm afraid that if this test can be trusted, you are posing a serious danger to the Patrol, and perhaps to the entire world."
"You're kidding, right?" Wrong. Wier never kidded. He said he was too old to waste time on it. "What's the test say?"
"Nothing. And that's the problem. You see, over the last month, I've run every kind of test I could devise, using even the most speculative of science. Yet none give any clue as to how your powers work. So I constructed this device. I asked you to concentrate on holding a static pattern of energy. This sensor contains a quantum fluid of sorts, which under any remotely normal conditions will behave in a relatively random fashion. Yet, in close proximity to your construct, it didn't change at all. It stayed constant in configuration. Nothing happened to it. You seem to violate the laws of Physics."
"Well, yeah. I could have told you that. My Tesla Index was pretty high before I merged with Dot...I'd expect it's even higher now."
"Tesla Index? Floyd, as one of the few people who avidly studied even the most outlandish of Nikolai Tesla's theories, I can assure you there is no such thing in this world. What is this Tesla Index on your world?"
"Well, it measures the amount by which someone can warp natural law. Most people have an index of around zero. A few have slightly higher ones, and can operate the kind of super-tech your people use. Those rare ones with even higher Tesla Indices are superheroes and supervillains."
Dr. Wier shook his head. "No, the Machine's devices all follow rigorous scientific principals. Anyone can use them. They do not so much violate physical law as prove that some of the more recent "laws" were wrong. And the Gauntlets, with their Rechargers, are very dependent on the proper working of these laws. Your presence would explain many of the recent malfunctions in Rechargers far better than the current best guess. You say you visited this world shortly after the first Gauntlets arrived?"
Dr. Wier sadly nodded. "Your warping of reality has likely had a subtle effect on all of local spacetime, an effect which has disrupted the highly advanced...and therefore highly vulnerable to changes in physics...Rechargers. Astra's accident, the probably brainwashing of Mr. Thomas, that Sullivan Green individual who Mr. Janssen mentioned last time he was here...all may trace back to you. What should have been one-in-a-billion mishaps are, thanks to the curdling of natural law in your presence, happening more like once in a thousand or a hundred times. If you stay, the consequences could be even more drastic. For the sake of Civilization, you must leave!"
Of course, he had protested that he couldn't alone have caused so much damage. Complaining to Karlson had gotten a stay of eviction while Wier recalibrated to further test the phenomenon. Meanwhile, he'd had a few days to contemplate where he might go, and reflect on the few months of relative normalcy he'd enjoyed. Still, if he stayed, it might not remain normal.
A knock came at the door.
Astra poked her head in tentatively. "Um, I figured you'd wanna hear this from someone besides Wier. He checked his data five times...it is you that's causing all of these Recharger mishaps."
"Damn." Constellation slumped his face into his hands.
"I...I just want you to know...I don't blame you for my accident. You couldn't have known...and you weren't even around then, right? You came and went, you got here by accident the first time?"
Constellation paused for a long moment. "Thanks. I guess this is goodbye, to all of you. I mean, I can't ever come back here without risking more 'accidents'."
"Can't you, like, turn off your powers and stay anyway?"
"No. Back when I was just Flood, the answer would have been yes. Tesla Index stuff can be willed down, after all. But now warping natural law isn't what I do, it's what I am. Two souls in one body, neither of which can live apart. Just on its own, that violates natural law. No, I have to leave. I just don't know where to go now. Home isn't home anymore, not really. And the Looniverse is right out...a powerful evil force lives there that specifically hates me. And I'm not going to let it take more of my life than it already has."
++Ebon is gone. We dealt with him.++
So you've said. But you won't tell me how. He could just come back, he's immortal after all.
"Um, are you talking to someone?" asked Astra.
"Yeah, the other half of my soul. I guess I'm still kind of used to people around me being able to hear her. She's telling me we could go back to the Looniverse."
++We found his spirit adrift in the Astral Realm after his defeat in the Looniverse. We absorbed him and then put his soul back in his body, hundreds of years ago. He's now trapped in a time loop which he can never leave. So long as we never travel in time to before that day, he cannot harm us again.++
Why didn't you tell me this before?
++Because I could see that you wanted, more than anything else, to go back to the way things were before. And that would mean going back in time. I made it so you wouldn't be able to do so...I felt it better you get over your past before finding you could never go back to it.++
While this happened, Astra simply cocked her head and watched in interest for a sign of what was being 'said'.
"Well, it looks like I can never go home again, but I can go to the Looniverse. Come on, I wanna say my farewells to everyone...."
Copyright © 1994, 1997 by David van Domelen