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Chapter Two: Nostalgia
Rain was falling in
Fan knelt down in front of her sister’s grave, placing a hand over the name engraved on it and closing her eyes. “Hey, Sis. It’s me again. I hope you don’t mind me visiting you too much. I tried to be a good big sis for you. I hope I did alright in letting you become a hero. You were always there to protect me, but I couldn’t protect you. God, I miss you…” her words trailed off weakly as she tried to suppress a sob. It had been twenty years since Jive was slain by Rikti Invaders, yet it still hurt each day as if it were only twenty minutes ago. Ever since their parents were killed, Fan and Jive had been inseparable. They were almost psychically attuned to one another’s feelings. Fan couldn’t help but feel that part of her had died. A small beeping sound pierced the silence like a thunder crash. Fan looked at the small device on her belt that told her Sator was paging her, and sighed. “Well, Sis, I have to go. I hope you know that…” she stood slowly and turned her back on the grave. “…you were the real hero all those years, even before you had any superpowers,” she whispered to the air. Then she took flight, disappearing into the fog.
Sator was waiting for Fan when she arrived in the base, which made her feel uncomfortable. Sanguine was pacing behind him, reading a print-out of some sort. She looked up when Fan greeted Sator with a simple “What’s up?”
“Fan,” Sanguine started, “Have you ever heard of Johnny Corona?”
Fan shook her head. “No idea.”
Sator mentally moved the papers from Sanguine’s hands to present to Fan. “You Two: Good friends.”
“But I never met the guy-” Fan protested.
Sator cut her off. “Problem: Lies there.”
Fan fell silent,
and looked at the print-out. It detailed the life of a man named Johnny Corona,
an astronaut who disappeared for fifty years, then was found in
“Because Johnny Corona doesn’t exist. Not anymore,” Sanguine said. “I was alerted by an Ouroburos Mender that heroes were disappearing. Fortunately, records of every hero are kept in a time-lock, meaning they will magically exist even if the timeline is altered. This helps the Menders keep track of history as it should be written. It also states in the file that you two were close, so we’re sending you to go save him.”
“You travel: To
Fan nodded and
straightened her hat. “I shall return before you miss me.” She turned and
removed a device from her belt that enabled her to travel time. Such devices
were rare, and only entrusted to heroes who would use them wisely. Before she
activated it, she turned again and flashed a smile at Sator. “Oh, and if you
see Jamesy, please tell him that I have returned!” She set the device to take
11th, 1950 –
The air in
As he stepped out into the cool air, he felt his muscles relax. Being outside where he could see the stars was much better than being cramped indoors pouring over research notes. Intelligent as he was, his head was often in the sky, wandering around the universe, unconfined by the Earth’s gravitational pull.
Johnny’s reverie was suddenly interrupted as a loud crash resounded behind him. He spun so quickly he fell over, and what he thought was Campus Security turned out to be an oddly dressed woman standing a few yards away from him. She was tall and thin, and wearing black and gold armor that he had never seen, not even in sci-fi movies. In the dim light of the campus lights, he could just barely make out her golden brown hair and the red bird logo on her chest. His heart skipped a beat as she turned her head to look directly at him, and then slowly extended a hand.
“Gee whiz, would ya look at that!” he exclaimed.
She moved her hand up and down slightly, as if growing impatient, so he took it. He barely had to try to stand before she pulled him up from her strength alone. Now face-to-face, he could see that she was about as tall as he was, as he stared directly at the rim of her hat. “Try to be more careful. I don’t want you to get hurt.” Her voice was like smooth coffee.
“I-I’m Johnny Corona!” he said a bit too loudly, and he was instantly worried he looked like an idiot. He realized he was still holding her hand and quickly drew away, blushing slightly.
The woman didn’t seem to mind, but instead removed her hat and sunglasses, storing the latter in a case on her belt. “I was hoping you’d say that.”
She smiled. God, that smile, Johnny thought. “No matter. You may call me Fan, Johnny.”
“Fan, is that short for Fanny?”
Fan looked a bit puzzled. “No, but I guess it would seem that way,” she said thoughtfully.
Something about the woman intrigued Johnny, and it wasn’t just her odd clothing or the fact that she was beautiful. Neither really explained the sound he had heard when she arrived. “How did you get here? They keep this campus rather well-guarded.”
Fan frowned, as if considering something. “I can’t really tell you that, but for your safety, pretend you never saw me, please?”
He nodded. “Okay.” He couldn’t deny the request. She seemed to be hiding a great deal.
“At any rate, shouldn’t you be getting some rest before your exam tomorrow?” she motioned toward the clock tower behind him, and he turned his head to look. “Yeah, I guess so. Wait, how did you know-” But when he turned to look at her again, she was gone, as mysteriously as she had arrived.
Fan sat on the roof of the building where the men’s dorms were located, staring at the sky. Her eyes were unfocused from deep thought as she wondered about Johnny Corona and how easily memories of a person could be erased by a change in the time stream. Time was constantly being written and re-written, and it affected no one. Perhaps, in some other time stream, Jive was still alive… No. Fan stopped herself. She had already thought such thoughts and caused a rupture in the flow of time. It was the whole reason she had disappeared for three years to travel back in time. She had to stop herself from attempting to bring Jive back. Such power to control time was never meant for those unwilling to heal from the past. There would be no sense repeating her mistakes for a lost cause. Those whose time has come, will die, and those who die too early, must be saved. That was why she was here, over seventy years in the past.
She pulled the notes from her pocket and read further into his story. Cause of death: science lab explosion. She thought about how she could prevent this. Surely it was impossible for her to monitor everything that went on without revealing herself. Whoever was planning the murder had to be working from the inside…
Before she fell asleep on her perch, she made a mental note to tell Johnny what was going on. She needed his help.
stretched out on his bed. His exam was over, and he had been there for hours,
wondering if he would meet that strange woman again. The memory was already
beginning to fade around the edges, as if it were only a dream, but her smile
and the sound of her voice remained crystal-clear. He had to admit it: he was
in love. Crazy, head-over-heels in love. She must have been summoned from his
dreams, he thought. The very first thing he’d do when he saw her again is ask
her out, he concluded. That’s right,
he thought. I’m going to date a beautiful
girl like Fan … huh. I don’t know her last name. He wrinkled his nose as he
considered this, and then gave a mental shrug. Who cares? If I play my cards right, she’ll be Fan
An hour later, he got up and moved drowsily to his desk. It was beside a window so he could see the darkening sky. Maybe she wouldn’t come back… He let out a small sigh then looked down at his notebook, only to find an envelope lying on top of it. He picked it up and turned it over, finding it was unsealed and a note was neatly tucked in. He pulled it out, unfolded it, and read the hand-written message. “How did your exam go? I need to speak to you. Same time/place tonight? Fanny.” Johnny couldn’t help but smile as he nodded a silent promise.
At 11:30, he went downstairs and followed his usual route, to ensure he would arrive at the right time. She was already standing at the place where they had met, but this time she was wearing jeans and a blue t-shirt with a logo he had never seen before on it. She had a long white shirt under it to keep warm. She was standing closer to the light this time, and when she looked up at him, he could see deep blue eyes behind clear glasses. She smiled slightly when their eyes met, and he felt his heart jump into this throat.
“Uh, hello, Fanny,” he managed to blurt out.
Fan’s smile seemed to grow a little larger before fading and becoming a frown. “Johnny, I need you to promise me that you won’t think I’m crazy.”
“Lady, I study Astronomy – it doesn’t get much crazier than that!” he joked, but fell silent when he noticed her expression darken.
“Have a seat,” she
moved toward a bench, where he noticed her armor resting on the grass beside
it. She sat down and waited for him to sit beside her before continuing. “What
you hear may trouble you, but I assure you it is the truth.” She sighed, as if
thinking of how to begin. “I am not from this time. I am from the year 2027, in
a place called
“I’m going to die?” Johnny whispered. “I mean, besides the obvious natural death.”
“Of course,” Fan said. “And no. You will not die today. Because you and I are going to prevent that.”
“How can I prevent my own death?”
“You need to tell me if anyone in your campus has been acting strange, or arrived on a strange premise,” Fan turned to gaze at him once more with her endless blue eyes. Something told Johnny that she didn’t need those glasses to see. Sitting this close to her, he could notice her earrings. They were odd, not only because they didn’t match, but because they were made of stones he had never seen before, and were covered in strange markings. One was a pale blue, the other silver. “Well?”
“Oh, right, sorry.” Johnny blushed unwillingly. “Well, my old biology professor died of a stroke and was replaced rather quickly. I guess they already had someone in mind after he announced he was going to retire.”
Fan’s eyes almost lit up. “I think that’s what I needed to know.” She stood up and began gathering her armor. “Is there anything else?’
Johnny looked bewildered at her suddenness. “Um, well, after you’ve saved my life and all… w-would you like to go out for a milkshake sometime!” he shouted by accident. He really hated it when he was nervous.
Fan gave him a genuine smile and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. “Sorry kid, but it just couldn’t work out.” The world seemed to crash around his ears, but he snapped out of it when he realized she was giving him a friendly hug.
“Right. I’ll see you later then?” He said, shaken.
“Of course.” Fan winked. Then she added, “Please be late for your lab tomorrow,” as if it were a perfectly innocent request that wouldn’t give him an “F” for the day. But for some reason, he trusted her.
“You’re late, Mr. Corona. I did not expect this of you,” his Biology professor scolded as Johnny entered the room half an hour late.
“I’m sorry, Professor Wilson,” Johnny frowned. I hope there’s a good reason for this…
“Take a seat, Mr. Corona.” Johnny swiftly moved to his regular seat next to his best friend, Dave.
“What’s the issue, Johnny? You’re never late,” Dave whispered.
“I know. It’s hard to explain,” Johnny said apologetically.
“What’s rattled your cage? Girl problems?”
“If only you knew,” Johnny muttered.
Dave took a hint and settled back in his seat, content to watch the lab demonstration. He glanced out the door into the hallway casually, only to notice a woman peering inside the room, watching the chemicals being mixed carefully. He grinned and went back to watching his professor.
Johnny almost fell asleep. He hardly slept the night before, as he was too focused on what Fan had said. She made it out to sound like someone was trying to kill him. But why? He was just an ordinary college student aspiring to be an astronaut. He was even being specially trained on the side. He was supposed to go on his first mission in space soon…
There was a sudden crash as Fan burst into the room and grabbed a bottle of Hydrogen Peroxide from the professor’s hands. Johnny stared at the scene in bewilderment as the professor protested and tried to shake her off of him. Dave stood and pulled a handgun out of his coat jacket and fired three rounds into Fan’s chest. “I can’t have you getting in the way, now can I?”
Johnny screamed. “FAN! NO!” He ran to her, only to be tripped by his friend. “Dave, but why?”
“Shut up, human,” Dave spat. “I had to deal with you for the past six months, and I’ll tell you it was no easy feat.”
Johnny stared over at Fan, who was somehow still standing, clutching at her bullet wounds. “It’ll take more than that,” she winced as the blood stopped dripping from her chest and three bullets fell to the floor, “to stop me.” She removed her earrings, which to everyone in the room must have looked extremely odd for someone who had just been shot three times, but her expression was calm and deliberate. Once they were removed, they grew and elongated, then ended in a point, until she was holding in each hand a beautiful silver long sword, with the same markings Johnny had noticed before. The professor cowered behind his lab table, staring at her. Everyone else was too terrified to move. Somewhere in the back of the room, two girls began weeping.
Dave stepped forward, kicking Johnny aside. “I see you have decided to make this difficult. I had intended for an innocent accidental explosion, hardly worthy of making the newspapers, and then being on my merry way. But I see you have found the explosive chemicals in that bottle. Yes…. How unfortunate. I will have to eliminate you as well.” He looked at the professor, who was staring horrified at the bottle in his hand. “And don’t drop that. I do not intend to be blown up as well.”
Johnny cringed in pain, but he was not ready to give up. Whoever that guy was, he certainly wasn’t his friend Dave. And he had hurt Fan. This would not go unpunished. He searched around the room for a weapon – anything. “Dave” had pointed his gun at the professor, leaving the situation in a deadlock. If Fan moved, the professor would be shot, and whatever dangerous chemical he was holding would cause an explosion. Johnny saw a fire extinguisher a few feet away from him, and quietly crawled toward it. Finally, he managed to take hold of it and get to his feet. “HEY!” He shouted at his foe. The desired effect was achieved as Dave turned around, only to be hit in the face with the extinguisher. Before Dave could react, Fan was flying at him, swords outstretched, and in one swift motion, she had sliced him in half. But instead of blood, the room was sprayed with small wires and bolts. Fan landed gently on the ground. “An Automaton?”
“What’s that?” Johnny asked, still shaking.
“Hmm, if you don’t know, then do not worry about it.” Fan looked him over. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah… you? Y-You were…”
Fan glanced at the students. All eyes were fixed on her. Then she turned to the professor and smiled at him. “I am terribly sorry for the events that transpired here. Please hand me that bottle. I do not want anyone to be hurt.” The professor stood and slowly handed her the bottle. “Thank you, and I am sorry I attacked you earlier. It seems I had made an error in my calculation.” She placed the bottle inside the remains of the robot and reached into her pocket for a small device, which she planted on the exterior. The device beeped a few times, and Fan grabbed Johnny and rushed him out of the room. Almost immediately after they left, there was a loud crash. “What-” Johnny began, but Fan pulled him away faster, simply saying “Later”.
When they made it outside the building, she returned her swords to the form of earrings and put them back on, then put an arm around Johnny’s waist and flew him to the rooftop. “I placed a small teleportation device on the suit that also emits a sleeping gas. Your classmates and professor should be asleep by now. They will think there was a minor chemical accident in the classroom. No one will know of the events that transpired here, besides you. I suggest you lay low for a while. As newspapers typically don’t publish the names of victims of accidents, the boy known as Dave will simply come up as a “missing student”. I hope that will dissuade whoever your attacker is from trying again. I can merely hope that he will think you are dead, but just in case…” She winked. “Well I’ll know either way and be by your side to protect you. I promise. But for now, it is my time to depart.” She walked across the rooftop to where she had hidden her armor, and began to put it back on.
She was reaching for her cape when Johnny stopped her. “Wait. I want you to have this.” He took one of two gold stars off of his jacket’s front pocket and grabbed her cape, draping it around her shoulders and using the gold star to pin it. “There, I think that looks better than the plain black hook you were using before.”
Fan smiled. “Indeed it does. Thank you.”
“Will we ever meet again?”
Fan looked down, and then grabbed her hat and put it on with resolve. “Yes, I suppose we will. We may not remember each other, but we will meet again. That, I am certain of.” She removed her sunglasses from the compartment in her belt, and then replaced her regular glasses. As she was putting the clear glasses away, Johnny caught a glimpse of what seemed like text running across the inside of the lens. Fan escorted Johnny safely to the ground again, and hugged him tightly. Johnny could hear her sniffle. “Fan?”
“I remember you now. I’m so happy.” She drew back, and wiped a rogue tear from her left eye. “Reach for the sky, Captain Starlight!” She stepped back, and this time Johnny did not turn away. He watched the mysterious woman disappear in front of his eyes. The wind created from air rushing to where it had not been before rushed through his hair.
It was a feeling he would never, ever forget.
“She’s beginning to annoy me,” a low voice snarled.
“What a nuisance,” another voice concurred.
The two figures
were huddled over a computer monitor, scrolling through an index of the most
powerful heroes in
“Agreed. Once she learns of my ….latest innovations, I fear even my most powerful agents will be unable to stop her,” the second voice whispered quietly as she closed the file. “Now about that other subject we discussed….her friend….”
“Armor Shrike is already being taken care of, I assure you.”
30th, 1980 –
Dahlia Hanlin stood
in the newer section of the
She knew he had given up the first time she saw the pills in the trash can. She had urged him to stay on the medication, but he insisted that he didn’t want pills to replace the happiness her mother had given him. Dahlia had fallen silent at this, knowing she could not argue with him. When she got home from work that day, he was dead, his white hand still clutching a small bottle.
And now he was six feet under the delicate earth, immortalized only by memories. A hero placed his hand on Dahlia’s shoulder, bringing her back to reality. He looked down, unable to speak to her. But he didn’t have to. Dahlia knew it was time to go. The hero escorts would not wait around all day. They had a world to save. Just like her mother did. And look what happened as a result of it.She went home to Kings Row, bitter and resentful.