by Michael Rees
Aquaman lay on the beach struggling to breathe. His body had turned an ugly deep purple, poison rushed through his veins choking the life from him.
He was dimly aware of a crowd forming around him, their murmurs of disbelief were providing a suffocating static to his ears. Instead he turned inwards, mentally touching what remained of the sea life.
A triumphant celebration radiated from their every thought. For the first time in decades they could breath again without being poisoned. Man's carelessness removed from the sea at long last, absorbed into Aquaman's body.
The aging hero took refuge from his pain in that delight and let his life slip away. The ocean waves washing over him and breaking apart on the sandy shore.
"Very morbid," Walker commented shifting uncomfortably in his long raincoat which concealed his distinctive blue and black body suit.
"I can't take any more of this," said his short fat companion.
"We'll be off in a moment. Let's take the moment to savour the view," Walker put his hand up to shield his eyes from the sun.
Walker Gabriel looked past the emergency medical teams struggling futilely to revive Aquaman and the camera bots swarming around trying to get the best picture and instead gazed at the brilliant blue ocean.
A black haze blocked his view and soon Walker felt a feeling of disorientation that had now become familiar to him since becoming Chronos. The only sound came from his new companion, who was whimpering.
"Here it comes. Another hero passing away. How did I get into this?" said the short fat man patting his black bodysuit, which sparked with light.
"From what you tell me you got into it by designing a time travelling suit to visit the days that heroes died," Chronos pointed out dryly. "What did you say you were called?"
"I am Death Day," The younger man said shifting uncomfortably.
"Sure you are," raising an eyebrow Walker regarded his companion's costume, complete with a bone white skull printed on the chest and a black D stamped on its forehead. The menacing image ruined by Death Day's chubby face and bright red hair.. "What's your real name?"
"Eugene Thomas," Death Day said quietly.
"I can see why you changed your name," Chronos looked up and saw that the shifting black aura around them had started to fade revealing a new location. "Here we go again."
Killer Croc caught Batman's leg as he tried to deliver a crippling karate kick. For a moment Killer Croc just smiled revealing his sharp teeth and then twisted his arm to break Batman's leg.
The dark knight grunted in pain as he was slammed into the floor. He had no time to rest as the collected inmates of Arkham Asylum closed in around him. In his prime he would be back on his feet by now but that time had passed long ago. Now he was old, his body protesting at each movement. His battle suit had failed, shredded by Mr Zsasz's hyper knives.
"Seems I am the only one to improve with age," Killer Croc chortled causing his thick armour of scales to vibrate.
Floating above the wreckage of the hall the Joker sat in his hover throne, an insane grin stretching his wrinkled face. A cardboard crown sat on his thinning green hair.
"Ready to give up dark pensioner?" the clown of crime mocked.
"Never," Batman managed to say before spitting out broken teeth.
"I so hoped you'd say that," Joker laughed. "Pile on boys!"
The inmates surged forward before Batman could get to his feet. Blades, claws and fists rained down on the Dark Knight. The Joker observed the fighting with glee, the wind blowing through the large crack in the ceiling and ruffling his green hair.
"That's got to hurt," Walker winced as he heard bones cracking. "Are you sure they can't see us?"
Death Day nodded. "I designed my suit so I'd be one second ahead of everyone else. They can't see, hear or touch us but we're not ghosts. I needed to make myself solid so I wouldn't pass through floors."
"And grab souvenirs," Walker said noticing the backpack slung over Death Day's shoulder.. "At the risk of appearing heroic I have a strong urge to help out Batman."
"He's beyond help now. This is the Final Arkham Riot." Death Day watched wave after wave of insane criminals surge over Batman unleashing their homicidal rage.
"Right, you're from the future so this is history to you. Didn't you say you were from the 67th century? Glad to know that there's so little for teenagers to do they have to time travel and view grim sights for entertainment." Gabriel placed his hand over his eyes but spread his fingers so he could still watch the grim sight "So how does this end? Without Batman these maniacs will kill everyone in Gotham."
As if in answer that was a loud rumble, like thunder. The killers stopped beating Batman and looked up at the grey sky. The dark clouds rolled back as a blur of blue and red streaked towards the damaged Asylum.
"Clark," Batman said weakly, a slight smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. In a way this was the way he expected it to end.
"Hey, if we can touch things maybe we can write a message. Tell someone that our time suits have reacted with each other and now we're endlessly bouncing from one death to another. Some hero must be able to help us," Walker said quickly as Batman collapsed, breathing his last.
Shaking his head Death Day caused his mane of red hair to wave like a field of fire. "There'd be no way for them to track us. Besides we're about to move."
Even as the young man said the words their surroundings started to fade.
Before they left Walker heard the Joker mutter. "I suppose it wouldn't help if we told big blue that this was just a joke."
Tired, Walker sat on the grassy ground as trees were torn up by the roots and flew towards the original Green Lantern. Death Day was crying next to him, wiping his eyes with his black gloved hands.
"Why did I install a chronal stasis field? If I hadn't, at least we'd eventually die of old age," Death Day complained.
"Thank goodness. I don't fancy the idea of spending my twilight years with you." Walker tried to ignore the battle going on above them, the pine trees piercing the protective emerald sphere he had created. "Look, if I had access to my workshop, I could probably fix our time suits but with us jumping around I am not going to get a chance. Are you sure there isn't any way for us to control our journey?"
"When I built the suit I slaved it to a computer module filled with data regarding famous deaths. I had to allow the computer to select the co-ordinates; they needed to be far more accurate than I could ever manage. Usually I just set it to make one or two jumps before sending me home," Death Day had to raise his voice over the maniacal laughter of the earthy villain propelling the plants at the Green Lantern.
"And then you meet me. If I understand it correctly, and I am not saying I do, your suit thought my time garment was connected to it and tried to time jump the two of us overloading its systems and causing the computer to select dates at random." Gabriel stepped back just in time for the Green Lantern to hit the ground where he had been standing, digging a deep groove in the ground as he slid along.
"We're about to jump again. The original Green Lantern dies in one minute." Death Day looked at the Green Lantern who was struggling to stand up, his ring sparking with a weak green light.
"That might give us enough time." Gabriel got up and grabbed Death Day by the chest feeling the mechanical components just below the surface. "No computer programme is completely random. It works on an algorithm, which we can use to our advantage. Time travelling might not be my strongest skill but computers are."
An agonised scream signalled that their time was running out. Gabriel Walker managed to tear a portion of the white skull off revealing a metal sheet, glimmering with tiny multicoloured lights. His fingers worked quickly over its surface, pressing buttons and pulling wires.
"Come on, work," he said angrily as the computer refused to co-operate. "No matter how advanced you are, you'll always dream of 1s and 0s, never knowing the number 2."
The woodland started to fade away, the smell of grass becoming just a faint memory. Walker worked as fast as he could as the computer started to blaze with white light.
"We're jumping," Death Day said pointing out the obvious.
"Done it!" Gabriel announced triumphantly.
Cities aged to dust as chronal blasts streaked across the landscape even as the plants grew at twice their normal speed. Flowers bloomed revealing the bright colours of their petals before they were ripped away by savage winds.
A cloaked figure darted in between the shimmering blue blasts. Finding that the cloak was slowing him down the figure removed it and threw it at his pursuer revealing his shiny yellow and scarlet body, an old hour glass was printed on his chest contrasting with the hi-tech metal head set he wore.
"I won't allow you to do this Reboot," yelled Hourman as his cloak was ripped to shreds by another chronal blast. "It isn't up for you to decide if time needs to be rewritten."
His pursuer flew closer, propelled by a steel jetpack, which merged with a large blue battle-suit. The man inside was close to fifty and his face was a mass of scars and burns. As he closed the distance between the two of them the man raised his arm which ended in the barrel of a gun.
"I have the right Hourman. I lived through this era. It was filled with nothing but wars and terrible crimes against humanity. Millions died, my family died." The anger in his words was almost choking him. "I'll keep turning back time until everyone learns from their mistakes and there isn't anything you can do to stop me."
"Wrong!" Before Reboot could fire another blast from his gun Hourman pressed his hourglass which turned upside down."My hour of power has only just started and .Chronos?"
Gabriel waved to the robot hero as Death Day frantically avoided sinking into the ground that had been turned to mud. Intrigued by their sudden appearance, Hourman flew down, moving at the same slightly advanced speed as Walker and Death Day.
"Hello, Hourman. You've changed since the last time I saw you." Gabriel dug his hands deep into his coat pockets. "Listen we need you're help. Big, dark and dorkey and me are lost in time and since you're an expert on these matters, I thought you might be able to help us out."
"Help you? A known meddler in time and one of my most persistent and annoying enemies and you've come to me for help?" Hourman's pupil less eyes grew wide in disbelief.
"I am not your enemy yet," Gabriel protested. "At least I'm not your enemy at this part in my life, anyway. Come on we don't have much time and I really don't want to spend the rest of eternity with this guy."
"Hey!" Death Day protested.
Hourman considered it for a moment. "Very well. It should only take a temporal shunt to free you but I am in the middle of something. As soon as I've dealt with this I'll help you."
Suddenly an intense heat threw the trio into the air as the ground beneath them turned into boiling lava. They tumbled several feet before landing in a pool of primordial soup.
"You can't hide from me Hourman," yelled Reboot flying straight into the robot carrying him off at great speed. "Once you're gone nothing will stop me."
Staggering to his feet, Walker looked up in the air while Death Day spat out the foul liquid they had landed in. Above them, they could see bright blue and yellow lights twisting and turning in the air, weaving in and out of each other. Occasionally there would be a loud explosion.
"I'm guessing he's not going to be able to get back to us." Gabriel tugged Death Day to his feet. "I don't know any other time controlling superheroes that would be able to help us."
The sky rapidly became night and day. The Sun rising quickly to its zenith before plummeting beneath the horizon the moon and stars chasing its path through the heavens before the process repeated itself.
"I have a sudden urge to find a calendar and start ripping the pages off." Walker said as he watched the fight continued, the seasons changing around them. "And he says I am a meddler in time."
The duo climbed up a bank of snow that had just fallen, moving away from the primordial soup that was quickly freezing. In the distance the ruins of a city started to shift, pieces of rock and metal flying back into place until it looked as good as new.
Above them there was flare as the two lights collided. This was quickly followed by an explosion, which shook the very ground they stood on. The light dimmed until only the yellow one remained before it dropped like a stone into the ground.
Walker and Death Day rushed towards the blackened figure as the snow melted and fresh new grass was revealed, dotted with daisies. As they got closer they could see it was Hourman, his body melted almost beyond recognition, his limbs fused into place, only able to twitch pathetically.
"Are you all right, Hourman?" Death Day asked kneeling beside the robot.
Walker shook his head. "Now that's a stupid question. Are you called Badly Beaten Day or Death Day?"
Hourman tried to speak, the side of his face cracking and flaking off under the effort. "Sorry Walker, I can't see you. I expended all my energy defeating Reboot and repairing the damage to time. The people here will remember what happened, I pray that they learn from their mistakes."
"Sorry I couldn't help you, Hourman," Walker said sadly placing his hand gently on Hourman's chest. "Shame we're going to be enemies."
Everything turned black as they started to jump again.
"Don't suppose you have a plan B?" asked Death Day before they vanished.
They jumped from death to death and Walker was soon agreeing with Death Day that this was becoming unbearable. Before starting his dubious identity as Chronos, time walker, he had never seen the appeal of being a superhero, putting your life on the line for nothing in return. Even now he had been using the time suit to sightsee historical events. But seeing all these deaths got to even his cynical heart.
Their latest jump had taken them to a wooden warehouse in Ethiopia. Walker sat on a crate while Death Day paced back and forth. Nearby a battered and bruised Robin crawled across the floor towards a woman tied to a wooden support beam, a bomb beeping away providing a rhythm for Death Day's pacing and Robin's crawling.
"So why did you create a suit to take you to the day that heroes died?" Walker asked idly kicking his heels against the crate. "Wasn't being a teenager depressing enough?"
"It was a subject I was interested in. I was going to write a term paper on it." Death Day hesitated and chewed his lower lip.
"I sense an 'and' to that sentence." Walker watched with mild interest as Robin managed to untie the blond woman before collapsing in a puddle of his blood.
"And I thought I could go back to the 20th century and sell the information to villains so they would know how to kill their enemies." Death Day glanced at the bomb that showed there were only twenty-three seconds before it exploded.
"I've lost any sympathy I had for you." Walker shifted out of the way as the blond woman carried Robin to the crate and propped him against it before rushing to the door.
"I know, it was stupid, but we have to work out a way to get free. Hourman said you were his enemy, so that must mean you eventually escape this fate. That means there's hope."
"Not necessarily. We could keep jumping until the computer runs out of dates and by that time I could be insane, driven to kill Hourman because he didn't save me." Chronos looked at the exposed computer on Death Day's chest. "But I have just thought of someone else who could help us."
"What's wrong?" Robin managed to gasp noticing that the blond woman was having trouble opening the door.
Death Day was pushed against the support beam while Chronos worked on the computer again. "The bomb's down to two seconds!"
The blond woman turned away from the door a look of panic on her face. "It's locked. The Joker locked us in here!"
Pressing the final connection into place Walker shook his head. "Is it just me or are his jokes just not funny?"
The bomb exploded blowing the warehouse apart and instantly killing Robin. Walker and Death Day could feel the force of the blast but were kept safe from its effects, its bright light vanishing along with everything else into pitch-black darkness.
They found themselves in a vast Victorian mansion. Flames consumed the wood, the stained glass windows cracking in the heat. The sound of fighting came from the next room.
"Where are we?" Death Day asked looking around the tiled hallway they had found themselves in.
"Don't know, don't want to know." Walker screwed his eyes shut and placed his hands over his ears. "Just find the hero and grab the small circular device off his chest. It'll get us free."
The wall behind them was shattered as a limp figure was thrown through. He landed close by in a pile of bricks. One arm was obviously broken, twisted out of shape, his breathing low and laboured. Death Day looked in shock at the man's face.
"It's ." He said turning to Walker.
"Just grab the device." Walker turned away from the death scene.
Wasting no more time Death Day rushed forward and snatched the gold disk on the man's chest. For a moment the man's tired blue eyes seemed to regard Death Day but then they rolled back as his chest stilled.
"I've got it!" Death Day said excitedly running back to Walker who snatched it from his hand and placed it on his chest.
There was a crackle of energy that danced through Walker's time suit before leaping on to Death Day's suit. Around them the mansion faded away to be replaced by a desert island, waves lapping against the shore.
After an hour had passed with neither one of the men seeing another living soul, let alone a dying superhero, they were satisfied that it had worked. They sat on the warm sand, watching the waves.
"I told you if I had time I could make a device to free us," Walker said running his fingers over the gold disk, feeling the grooves. "We just needed to collect it after it was finished."
"Are you sure you don't want to know how you die?" Death Day asked.
"Call me crazy but I think I can live without that knowledge." Walker fixed the disk back on to his chest. "Knowing I die a hero is enough for me. I wonder if that would have redeemed me in Hourman's eyes."
A small hermit crab scampered by, a scarlet shell sitting on its back. Intrigued Death Day reached for it and to his surprise found that his hand passed right through the small crustacean.
"I'm turning into a ghost!" Death Day got to his feet quickly and saw that his arms were becoming transparent.
"That just means you're going back to where you belong. Give my regards to the authorities of the 67th century. I am going to alert them so that they'll be waiting for you when you get back. I am sure they won't look kindly on your plan to sell information to 20th century criminals." Walker waved as Death Day continued to vanished. "Think of it as repayment for what you've put me through."
"No!" Death Day screamed as he vanished, sent to the future and most likely life imprisonment.
After staring at the space that had once held Death Day for a while, Walker Gabriel walked along the lonely beach thinking about his own future, the gold disk gleaming in the Sun.
All characters are © DC Comics
This piece is © 2000 by Michael Rees.
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