Too Many Long Boxes!
   
   

End of Summer
 

Nostalgia

by Michael Rees

The wheel twisted and turned in Clifford Steele hands as he fought to regain control of the racing car. The smell of burning rubber filled his nose but he ignored it. All that matter was this conflict between man and machine. It was moments like this that he felt most alive, his body filled with sensation.

"This time I am going to win,” he said to himself feeling an increasing sense of déjà vu “it'll be different this time.”

The vehicle shook as it came off the racetrack and flipped into the air. Cliff braced himself as well as he could. He crashed into the ground head first, the weight of the car crashing down on top of him.

Pain shot through every limb. Blood filled his mouth as he struggled out from under the burning metal. Every movement was agony but at least he was still alive. Cliff beginning to be concerned that he wasn't moving fast enough as he could still feel the incredible heat from the fire.

Looking over his shoulder he saw that the wreckage was receding into the distance. Confused he looked down and saw his overalls were on fire, having been soaked in petrol from his car. He was a human fireball.

He screamed. He screamed because of the pain he was feeling. He screamed because he knew his body was being destroyed. He screamed because he was no longer human.

With a start he sat up in bed. Cliff struggled to breath before he remembered he had no lungs. With disappointment he looked down at his golden metal body.

"Same dream again Cliff,” he said to himself “same thing every night.”

Getting out of bed he couldn't help but notice the hiss and whirr of his internal motors as they began their daily work. After the rush of sensations in his dreams it was always difficult to come to terms with the total numbness.

Even pulling on his trousers required concentration because there was no way for him to know if they were sliding on smoothly without watching them. For a while he had gone without clothes as his golden metal form was as anatomically correct as a Ken doll. Recently, however, he had felt that they made him feel somewhat more human or maybe his sense of modesty had sprung back to life.

Brooding, Cliff left his quarters in the Doom Patrol's base. With his regular nightmares he was not a morning person. Hearing singing he followed its source to the breakfast room.

Sitting at the table was Dorothy Spinner. Her long brown hair was pulled back into a braid. Cliff saw this as good progress. Before she joined the group Dorothy would have use it to cover her ape like face. Now she was almost like any other girl on the cusp of womanhood. Almost.

"Morning Dorothy,” Cliff said sitting down in a spare chair.

"Morning Cliff,” she said brightly.

Studying the table, Cliff realised that there were two bowls of cereal set out. One was in front of Dorothy but the other was the opposite end of the table.

"Is someone else up?” Cliff asked.

Dorothy nodded “yes, Sing Me A Song Sweetie. I was singing her a song to say thank you for braiding my hair.”

"Right. She did a good job,” said Cliff.

Being isolated as a child Dorothy invented many imaginary friends and since her meta powers had surfaced they had been popping briefly into existence. If that weren't enough Cliff also had to deal with the many fractured personalities of Crazy Jane. It seemed more and more he was interacting with fictional people.

"Is everything alright Cliff?” Dorothy asked studying his man made face “I heard you shouting earlier.”

"Just a nightmare,” Cliff said glancing at the uneaten bowel of corn flakes “nothing to worry about.”

Dorothy moved her seat closer to Cliff and took his hand in hers. He wished he could feel the warmth of her touch but there was nothing. Still, he appreciated the gesture.

"You can tell me Cliff. I have nightmares as well and it help to talk about them. What was it about?” Dorothy said, looking up at him with her large brown eyes.

"It was about,” Cliff began and then paused.

If his face had been capable of it he'd have frowned. Instead he closed his eyes and searched his memory. What had the dream been about? Something in the past, something before he had become Robot Man. When was that? When had he been anything but a brain in a metal body?

"Dorothy I can't remember,” Cliff exclaimed standing up quickly and knocking his chair over “I can't remember ever being human.”

In Florida an epidemic of senility swept through the retirement homes bewildering staff and traumatising families. In Seattle cases of amnesia increased by fifty percent. A school bus in Dallas crashed when the driver found he no longer knew how to drive.

In Happy Harbour a garish figure dressed in a long velvet coat, ruffled shirt and ripped jeans tap-danced down the street. He twirled his ivory cane happily as he sang a little song.

"Memories, pressed between the pages of my mind. Memories, sweetened thru ages just like wine, memories, memories, sweet memories,” he crooned.

He came to the stop in front of a large pink restaurant with a huge neon sign reading “Diner 1950s”. Using his cane the man pushed the doors open and swaggered in beaming at the blue suited band playing in the corner. Items from the 50's hung from every wall.

"What a delightful place,” the man laughed “no chance of going hungry here.”

He stepped into one of the many booths and faced the bandaged figure opposite him.

"I assume you're Rebis. From the Doom Patrol?” the man extended a hand but Rebis made no move to shake it.

"Yes, I need your help,” Rebis said and watched the man's grin grow wider.

Niles Caulder wheeled his wheel chair over to an array of computerised displays. They showed silhouettes of Cliff from every angle along with diagnostic reports on his robot body and energy levels.

Swallowing a piece of chocolate Niles moved over to the medical bed where Cliff lay on his back. The top of his head had been removed revealing his pink brain. Niles ran his fingers through his beard as he studied the only remaining part of the real Cliff.

"So what's the verdict Chief,” Cliff asked, “will I ever play the piano again?”

"Don't be ridiculous Mr Steele. You couldn't play it before. Now I've run a full diagnostic of your robotic body and everything is running perfectly discounting the possibility of oxygen deprivation to your brain. Your brain itself seems in perfect health. I can detect no sign of Alzheimer's or similar disorder.” Niles said as he replaced the top of Robot Man's head.

"So I've just forgotten the first thirty years of my life? Is that what you're saying?” Cliff sat up, running a hand over his scalp to make sure it was held securely.

"Exactly. It maybe how your brain is learning to cope with your condition,” Niles wheeled himself towards the door of the lab “if you ask me you're better off. No memories of stubbed toes, paper cuts, migraines or the hundreds of pains and agonies that makes up human existence.”

Robot Man pulled himself off the bed and followed Niles towards the Monitor room. Realising something was different he looked down to see his legs were moving in a unnaturally precise manner. He tried to remember how he'd walked when he was human but couldn't.

"You don't understand Chief. Without my memories of being a normal guy I am not Cliff anymore. I am just Robot Man,” Cliff said.

"Yet you still complain and moan like a human,” Niles said rolling himself in front of the large computer screen in the monitor room “listen Robot Man. Your life is not at risk. We have more important things to concentrate on.”

Robot Man hung his head down low “Jeeze Chief. You really know how to cheer a guy up.”

The doors of the room swished open and Dorothy rushed in followed by Crazy Jane who was wearing her long black dress as usual.

"What did the Chief find out Mr Steele? Are you alright?” Dorothy said throwing her arms around Cliff's waist.

"I am functioning at 100% efficiency thank you Miss Spinner.” Robot Man jerked as he realised what he had said “Ah cripes. Now I am talking like a machine.”

"I've talked to all the people on the underground and we all want to know how you lost your memories,” Crazy Jane said in her monotone voice.

"All sixty four of them? I am glad I can count on your help,” Robot Man said opening his square jaw to imitate a smile.

"We all agreed that we want to lose our memories as well. Without memories the Lady will be at peace,” Crazy Jane explained.

"As interesting as it is to listen to the decisions of Crazy Jane's split personalities we have more pressing matters,” Niles said hitting a button on the keyboard in front of him.

An image of San Francisco appeared along with several news reports appearing in the corners of the screen.

"According to reports every book in San Francisco is now blank. There are statues of people no one has ever heard of and strange creatures lurking in the shadows. We could be looking at the beginning of an Apocalypse level threat,” Niles said bringing up images of people panicking in the streets of city, “I've been unable to contact Rebis so it'll just be Robot Man and Crazy Jane going.”

"Can I go? I don't want to leave Mr Steele when he isn't well,” Dorothy clutched her red haired rag doll to her chest.

"No Miss Spinner. You will prove a liability and provide no appreciable contribution to the mission,” Cliff said coldly.

Tears swelled in the young girls eyes and she ran from the room sobbing. Cliff watched her go, standing absolutely motionless. He suddenly punched himself in the head producing a loud clank.

"What the hell is wrong with me? I just don't know how to interact with humans anymore. I better go and apologise,” Cliff said walking towards the door.

"No time Robot Man. You can make it up to her when you get back,” Niles said sternly.

Reluctantly Cliff nodded and headed towards the hanger with Crazy Jane. He reached up to the side of his head and reduced the range of his ears so he couldn't hear Dorothy's sobbing.

"Who would want to lose their memories of being human Crazy Jane?” he said shaking his head in disbelief.

Rebis stared impassively at the roller skating waitress dressed as Marilyn Monroe. She looked back with curiosity at the bandaged figure in the booth, eyes hidden behind a pair of shades.

"Are you supposed to be the invisible man?” the waitress asked.

"No. I am not invisible and I am not a man,” Rebis said simply.

"Sorry Madam,” the waitress said.

"I am not a woman either. I am a mixture of the two genders creating a wonderful third. If you must refer to me the term 'it' is acceptable,” Rebis turned its attention to the pink milkshake the waitress had brought.

The waitress turned pale and skated away, her legs trembling.

"Not many people ask to see me personally,” said the man facing Rebis “what exactly is it I can do for you?”

"As I told our waitress I am a composite of two genders but I am also a composite of three entities. Larry Trainor, Doctor Eleanor Poole and the Negative being. All three of us are in here and it does get terribly cramped,” Rebis said holding the glass of milkshake and watched the fluid vanish “the fusion is not complete. All three components must make the whole of the fourth being.”

The man adjusted his velvet coat “You think I can help you complete the process my bandaged friend?”

Rebis nodded “If my memories are gone I will simply be me. The mindscape will be one seamless desert not three different terrains pushed against each other.”

The man jumped to his feet, holding his ivory walking cane high in the air “I'll do it. Mr Nostalgia will be happy to oblige.”

With a whirl of his cane he pointed at the Marilyn Monroe waitress causing her to drop the tray of plates she was carrying. She looked at her reflection in a mirror on the wall in confusion.

"Who am I supposed to be?” she asked.

Mr Nostalgia licked his lips and rubbed his stomach “I do so enjoy memories. Now about our deal Rebis. I'll happily devour your smorgasbord of pasts but first you have to do something for me. I have business in San Francisco that must go uninterrupted. If you can see that happens then you can say goodbye to your memories.”

"That is acceptable,” Rebis said standing up, a green glow shinning through the bandages.

With a swirl Mr Nostalgia spun away from the booth lashing out with his cane. It caught between the legs of a leather-jacketed waiter who was sent crashing into a table.

"Memories, of the way we used to be,” Mr Nostalgia sung as he left the diner.

People stumbled through the streets of San Francisco staring with increasing panic at the street names as they tried to get to their destinations. There was so much confusion that nobody gave Robot Man a second look.

"This can't be a coincidence Jane. These people are losing their memories just like I did,” Robot Man rubbed his metal chin.

"It flits and flats. Butterflies swallowed whole into the stomach of the abyss. I can feel their wings beating against its skin. He hungers for the past. He hungers for something he can never have. I can feel them beating!” Crazy Jane clutched her head and fell to the floor sobbing, “Little Lamb come out to play.”

"You're previous sentence makes no sense Crazy Jane. Please refrain from making unnecessary noise,” Robot Man said before kneeling next to the dark haired woman “Ah don't listen to me. Are you all right? What was that about butterflies?”

Crazy Jane looked up suddenly, the tears instantly stopping “Don't worry Cliff. That was just Madam Pentecost. She's very sensitive to psychic phenomenon.”

Cliff shook his head as he helped Jane to her feet “Psychic stuff? That's all we need. Look, just point me in the direction of something I can punch to make things better.”

A loud animal roar vibrated the streets followed by the screams and shouts of a panicking crowd. The two members of the Doom Patrol turned to the look in the direction of China Town and saw people running towards them.

"I think we'll find what we're looking for there,” Crazy Jane pushed against the crowd, knocking people over.

Cliff opened his mouth to say something to calm the crowd but couldn't think of anything. Clenching his fists he headed towards the source of the disturbance.

Mr Nostalgia sat on the head of a stone golden dragon. His cane tapped against its grimacing face as he happily watched the rainbow coloured beasts surge forward. The animal's jelly like bodies swelled as they enveloped tourists. Their red, hard tentacles snapped out breaking bones and demolishing shop fronts.

"The Kakalosh are my favourite pets. Can you believe that thousands of them used to surge across the plains of America? They was almost made extinct by European settlers until I stepped in,” Mr Nostalgia said smiling “Now no one remembers they ever existed and so they belong to me.”

"You did not say that people would be killed,” Rebis said floating above Mr Nostalgia.

"I am not killing anyone, it's the Kakalosh. You can hardly blame them for wanting some revenge. The question you've got to ask yourself is are their lives worth more than the completion of your transformation?” Mr Nostalgia leapt to his feet, balancing on the statue “If they are I'll pack up and leave now. Of course in a few hours your memories will be gone along with your guilt.”

"You make a good point. My transformation will benefit many more that the number who die here,” Rebis glowed a deep green, the light escaping between the gaps in its bandages.

One of the Kakalosh let out a shriek of pain as one of its tentacles snapped. It used its two remaining appendages to shuffle round in time to see Robot Man charging into it. The impact of the hard metal body against its soft body caused it to be splattered over the street.

"Take that you over grown jelly bean,” Cliff said looking for his next opponent.

The other Kakalosh moved away from Robot Man, looking for a more vulnerable victim. They closed in on Crazy Jane, tentacles ready to strike. As they advanced Crazy Jane's skin became dark and her eyes blazed red.

"Black Annis will slice and dice you,” Crazy Jane roared, revealing a set of sharp teeth.

Mr Nostalgia tapped the statue with his cane in annoyance causing it to crack in two. He watched Crazy Jane dismember the rare creatures with her newly grown claws. Her bestial howls matching the pitch and volume of the shrieks of the Kakalosh.

"This won't do at all Rebis. Deal with your team mates or the deal is off,” Mr Nostalgia said as he hopped down to the ground.

Without a word Rebis flew forward and picked up Crazy Jane, flying her away. She slashed at him attempting to pierce Rebis's lead lined bandages lost in her fury. He ignored the distraction and carried her higher and higher, dripping Kakalosh ooze on to the street below.

"What have you done to Larry?” Robot Man asked placing a restraining hand on Mr Nostalgia's shoulder.

The blonde haired man looked down at the metal limb with mild interest “Nothing you'd understand Mr Steele. Would you mind taking your hand off me?”

Cliff didn't move, he'd had enough of the whole situation “Or what?”

Moving more quickly than Robot Man had expected Mr Nostalgia brought his cane down quickly on his arm. The metal immediately crumbled and was pulled away from his arm socket. It hit the ground with a crash.

Confused messages rushed through Cliff's mind. His arm had just been removed but he felt no pain. In the back of his mind he knew this should upset him but it didn't. It was, after all, replaceable.

"You see the good I can do Mr Steele? Before your memories of your body would have caused you to react as if you had been hurt. I removed those instincts from you. Never say that Mr Nostalgia didn't do anything for you,” Mr Nostalgia kicked the ruined arm down the street.

"You took my life!” Cliff swung out with his other arm and watched it flatten against Mr Nostalgia's face.

"Oh don't be such a cry baby. At least you had a life. What about me? Born out of an abstract idea of mankind's. Billions of mind yearning for the past, affecting the universe and spawning my exquisite being,” Mr Nostalgia looked sadly at his feet “So many people want the past but I can have never have that. I have to feed on others.”

"Not more metaphysical crap,” Robot Man staggered over to the damaged statue “what ever happened to the days when we'd fight the Brother Hood of Evil and…”

"Yum. I am glad to see you still have some tasty morsels in that pink brain of yours. I was getting quite peckish with all that exposition,” Mr Nostalgia said rubbing his stomach.

Robot Man kicked the stone statue as hard as he could. A huge chunk of stone was knocked free and slammed into Mr Nostalgia, sending him crashing into a butchers. Having used all his energy Robot Man feel to his knees.

"Remember that,” Cliff said before shutting his eyes.

After only a few minutes of rest Cliff detected the sound of pebbles falling. He opened his eyes to see the chunk of rock slowly falling apart, large cracks spreading through its golden surface. The whole block suddenly exploded showering Cliff in shards of stone.

Mr Nostalgia staggered out of the shop brushing down his velvet suit. With horror he realised his ivory cane had been snapped in half. He looked up at Cliff and scowled.

"By the time I am done with you you'll be lucky to remember your own name.”

Rebis spoke slowly and calmly as he flew Crazy Jane over the city “I would think you of all people would see what I am trying to achieve here. Memories are a burden. They are damaging and distract us from looking to the future.”

Crazy Jane skin lightened and the claws withdrew into her hand. Her body went limp in Rebis's hands and her head flopped forward. She watched the tops of the buildings passing miles beneath her. They were points of stability in among the chaos that surrounded them.

"My memories have scarred my mind Rebis. Driven tunnels through tissue and creating dark recesses in synaptic passageways,” Crazy Jane reached out and felt the wind rushing around her finger tips “and given the choice I would gladly lose every memory I have for the chance of peace. The people beneath us haven't made that choice.”

"I didn't consider that,” Rebis slowly descending towards the roof of one of the buildings “my value systems are not what they once were.”

Crazy Jane's eyes grew wide and she struggled to escape Rebis's grip “Its not right. You didn't ask, you didn't ask. Can't take what's not yours. Got to escape.”

Rebis recognised the frightened tone of voice that Crazy Jane was using. It belonged to the flighty and frightened personality called Flit.

"Please remain calm, we will land in a few seconds,” Rebis tried to increase the speed of their descent.

"Have to go, have to go now,” Crazy Jane said and squeezed her eyes shut in concentration.

A wave of disorientation passed over Rebis. It felt hir head swim as they were both teleported a few metres above the street. There was no time to make any adjustments to their flight path and they crashed into the hard ground. Rebis took most of the impact, cracking the pavement. The bandaged entity lay still, knocked unconscious. Crazy Jane was curled into a foetal position, knees pulled to her chest while she sobbed.

A wheel chair rolled through the streets, crushing glass beneath its wheels. A business executive watched the wheel chair for a moment, trying to recall where he'd seen such an object before. Unable to recall he returned to the task of trying to write his name in the dirt with his torn and battered filofax.

In a bakery a woman in a blue dress greedily consumed a chocolate cake with both hands. Nearby her two-year-old child cried in his pushchair, desperately hungry. His cries were silenced as an ape-faced girl offered him a cream cake.

"No culture at all,” Niles said turning his nose up at the scenes around “little more than animals. I must say Joshua, I am very disappointed in how Robot Man, Crazy Jane and Rebis have performed.”

The black man pushing the Chief along looked sadly at the child consuming the cream cake “I think you're being a bit hard on them. This isn't something that normally happens.”

"Exactly and this is why I reformed this group. If we can't handle the unforeseen who will?” Niles said, “Dorothy, come along, we have much work to do.”

Dorothy dashed out of the bakery, clutching her doll “Sorry Mr Caulder.”

They came to a stop in front of what had once been a statue of a dragon. Large sections of it were missing and dark cracks covered its surface. Imbedded in its side were the few parts of Robot Man that hadn't been destroyed.

His limbless torso was dented, its front panel hanging open revealing the slowly moving internal parts. Robot Man's neck was broken causing his head to fall to the side. One eye had been completely shattered and the other hung out of its socket, connected only by a wire. His jaw hung open.

Dorothy threw her arms around his damaged neck, tears welling in her eyes. She pressed her cheek against Robot Man's metal face.

"Oh Cliff, why did you have to die?” Dorothy cried.

A burst of static escaped from Robot Man's mouth. The noise slowed and took on a more defined shape.

"Don't cry kiddo,” Cliff said his mouth opening and closing erratically “I am not off line yet.”

"Explain yourself Mr Steele,” the Chief said sharply.

"Just lulling him into a sense of false security,” there was a deep rumble inside Cliff's chest that might have been either an attempt at a laugh of a malfunction component “I know how we can stop this guy.”

Niles sighed “I don't enjoy you're attempts at drama. They're most inappropriate.”

"How Cliff? How do we stop him?” asked Joshua helping Cliff hold his head up.

"We,” the lights in Cliff's eyes began to fade “we give him what he wants.”

With that his eyes went black and his body went limp.

Mr Nostalgia looked sadly at the photo album. Faded yellow pictures showed men and woman in a time long since passed. Their faces were youthful and filled with potential but their eyes were dead. Black points on lifeless film.

"I miss them. Cousin George died in the Second World War, Debbie and her husband dead for the last five years. So many people who only exist now in these photos and in my memories,” Mr Nostalgia said to the old woman sitting on the steps of her building “do you mind if I keep this? After all, this means nothing to you now.”

The old woman looked at him blankly as the strange man swaggered away, tucking the book into the limitless space within his velvet jacket. As she tried to recall why she had the book in the first place a noise caught her attention. Looking up she saw a bandaged figure carrying a black haired woman in a dark suit through the air.

Mr Nostalgia had heard the sound as well and raised an eyebrow at the approaching members of the Doom Patrol. With a flourish he spun round on his heel and held his arms out wide.

"Rebis, you've brought me a present. How sweet,” Mr Nostalgia said cheerfully.

Landing in front of Mr Nostalgia Rebis set Crazy Jane gently on to the ground. She glowered at Mr Nostalgia, her rage barely contained.

"We no longer have a deal. I have been given a fresh perspective,” Rebis said folding its arms.

"What a shame, I had such hopes for you,” Mr Nostalgia looked down sadly at his shoes.

In a blur of motion he rushed over to Crazy Jane and yanked her by her neck across the street, away from Rebis. His hand tightened around her throat, pulling her face to his.

"Still, I shall enjoy this meal,” Mr Nostalgia said before sniffing “can you smell burning?”

Looking around Mr Nostalgia saw smoke rising from his fingertips. Turning his head he saw that Crazy Jane's head had turned into a ball of fire. Surprised let go and jumped backwards as small balls of fire shot out from the central sphere almost roasting Mr Nostalgia on the spot.

"Well she certainly is full of surprises,” Mr Nostalgia said causally as he continued to flip over and over to avoid the flaming missiles.

"We know what you're really after Mr Nostalgia and we can not allow you to succeed. We know why you have come to San Francisco,” Rebis grabbed hold of Mr Nostalgia and delivered a devastating punch to the blond haired man's jaw.

Mr Nostalgia's head snapped back but he soon recovered, “you should know that nothing is stronger than a memory. As for why I am here I picked San Francisco because I am a bit of a Star Trek fan. Science Fiction fans are very nostalgic. So why do you think I am here?”

Rebis released Mr Nostalgia and started to run towards Crazy Jane who was still shooting out fireballs and spinning in the air. He didn't get far before Mr Nostalgia caught its bandaged leg and yanked him backwards.

"Crazy Jane we have made a grievous error. We must leave,” Rebis yelled.

"What is it? No need to tell me, I'll take it from you head,” Mr Nostalgia placed a hand on Rebis's head.

"No, I can't allow that,” Rebis thrust forward so their heads collided.

Momentarily dazed Mr Nostalgia shook his head to regain his sense. Rubbing his nose he was relived to find it wasn't damaged. He glanced down to see that Rebis had been knocked unconscious by the blow.

"A clever move but I can still find out what has made you panic,” Mr Nostalgia said advancing towards Crazy Jane as her own head returned.

Crazy Jane backed away as she felt Mr Nostalgia probing her mind. She could feel him pushing his way through her underground. Casually casting aside Driver 8, ignoring the advances of the Scarlet Harlot and over powering Hammer Head.

"Here it is,” Mr Nostalgia closed his eyes as the memory flowed into him “you want to stop me from reaching. From reaching martyr hand cup Phillip saw? Gold bank artful mango?”

Opening his eyes Mr Nostalgia saw that Crazy Jane was turning to liquid. Her whole body was becoming water, spilling on to the ground.

"So this is your personality known as Rain Brain. This is most intolerable,” Mr Nostalgia kicked at the rapidly forming puddle.

Sitting under the shadow of the Doom Jet (as Robot man had nicknamed it) the Chief unwrapped another bar of chocolate. Mouth salivating he was about to bite into it when Dorothy skipped over to him.

"Yes Ms Spinner?” Niles said curtly.

"Do you think our plan worked?” she asked, holding her hands behind her back.

Glancing in the direction that Rebis and Crazy Jane had headed the Chief noted a brightly coloured dot bouncing between the buildings getting closer and closer. As it grew in size it became clear in was Mr Nostalgia.

"I think that answers your question,” Niles said before taking a bite of chocolate.

With a loud thud Mr Nostalgia landed in front of Dorothy and Niles. His normally pale face was bright red and his blond hair was stuck to his sweaty forehead.

"Right, I don't want any argument, no clever plan, no nothing. Just stay where you are while I take what I want from your minds,” Mr Nostalgia growled.

Dorothy fell to her knees and screamed. She writhed on the floor, clutching her head and crying. Niles reached into the side of his wheel chair and brought out a small revolver.

"Let her go,” Niles said simply.

"Or what?” Mr Nostalgia said smiling “your team mates couldn't stop me do you really think a gun will?”

"No,” Niles said aiming the gun at Mr Nostalgia's crotch “but I think it will hurt you.”

Mr Nostalgia paused and then shrugged “well I've got what I wanted now. I can see why you were so worried. See you yesterday!”

With that he turned and leapt away, vanishing over the tops of the buildings. Niles put away the gun and held out his hand to Dorothy. With his help she got her feet, her legs trembling.

"I am sorry Mr Caulder, he took it from my mind,” Dorothy wiped away the tears from her eyes.

"Not to worry Dorothy,” Niles said offering her a piece of his chocolate bar “everything is going to plan.”

"Oh,” Dorothy said eating some of the chocolate “what was the plan?”

Entering STAR labs had been no problem for Mr Nostalgia. The amount of memories he had absorbed had given him increased strength and with only a slight tap he had knocked the automatic doors across the room.

For amusement he alternated between robbing security guards of their memories and throwing them through walls. Sirens wailed and red lights flick on and off. Mr Nostalgia was enjoying the chaos, a fitting prelude to his ascension.

He stopped in front of a sign that read 'Temporal Research'. With increased excitement he walked over to the sealed metal security doors. He did a little tap dance before giving the barrier a mighty kick.

Stepping through the resulting hole Mr Nostalgia found himself in a large circular room. Hundreds of tubes and wires flowed down the walls and along the floor before connecting with a large bronze chamber in the centre of the room.

A black scientist hugged the far wall, staring in fear at the invader. Mr Nostalgia gave him a nod of acknowledgement. Slowly he walked round the device, a finger running along its cold bronze surface.

"So this is what the Doom Patrol didn't want me to find. STAR labs first working time machine,” Mr Nostalgia pointed a the scientist “how does it work?”

"You just get in and set the controls for the time you want to go,” the scientist was frozen in place “but we haven't worked out a way to bring people back.”

Mr Nostalgia stepped into the chamber and found a dial with dates placed on the wall. He turned the dial until it was at zero. The machine started to throb with energy.

"I won't be coming back. I am going to the start of time. I'll drain memories a day at a time forever. I'll have a past.”

A brilliant white light filled the chamber as its door closed. A low humming noise increased in volume until it was almost deafening. A compartment at the top of the bronze chamber opened and out came a dented sphere, two red eyes blazing.

"Thanks for the memory Mr Nostalgia,” Robot Man said as his new body went to work.

Mr Nostalgia realised what was happening but it was to late. He felt his essence being dissembled. The memories turning to energy and rushing along the wires connected to the chamber. Bit by bit he was being dispersed over the city, his component parts being returned to their rightful owners. He was fading away into nothingness.

Whimpering he fell to the floor his hands weakly pressing against the door to the chamber “please, please at least remember me.”

With that the chamber shuddered and then became silent. The door slid open to reveal the interior was now empty. Josh took of the STAR lab coat he had borrowed and patted the side of the chamber.

"Did it work Cliff? Do you remember being human?” Josh asked.

Cliff nodded lost in his memories of hot coffee, stolen kisses and the feel of sand beneath his bare feet. It was all coming flooding back and he knew he was more man than robot despite current appearances.

"Can you call the Chief and ask him to put me back on my body. I feel ridiculous like this,” Cliff said.

"I don't know,” Josh smiled “it quite suits you. You could be the new Liberty Bell.”

"Har, har,” Cliff grimaced “everyone's a comedian.”

Hours later after the group had returned to their base and Niles had a chance to repair the majority of Robot Man's body they all assembled in the meeting room.

"I still can't believe you came up with that plan on your own Mr Steele,” Dorothy said hanging on to his arm lovingly.

"Well kid, I am not just a pretty face. I knew any plan we came up with could have been revealed as soon as Mr Nostalgia started poking around our brains,” Cliff explained stretching his creaking neck “so we just had to base a plan on a lie.”

"It was just a matter of presenting him with a bait that he couldn't resist and of course modifying Cliff to siphon off the stolen memories. Some of my best work if I do say so myself” Niles said running his hand through his beard “imagine, so many people hunger for the past that their collected minds created a being who was the personification of that desire. A mnemonic parasite if you will.”

"Its makes you wonder what else mankind could create if they put their mind to it. A personification of peace or love for example,” Josh said.

"Oh really. That really is quite sickly sweet,” Niles said in disdain “I shan't be able to have any chocolate for several hours now for fear of overdosing on sugar.”

Cliff watched the conversation continue studying his team mates faces. He recognised the emotions they displayed and how they behaved. With his restored memories he could relate to them and in turn remember what life had been like when he had a body made of flesh and blood. He might be only a brain in a metal body but being with the Doom Patrol almost made him feel human.

 
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