From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
Chapter 1: The Discovery
The workshop was quiet but for the slight squeaking noise of small rubber tubes being fitted together. Blackslash tinkered with her suit, attempting to install an apparatus that would expel a stinging black powder capable of causing temporary blindness if it struck one's eyes. After connecting each of the flexible tubes that ran along the underside of the arms, down the sides, and into the belt, she went back over them and disconnected each junction, then reconnected it, nodding her head in rhythm with each step. One, two, three, four, five, she counted repeatedly in her head, one, two, three, four, five.
She'd performed this ritual halfway down the length of the series of tubes, when she stopped, feeling one of her two constant mystical bonds grow stronger-- Midnight Girl had entered the headquarters. The click of high heels meeting with stone echoed through the corridors, heading towards the north end of the complex where she knew Doctor Crom was working on the supercomputer. Another meeting, but Blackslash had not been invited.
A debate began in her head: continue the task at hand, or eavesdrop on the coming conversation between two of the dangerous people she'd been forced to ally with in her eternal quest to prevent the future she'd been witness to, without rendering it utterly unrecognizable. She weighed the options and value of each, five times. One, two, three, four, five.
She donned her mask, turned up the audio amplifiers, and adjusted for the echo from the stone walls.
"This is almost becoming a habit," Midnight Girl said, minor irritation in her voice.
"On the contrary, madam," replied the calm, even voice that belonged to Doctor Lazarus Crom. "I do not make a habit of things, as such behavior results in the predictability of one's actions. I've called you here for another reason of very unusual importance."
Blackslash could hear the sarcastic skepticism that was always present in Midnight Girl's voice, "very well, Doctor. Explain your important discovery, I am trembling in anticipation." Arrogance, thought Blackslash, and she frowned more deeply than usual. She pressed the record button on her headset.
Crom's voice emitted no trace of annoyance, likely uninterested in wasting emotion on that which he knew would not change. "Look here, do you see this waveform? This is a composite representation of the normal gravitational and magnetic field that emanates from the Earth within a 100 mile radius over a typical thirty day period." There was a click and a slight hum. "This is the representation of a 30 day span that began on July 24th of this year," another click and hum, "and this is the representation from May 23rd, 2002."
"The Rikti invasions," commented Midnight Girl.
"Correct. See the disruptions? See how they are on the same wavelengths? Now look at this set." Click, hum. Click, hum. Click, hum.
"More disruptions," Midnight Girl sounded bored at this point.
"But these are not on the same wavelength, they are from the last three times that our friends in the League of Evil ventured into the Shadow Shard from the portal in Nerva Archipelago. I've deduced that the wavelengths can be tied to specific alternate dimensions. Also, note that these do not show any adjustment of the magnetic field, only of the gravitational field. This likely represents a disparity in the nature of the travel mechanism."
Midnight Girl sounded slightly more interested, "the portal was constructed by the Circle of Thorns, it is magical. That must explain the discrepancy."
Crom snorted derisively. "Please. The mechanism is merely different, not the stuff of fairy tales or the insane ramblings of tribal witch doctors." There was another click and hum. "This is from two days ago. Again, no magnetic field adjustment, and a third wavelength that we've not yet seen."
"So, I delved into my personal observation records, and extrapolated this waveform." Click, hum.
"Yes," said Crom, satisfaction apparent, likely because he was about to lay a bombshell on her. "And it's from June 12, 2006."
There was a long pause. Blackslash ran a quick diagnostic on her audio systems, but everything checked out. She waited.
"I don't see how that is significant. You've wasted my time. I'm leaving." Blackslash heard something new in her voice, a tone she'd never heard from the Praetorian version of her mother before.
"If you say so, madam." Satisfaction again. She'd confirmed something for him.
After hearing the (slightly faster) click of high heels leaving the complex, Blackslash ran the recording again. "Hrmnh," she mumbled, and ran it four more times.
Chapter 2: The Plan
Blackslash sat at the peeling card table that she used as a desk, in her dingy Mercy Island apartment, tapping her pencil on her notepad.
She looked over the section of the timeline she'd carefully laid out, detailing her memories of her past and this world's future, with connecting dotted lines to a second timeline representing events since her arrival on January 15th, 2005. Something was wrong with the timeline, certain events still connected, despite radical changes caused by her existence in the past. She checked the corresponding dates again, five times each, One, two, three, four, five.
That bond grew stronger again, and she heard footsteps in her mind, if not her ears, as Midnight Girl ascended the rickety steps up to Blackslash's apartment. The knock on the door came at the precise moment she'd predicted.
"Enter," she said in her minimal, monotone style, and the door swung open with a creak.
"I have something terribly important to tell you. I can't tell anyone else, you're the only one that would understand," said Midnight Girl as she looked with distaste around the single-room apartment, glancing at the notebook. She leaned over to get a closer look before wrinkling her nose and backing off. Blackslash made a mental note, use communal shower after meeting.
Midnight Girl paused, expecting a response, but getting only a blank stare from the glowing purple eyes on Blackslash's mask. "It's about Nemesis."
Blackslash shifted in her chair.
"I need you to assure me that you won't tell anyone else what I am about to tell you, is that clear?" Midnight Girl snapped, tapping her foot.
Impatience, thought Blackslash. "Understood."
The taller woman launched into a long and convoluted story about her homeworld, and how she once had a daughter come back from the future as well, to attempt to stop Nemesis's reign. She paused, presumably to give Blackslash some time to react. She didn't.
"It didn't work for her either, do you know why?" Another pause with no response.
Melodrama, thought Blackslash.
"Because he came back too, and changed things after her!" Midnight Girl shouted into the emotionless mask.
"Hrmnh," Blackslash muttered, running the information against what she already knew, adjusting probability numbers in her head.
Exasperated, Midnight Girl folded her arms and said, "well, if you really aren't that interested, I don't see the point in telling you how to stop it," and turned to walk out.
Blackslash stood, the chair sliding noisily out from behind her. "Explain."
Midnight Girl turned back to face her almost-daughter. "It's a causality loop."
Midnight Girl relaxed her arms, lifting one to draw an imaginary timeline in the air as she continued, "I discovered what had happened after it was too late for me to do anything about it. At one point in my world's timeline, a young woman that was very much like you came back in time, and told me that I had a child, her, on October 31st, 2005. The thing is, I didn't have a child, because her presence in the timeline changed it enough to prevent it. This created a second timeline, one in which, when it plays out, Nemesis uses the same time travel technology that she used to come back in time in an attempt to fix what she's changed. This creates a third and final timeline that causes itself in a perfect loop that can never be broken, causing that future to be eternal!" Midnight Girl's eyes flared, almost as if in triumph.
Blackslash rubbed her chin, skeptical. "Explain how you could know about more than one timeline."
Midnight Girl sighed, "My world is stuck in that final causality loop. Each time my daughter comes back and tells me what has happened before, and then I pass that knowledge on to her after she is born. The knowledge is never specific enough to allow us to avoid our fate-- my daughter always forgets the same important details. But one thing she never forgets is that, in the second timeline, Nemesis arrived on November 28th, 2007."
Blackslash checked the date on her headset's readout, "three days from now," she said. 5 days from the waveform.
Midnight Girl nodded, "Yes. He came disguised as someone else, and tricked me into going back in time to help him stop some great evil. It was the completion of this task that twisted my world into the third timeline, resulted in my daughter's birth in that timeline, and created the unbreakable causality loop. If I hadn't gone, the birth of my daughter would have remained prevented, Nemesis never would have gotten ahold of her time machine, and the future would have been fixed by her first trip."
Blackslash rubbed her chin again. "This world is in timeline two. In three days Nemesis shows up in disguise, takes Night-Girl. Hrmnh."
"You know what has to be done. We don't know who Nemesis will show up as, and neither of us is powerful enough to stop the Nemesis of the future, so we must prevent Night-Girl from going with him. And there's only one way to be sure of that." Midnight Girl smiled grimly.
Blackslash glanced at her notes, did some mental calculations, and determined that this malevolent reflection of her mother was probably right. Murdering Night-Girl was the best possible option to prevent the time loop and secure the future.
Chapter 3: The Execution
Hiding in plain sight with the cloaking device in the suit her godfather gave her, Blackslash adjusted her visual enhancements to compensate for the sheets of rain pouring down onto the docks in Bloody Bay. She felt the second, more powerful bond grow stronger. Night-Girl would be here any minute.
Midnight Girl stood about 10 meters away, cloaked in the aura of darkness that followed her whenever she desired, the rain hissing as it hit the lunar radiation shield she'd created to protect herself from the annoying wetness. She grinned as Night-Girl appeared from the shadows around the corner of an abandoned warehouse.
"Okay, I'm here, alone, as per the agreement. I'll listen, you let him go, and then I'll help you with whatever your dirty deed is. Let's get this over with," Night-Girl grumbled, her hair, cape, and costume absolutely drenched from the rain.
Blackslash frowned more, not liking the dishonesty involved in the trap, but understanding its necessity. Earlier that morning, the Praetorian had masqueraded as Night-Girl, infiltrated Paragon City, and kidnapped one of the hero's civilian contacts. The man struggled in one of the barrels behind them.
"I just want to talk about a little truce," said Midnight Girl, insincerity dripping from her lips. "We have a mutual enemy that I'm going to be needing your help with, and I figured I needed a little insurance to make sure you were interested."
"Just spit it out, who is this mutual enemy?" Night-Girl demanded, eyes flaring in anger.
"Oh, you're not going to find out who it is, you're just going to help." Midnight Girl snapped her fingers, and Blackslash appeared from nowhere, stabbing the three claw blades from her right hand into her mother's ribs. Night-Girl cried out in pain, but shoved and spun away at accelerated speed, knocking her daughter back and off her feet.
Midnight Girl fired pure lunar radiation from her eyes, using Night-Girl's frantic spin against her as she simply glanced up and down to carve a burning spiral into the hero's torso. The wicked sorceress dashed forward as her noble counterpart stopped and concentrated, healing her wounds instantly. A fresh new wound replaced the old as she took a concentrated blast of energy into her abdomen, burning through her costume and blasting a hole in the flesh beneath. Ignoring the pain, she punched Midnight Girl in the face, tearing through skin with the matter-disrupting darkness wrapped around her fist.
Blackslash, back on her feet, swept her right hand through the air at eye level, spraying blinding black powder into her mother's face as her dark reflection doubled back from the impact of the blow she'd just taken. Closing the distance and following up with a diagonal swipe from her left hand, Blackslash gashed her mother deeply as she desperately tried to rub the stinging powder from her eyes. Midnight Girl, now recovered, unleashed waves of magical terror upon her twin, forcing her to cower against a wall.
The battle did not go well for Night-Girl, as her doppelganger and daughter overwhelmed her, her body unable to heal the wounds faster than they were delivered, and her fists unable to connect with her foes during the moments that she was able to resist the arcane horror imposed upon her mind. After only a few minutes of this onslaught, she collapsed to the ground.
Blackslash looked down at her mother, lying in a pool of her own blood, spent of all energy that might otherwise have healed her wounds. She brought her right hand up, claws extended, but hesitated.
"Kill her NOW! " Midnight Girl urged desperately, her right hand glowing hot with lunar radiation, and strangely added, "Sever the bond and her power will be added to yours, Nemesis will not be able to stop you!"
Blackslash stopped entirely. This didn't make sense-- killing Night-Girl would break the causality loop, and Nemesis's access to time travel would be wiped from the timeline. Why would she need to defeat him as well? Also, if Midnight Girl wanted her duplicate dead so badly, why did she not finish her off herself? She appears ready to do so. And what was this about severing the bond?
"What are you waiting for?" screamed Midnight-Girl, her hand pulsing with power.
There was that tone again, the one Blackslash had heard in the League of Evil's stronghold. Now she recognized it for what it was. Fear.
Her eyes went wide and her mind raced, placing this new variable into every event that occurred since Midnight Girl had set foot in the League of Evil's stronghold yesterday evening. Understanding fell into place like a jigsaw puzzle that had hinged on a single piece which she hadn't known was missing.
Unique waveform on June 12th, 2006-- 5 days before Midnight Girl's arrival in this dimension.
Same waveform, 3 days ago.
Waveform predicting arrival of entity is magical in nature. Time machine was not, therefore, entity is not Nemesis.
Midnight Girl has never offered any kind of assistance until today.
Story about time loop likely a ruse to serve other purpose.
Never before witnessed tone from Midnight Girl: Fear
Midnight Girl fled her dimension, from what?
Killing mother to sever bond causes absorption of her power. Reverse is also likely true.
Mother and Midnight Girl share a mutual enemy.
Midnight Girl doesn't really have a daughter in her world.
Also share bond with Midnight Girl, unaddressed by her until this moment.
Midnight Girl appears ready to kill someone, but not Night-Girl.
Likelihood of relevancy to past, present, or future Nemesis plot: 0.0%
The implications hit Blackslash like a blast from the arm cannon of a Kronos Titan. This had nothing whatsoever to do with Nemesis. Midnight Girl intends to kill me after I kill Night-Girl, absorbing the power from us both, before she is forced to face her own mother, who is following her to this dimension.
She blinked, and looked at her mother, lying on the blood and rain soaked dock. The purple glow from the optics in Blackslash's mask sputtered, and died out-- she never had waterproofed the inside. "Sanity," she said, "I'd forgotten how it felt."
She then knelt down, removed her left glove, placed it in her mother's hand with claws extended, and impaled herself upon them, right through the heart.
Tanya walked softly through the Liberty League's dormitory halls after midnight in her pajamas, unable to sleep, going over that horrible battle from the night before in her mind, and pondering the new strength she felt.
After Blackslash sacrificed herself, Night-Girl had felt a radiant warmth enter her, stronger than anything she'd ever felt, even during a full moon. The warmth carried emotion: repentance, redemption, and the calm relief one feels when finally coming home after a long and terrible absence.
That warmth also carried something else: power. She'd used that power to defeat her evil twin, who had screamed not in pain or loss when Blackslash died, but in rage and fear. After mere seconds in the face of Night-Girl's newfound potential, Midnight Girl had fled the docks of Bloody Bay, and the hostage had been freed.
She shook her head, wanting to rid it of the images from that night. Trying to pretend like she didn't know why, she found herself in her daughter's old room, which had been untouched for just over two years.
On the night that Blackslash attacked Night-Girl and fled the League, Americop insisted on having Blackslash's room searched in case of booby traps, time bombs, or day-old donuts (he'd shared an afternoon snack with her the day before, and was positive that he'd ordered three Bismarks). They found nothing but the single bed, simple desk, chair, desk lamp, and pencil that they'd given her the day she moved in. Tonight, the only difference was a heavy layer of dust.
Tanya slowly ran her middle finger across the desk, clearing a thin path through the dust. She stopped when she reached the pencil, and then rolled that back and forth on the desk as she searched for some emotion that she thought she should feel. Should it be anger over the horrifying plan that her Praetorian double had concocted to kill them both out of a lust for power? Guilt that she'd been unable to keep one of her teammates from turning to evil two years ago? Satisfaction that Blackslash's recent career of assassination and terrorism was finally over? Grief over a daughter she never actually gave birth to, and who never allowed her any significant emotional interaction?
Unable to decide, and wishing that she had access to that time machine that had been built in the alternate future from which her daughter was sent so that she wouldn't have to, she sat down heavily on the bed in a puff of dust. Coughing briefly, she stood up again and tore the thin bedspread off onto the floor so that she could at least have one more try at receiving a small bit of satisfaction from slumping down onto the bed without having it ruined so easily. It didn't really help, so she put her head in her hands and asked herself how she could make some sense of all of this.
As if in answer, she heard a light knock on the side of the open door. Tanya looked up slowly, hoping it wouldn't be the one person that she figured would just confuse her even more.
First she saw tennis shoes and a pair of men's jeans. That ruled out a few people. The suitcase was odd, and gave her the sinking fear that it might be someone coming to tell her, now of all times, that he was moving out. She looked up a little further, to see a simple leather belt and a black leather jacket that he never seems to take off, she thought, and instantly snapped up to see his face.
"Hey. Um, is this a bad time?" he asked.
She sighed in relief. "You have no idea how bad, but I really could use some easy company right now. So, honestly, and unsurprisingly, you picked the best possible time to show up again." She forced a smile, and patted the space beside her on the bed. "It's good to have you back. Have a seat," she said, and rubbed her eyes with her other hand.
"Yeah, I guess that's not very surprising, is it?" John Smith, also known as The Improbable Man, set his suitcase beside the door and walked over to the bed, tripping spectacularly in the process and landing with his head nearly in Tanya's lap before she caught him.
"That's not really the kind of company I was hoping for, John," she said as she helped him back up to his feet.
John turned beet red and stammered, "I didn't... that was an--"
"Don't worry about it, I'm just teasing you." Tanya looked at the floor behind him as he brushed the dust off the lower-front half of his jeans from where his shins had hit the floor. "Yeah, incredible timing, as usual," she added, and walked over to where he'd tripped.
John continued to stammer, as he tended to in situations like these. "I'm so sorry. Oh geez, I hope you don't think I was using that as an excuse to--"
"I told you I was teasing," she said as she knelt down and brushed the remaining dust away from the area where he'd tripped. "Here, look at this." She traced her fingernail around the edge of the tile, and found that the grout had a thin gap in the middle of it all the way around the edge of the tile.
John regained his composure, but still looked flushed. "You think there's something in there?" he said as he squatted down beside her.
"Yes, but I'm not sure how to lift it up. The gap isn't wide enough to pry the tile up without removing the rest of the grout, but clearly she was able to get it..." she stopped and looked at John. "I wonder if there's something metal underneath. She once said that her anti-gravity belt worked using magnetics." She paused and frowned.
John looked confused. "Uh, who are we talking about, here?"
Tanya cocked her head. "Blackslash. Don't you remember... oh, you joined several months after she left."
"Okay... who is she?" John asked.
Tanya pinched the bridge of her nose and shook her head. "It's complicated. For now let's just say she was a Leaguer that turned to villainy and leave it at that."
"Okay." John was curious at this point, but didn't want to push. Night-Girl had always been known to be irritable when under stress.
Tanya sighed. "I really don't want to wait until tomorrow, but I guess I have to. Anybody with the ability to levitate this thing is asleep, and I don't know where I'm going to find a magnet powerful enough to lift whatever is under there."
John raised an eyebrow. "Oh, you need a magnet?" He stood up, walked over to his suitcase, and unzipped it. "I figure whatever you find under that tile is going to be private, so I'll be heading to my room after I've explained how to use this," he said while rummaging through the bag. He then pulled out a fist-sized cylinder with several buttons set into a hand-molded grip, and held it out. "It's quite powerful, just point it over the tile and slowly press the ring-finger button. Don't press any of the other buttons, please." She accepted the device with incredulous eyes. "You know, that's actually one of the reasons I came back, I need to find a way to destroy it," he said as he zipped the suitcase back up.
Tanya stopped gawking at the device, looked up and managed a genuine smile, "you never cease to amaze me."
"You have no idea how often I hear that," John said as he picked up his suitcase, and left the room.
Tanya activated the device, and the tile slowly rose from the ground to reveal that it was glued to the top of a small metal box with a hole in one side. She reached inside, pulled out a small, spiral bound notebook, and opened it to the first page.
Jan. 15th, 2005 06:20 pm: Day 1: Arrived.
This was Blackslash's journal.