“God, I hate going to the Super Powereds universe. It’s nothing but kegstands and screwing,” Willow sighed. “Still, just in case things go to pot, better to try and nab Doc Omni as early as possible. That way we at least have other options to fall back on.” Willow looked from Gem to the box, then back to Gem. “Do I get an instructional manual with that thing?”
“Sure do, and it’s only two words long: Don’t Touch.” Gem rested her hand lightly on top of the singularity generator. “We’ll handle creating the singularity. Just give us five minutes with that omnilocator of yours and Peep should be able to fine-tune it so that we can generate them across dimensional barriers.”
“I’m waiting for the ‘but.’ That sounds far too easy.”
“Guess you’re smarter than the outfit would indicate,” Gem said. “Shooting a singularity across space and dimensions requires a target. Your omnilocator is the best option we’ve got. You have to get it on this ‘Doctor Omniverse’ guy and then give us the signal. After that, just make sure you get clear.”
“And how am I supposed to get out without the omnilocator?” Willow asked.
“Once I see your dimensional tech, I bet I can jerry-rig a sort of dimensional bungee-chord to yank you out. It won’t be fancy, and it’ll be a one-shot deal, but it should be enough to send you to your home world.”
“Great, ‘should be,’ two words I always love to hear. On top of that I’ll be basically stuck at home until the portals collapse and I can travel again. How about the signal, do I need a trans-dimensional flare gun to shoot?”
“Pretty sure we can patch into the earpiece you’ve already got.” Gem held out her hand, motioning to the omnilocator on Willow’s belt. “You good with this plan?”
“Not really, but we’re fresh out of other ideas. Besides, it’s the sort of ridiculous all-or-nothing plan I try to avoid. Since none of my own ideas would work, that probably means this one might have a shot.” Willow removed the omnilocator and put in Gem’s hands.
“We’ll be ready to go in five or less. Be ready,” Gem said.
“That’s fine. I need to skim the texts anywhere. There’s a power I want to pick up.”
“Don’t want anything we’ve got around here?”
Willow shook her head. “No. If I’m going to stop Doctor Omniverse, if this plan is going to work, then I know exactly what power I’m bringing to the fight.”
* * *
Soft white powder coated the Lander Campus, unspoiled by footprints despite the mid-morning hour. The students were all home, taking their much deserved winter break, and the meager staff that kept the university running wouldn’t be trudging across the sprawling grounds. They liked to drive right up to their buildings and hurry inside.
It was no accident that Doctor Omniverse had chosen this moment in time to open his portal. While much of this universe was populated by inexperience, over-confident young people, there were also a few beings with incredible power and a willingness to use it. No need to risk conflict when there was the option to slither through unnoticed.
He stepped into the cold air, a sudden shock after the more temperature conditions in the last dimension, and found himself thankful that his outfit included a coat. Three were already done, and he could practically feel the walls between thinning with each completion. So much to still do, but it was encouraging. He felt he might actually pull this whole thing off.
She was standing there, garish purple costume, cape fluttering slightly in the soft wind. Perhaps it had been too much to hope that she would do as she was told and stay out of the way. Still, it wasn’t as though he hadn’t braced for the possibility. Doctor Omniverse reached into himself for his current copied power, a destructive little number that would easily create the chance to slip away. He summoned it up and waited for the chaos to begin.
Instead, a whole lot of nothing happened. His eyes widened in shock, and Willow leapt on the opportunity. She charged him, a clumsy attempt hindered by the loose footing that the snow provided. Bad as it was, it still managed to catch Doc Omni by surprise. They went down in a tangle of limbs, thrashing about like the siblings they were rather than a stoic hero and her wicked foe. The two titans of power-copying and dimension hopping rolled in the snow for several minutes, reduced to nothing more than regular struggling humans, until a single sound signaled one of their defeats.
“Got you,” Willow announced triumphantly. She shook the handcuff that linked her right forearm to his left one, the durite metal filling the crisp air with a light jingling sound.
“Only for the moment,” Doctor Omniverse snapped. His nose was bleeding from a wild elbow he’d taken in the scuffle, droplets falling from his face into the white snow below. “You borrowed Zero’s ability from this world, right? The ability to neutralize other super powers. It’s a handy tool, but I’ve used it as well. The power is too strong, it will last for ten minutes, maybe, and when it’s gone I’ll be out of here.”
“I know.” Willow raised her free hand and tapped on the earpiece. “I’ve planted the omnilocator on Doctor Omniverse. Make sure to do a wide range, in case he manages to get a few feet away.”
“Roger that,” Dave said. “Passing on the message now.”
Doctor Omniverse’s eyes went from Willow’s face, mask knocked slightly askew in the fight, to the device clearly still hanging from her own belt. “What are you doing?”
Willow tapped the earpiece once more, killing the microphone. “Zero’s power, at least the part we can use, requires proximity, as you know. If I try to leave, your abilities come back, and you’ll jump out of here. I can’t let you do that, Perry. I’ve seen what happens if you escape. I had to stop this here, today, now. No matter the cost.”
“Gem says the singularity machine is ready and has a fix on your coordinates,” Dave relayed. “She’s giving a five count to get clear.”
Another tap. “Got it Dave. Tell we’re good to go.” Willow killed the microphone, even as Dave started counting in her ear.
“So you’re sacrificing yourself to save the world. How pathetically idiotic. Whatever this is, whatever cage you build, I’ll just get free again.”
“Maybe you will, but that’s not why I’m doing this.” Willow pulled a scrap of fabric from her belt and pushed it against her little brother’s still bleeding nose. “You were right, before. If I’d stood by you, if I’d been the big sister I should have been, we wouldn’t have ended up here, like this. I can’t change the past, but I don’t have to make the same mistakes either.”
“I thought my little brother was gone. That you were too lost to ever come back. But I met someone who showed me how wrong I was; who proved that you could still change. I got to see that you’re still in there, after all.”
“I’m not leaving you by yourself again, Perry. You’re not alone anymore.” Willow leaned in close and hugged Doctor Omniverse, the madman bent on destroying the entire multiverse, who had once been a small boy in orange sneakers who loved nothing more than going on hikes with his older sibling.
“You’re crazy, this changes nothing.” He tried to spit those words, to keep them detached and biting as he did all his interactions with the outside world that had doubted and rejected him. The rag covering his nose and the thickness in his throat made the effect far less successful than his usual theatrics.
“And you’re stupid. That’s okay, though. Little brothers are supposed to be stupid. That’s why they have big sisters to watch over them.”
“Here it comes, Willow!” Dave shouted these last words, excitement overtaking him as he worked as the go-between for people fighting a battle across multiple universes.
Willow closed her eyes, but that barely helped as a sudden, searing white light engulfed her, Perry, and everything within ten feet around them. Her ears began to ring, subtly at first, but with ever-increasingly power, to the point where she had to grit her teeth. The light, the ringing, all of it was more than she could bear. It felt like it would tear her into pieces. Willow could barely stay conscious. All she thought about, all she focused on, was keeping her grip on Perry.
The searing sensation reached a crescendo, and for a moment Willow was certain she’d slipped over to the other side, that she’d reached in inevitable end of those who took up the mask and cape. Then, suddenly it was over. She heard nothing but silence.
Slowly, with excruciating effort, she opened one of her eyes to look at her surroundings.
Who decides where Willow ended up?