Signs of the apocalypse are said to usually be something ominous like day turning to night, rivers of blood, swarms of insects and the like. When it came to heat waves however, especially in late fall and early winter, people tended to consider them a blessing. Thus it was that no one in New Oslo really seemed to mind when, following Thanksgiving, the temperatures were in the high seventies on the Fahrenheit scale. It was this, however, that was the sign of what was to come.
Since ancient times several beings, considered by the ancient peoples to be gods when in fact they were merely powerful magicians, controlled the destiny of the world. As time went on many died out, leaving only a few, such as Shina-to-Be and Loki, who'd mastered the art of immortality. Loki was known in Norse myths to be the god of mischief, when in fact he was more appropriately the god of chaos. It was Loki who influenced Jacques Hadamard to work on the concept of chaos theory. What's more is Loki created two primary servants, Tick and Tock, who existed only to cause chaos with their impressive powers. Loki also employed several human servants over the years, tempting them with the idea of power. These people included Dungeon Master and Rune the Magician, both of whom had now lost their power. Due to the recent failings in New Oslo Loki decided it was time to cause real chaos.
Around the world there existed ten special stone creations, each appearing to be a sort of ancient clock such as a sun dial or hour glass. These stones were created by one of the first great magicians, Uranus, to change the Earth's rotation. These stones worked to cover the Earth in a time-bubble, making the days longer than they were before Uranus created the artifacts. The ten stones became known as the Time Keys and it was said if a person shifted one it could cause a serious time-related disturbance. Rune's magical hourglass, which could seemingly stop time, was created from a piece of one of the Time Keys which just so happened to be in New Oslo, Odin Park to be exact. The park was where Tick and Tock constantly hid, where Lilly frequently jogged and where Gorgun had often attacked people before being jailed.
It was a sunny mid-morning when Tick and Tock received their orders from their master. Neither goblin was too pleased but Loki had created them and could easily destroy them due to their link, thus the duo was forced to obey. The two goblins quickly gathered around the Time Key in the park, which was a large sun dial about four feet tall. The area had several trees and they were invisible to the human eye but all the same Tick and Tock created a time-bubble around the area so that they would go unnoticed, freezing a nearby picnic which consisted of several college students and a brown Labrador, the dog frozen in mid-air right before its teeth could clamp down on a Frisbee thrown by a short blond in a pink tank top and blue jeans.
“Lets do it!” exclaimed Tick and, standing on top of the Time Key, he and Tock wanted towards each other, their arms extended in front of them, their index fingers moving in to touch.
“With a Tick and a Tock, time flows forward,” chanted the pair, speaking in one voice with a heavy echo as the duo glowed blue. “When the two are one, it is Clockwork!” In an instant the two goblins became pure blue energy, their physical forms fading as the energy drifted together in a whole, lightning scorching the nearby area and burning holes in both the ground and nearby trees. The Frisbee the dog was going for even melted in mid-air, going from solid plastic to liquid soup.
A full minute later the blob of blue energy turned green and grew to a massive nine feet in height and was the width and thickness of an average human. Shortly afterwards the energy pulse faded, leaving in its place a tall green creature that seemed to be emitting a sort of steam or smoke. The creature was humanoid, possessing two arms and two legs as well as a head. It did however lack hair and had a somewhat long and tight face that made it look like it was sucking on a dozen sour balls. For clothing creature wore a pair of shorts that did a poor job of hiding anything other than the crotch area.
“At last I am one again,” breathed the creature, looking down at its hands and smiling. “I shall thank my master for this freedom by doing as I have been commanded.” Standing on top of the sun dial, the creature raised its arms into the air and began to chant quietly in a dialect that combined Latin with other languages including Greek and Spanish. This caused the Time Key to begin to darken, going from a boring gray to a darker shade that a paint expert would call Fiji Nights.
Lady Justice was on the other side of town as the new creature was working its magic, overseeing the opening of the new Justice Force HQ. The building was a four story complex with a helicopter pad on top and various transmitters and the like as well. Elsa's laboratory space would be moved to the building once it was officially open, but for the now scientist was at her old place with Claire working on genetic research. On the steps of the new building Mayor Rushmore stood with gigantic scissors, ready to cut the ribbon held by Miss Ocean and Judgement Girl while she herself stood next to Queen Pixie and Lady Justice. Nathan, Lilly, Jenny, Maria and Lockdown were down in the crowd watching intently. “And with this, the Justice Force will now be officially welcome in our fair city!” declared the mayor as she moved the scissors to cut the ribbon. What no one noticed, however, was that as the scissors clamped down time itself began to slow. At first it was merely as if the mayor was moving with dramatic effect but quite soon it was as if she were a robot running out of power. Finally, right as the blades of the cutting tool touched the crimson ribbon, the mayor froze, her face beaming a proud smile. No one noticed this however, as everyone and everything in New Oslo was just as frozen as the mayor. Time had stopped.
Back at the park the creature stepped off of the Time Key which was now as black as a photographer's dark room. By creating a time-bubble inside the Time Key time not just in New Oslo but the entire state had now stopped, and that was just the beginning. Like an expanding cloud the magic was sweeping over the entire planet, moving at the speed of ten kilometers a minute. Soon the entire Earth would be frozen in time. Loki had ordered Tick and Tock to do this and keep time this way until the Earth had rotated another sixth of the way around the sun, causing it to be February thus when time resumed it would be a cold snap in North America, causing the people there to suffer. It was even predicted that some would die, but Loki wanted to push the limits of chaos itself. Tick and Tock, now merged, had no choice but to obey lest Loki destroy them.
“This is worse than last time!” cursed Time Knight, one of the few being on the planet exempt from the magic of the Time Keys. As one of the Chroniclers, a human destined to be an observer as mankind aged, Connor knew this was the worst temporal disaster in the history of the world. Unfortunately Connor had no way to communicate with the other nine Chroniclers around the planet, there being one for each Time Key, thus he would have to solve the problem himself. Another problem however was that the new creature had bonded with the Time Key, meaning if Connor killed it it would destroy the key, causing a global disaster worse than the flash winter Loki had planned for. Connor would need help from someone who had experience with Tick and Tock. Fortunately there were quite a few local people that could be of service.
After a quick telekinetic flight across town Time Knight arrived at Elsa's lab. The attractive French scientist stood next to her generic round metal garbage can, looking down as her right hand was raised and loose, a crumpled piece of paper frozen in the air half-way between her hand and the trash. Claire sat at a desk nearby, frozen while writing something on a piece of paper, her pen in her right hand touching the paper while her left held the sheet where it was. Seeing as there was some numbers on the monitor next to her Time Knight figured she was making a note of something.
"Sorry to disturb your sleep, but you're needed," Time Knight told a currently deaf Elsa as his hands glowed, his sword sheathed on his back for this. A few moments later the older scientist suddenly moved, her hand returning to her side as she bent to examine the frozen paper that hung in the air. "Hello," offered Time Knight, causing Elsa to jump.
"Ah, who are you?!" demanded Elsa, her hands moving to the pockets of her coat.
"Relax, my dear, I'm not your enemy," offered Time Knight, raising his hands. Elsa hesitated for a moment and then removed her hands from her pockets, instead putting them on her hips.
"Alright, what's going on here?" demanded Elsa. "Is this time-bubble, a stasis field, what?"
"The worst kind of time-bubble," admitted Connor. "Tick and Tock have returned and merged to become a monster with incredible power. He's accessed one of the world's Time Keys, which just so happens to be in Odin Park, and is now stopping time on a global scale. Even worse, the only method I know of for defeating this new threat is to kill it, and if we do that the Time Key might be destroyed and time will be stuck this way forever."
"That's the worst case scenario?" asked Elsa, confused as to what half of what Time Knight had said.
"No, the worst is all the Time Keys explode in a chain reaction and the entire Earth becomes nothing but rubble," Time Knight told the scientist. "I'm one of the ten Chroniclers, the ancient protectors of time itself. I can unfreeze quite a few people to help give us a fighting chance at a solution that doesn't involve a disaster. Have you got anyone in mind for our little dream team?"
"The Justice Force, naturally," Elsa told Connor. "So have you got a name or should I just call you Chronicler?"
"I go by Time Knight, but my name's Connor, Elsa," offered Time Knight, taking the woman's right hand and kissing it. "Well, lets go grab some allies before the monster manages to freeze the entire planet!"
Elsa was going to ask how Time Knight intended to get to the others but quickly found herself being lifted off her feet and floating out the window, Connor doing the same as the reinforced screen somehow opened by itself. "This is... telekinesis!" exclaimed Elsa, realizing what was going on.
"A very handy power to have," explained Connor, pulling the scientist closer to himself so the pair held hands as they flew over the city towards Justice Force Headquarters. "I inherited this sword a long time ago which grants me several powers, including this as well as phasing, hypnosis and the ability to cut through any substance known to man."
"The Justice Force could use someone like you," observed Elsa as she took delight in flying above the frozen city, the pair avoiding several flocks of birds.
"Not allowed, I'm afraid," confessed Time Knight. "I'm not supposed to take an active role in world events unless it has something to do with time being disrupted. Of course, I've known a few who've bent that rule in the past..." Shortly afterwards the new structure came into view and Time Knight and Elsa touched down on the opposite side of the ribbon from the Mayor and the two heroines that flanked her.
"Okay, we should take Lady Justice, Judgement Girl, Miss Ocean, Queen Pixie, Nathan, Lockdown..." Elsa declared as she pointed at the people she named. "I guess we could take Lilly, since she's been perfect bait for the pair in the past. Oh, we should also unfreeze Claire, who we left back in the lab." Elsa was a bit embarrassed that she'd forgotten about her own assistant.
"It's no problem, we'll just head back that way," declared Time Knight gesturing with his hands. A moment later Elsa was again plucked from the ground, as were everyone she'd just indicated, though they remained motionless like statues. Miss Ocean and Judgement Girl had the ribbon slide out from their hands, the impressive posterity item remaining fixed in the air despite no one holding it. The seven immobile people were pressed together with Elsa, forming a collection of awkwardly assembled people that looked like a floating dog pile. Elsa herself was pressed against Judgement Girl and Miss Ocean, the latter's lips pressed against her right ear while Judgement Girl's crotch was being rubbed by Elsa's left knee. "Sorry, but its hard to fly right with a bunch of loose objects," apologized Time Knight as he and his collection flew off back to the lab.
Meanwhile back in Odin Park the merged goblin sensed something amiss. Ideally he shouldn't of been able to sense anything moving within the new time-bubble, which by no had consumed nearly all of North America. The creature, recalling the existence of Time Knight, decided to stop for a moment to deal with the hero before he ruined everyone. The giant goblin left from the Time Key and lumbered off, well aware for where the movement was coming from.
* * *
"How'd we get back here?" asked Lady Justice, as disoriented as the rest. After arriving at the lab Time Knight and quickly left, unfreezing those Elsa had requested before doing so. Connor had mentioned something about there being one more ally they could recruit and then flown off, leaving Elsa to explain the situation to the city's chosen champions, as well as Lilly.
"I brought you here," explained Elsa as everyone got up from the awkward pile they'd been laying in on the floor. Only Miss Ocean and Queen Pixie hadn't appeared to mind being stuck so close to everyone when they'd been unfrozen. "Not to long ago, from my perspective anyhow, Tick and Tock merged to become a new creature who's using what's called a Time Key to stop time on a global scale. I'm not really sure how I was protected, but in any event I brought you all back here so we could figure out how to stop Tick and Tock before they stop the entire planet."
"Wait, wasn't there a great creature in Norse mythology similar to Tick and Tock but more powerful?" chimed in Judgement Girl, remembering her high school mythology lessons. "Yeah, it was called Clockwork, a monster that was enslaved by Odin. Since Tick and Tock serve Loki, I wonder if Odin had Clockwork split in two or something?"
"I can't believe we're using mythology to get our information, but that's good enough for me," sighed Claire, rubbing her head. "Where's this Time Key located and how do you plan to stop this guy without him stopping us?"
"I don't know," admitted Elsa. "Because it's one creature we can't just split Tick and Tock up and be safe from them stopping time. If our archives weren't frozen I'd raid them for information on the creature..."
"You want information?!" bellowed a voice suddenly as the lab's roof caved in, burying a surprised Lady Justice and Nathan. "Why not ask me myself?!" With that the tall, lanky goblin known as Clockwork jumped down on top of the ceiling rubble that buried to of the city's best fighters, both stunned from the drop. Immediately Queen Pixie raised her wand but Clockwork was faster, exhaling a red mist that caused the young heroine to freeze in place, her wand raised above her head in her right hand. A moment later Pixie's entire body sounded like it was crackling, not unlike Rice Krispies after milk was poured on them, and her skin tone, dress, hair and wand all changed into the same granite gray. Clockwork had the ability to turn people to stone merely by breathing on them, it seemed.
Claire and Judgement Girl both ducked for cover as Clockwork began to leap around the room, breathing on whomever he got close to. Elsa was the next one to be petrified, Clockwork coming up behind her as grasped for something in a desk drawer, her right hand holding the handle while her left reached forward into the sliding container, her face frozen in stone with panic. Nathan and Lady Justice slid out from under the rubble as Clockwork went after Lockdown, who'd been firing her weapon at the creature. With amazing agility Clockwork dodged every shot, knocking the weapon away and then grabbing Lockdown by her wrists, his breath hitting her square in the face as her eyes went wide, her mouth hanging open. A moment later she too was a statue as Lady Justice pulled out the object Elsa had been going for from the drawer while Nathan scurried after Lockdown's gun. Miss Ocean stood by the sink and launched a torrent of water at Clockwork, something which got an odd reaction. The goblin ideally had no reason to be afraid of water as it wasn't that deadly to people, yet the goblin snarled like one who was aggressively afraid, his long arms flailing and knocking Miss Ocean down.
"Leave us alone!" screamed Lilly as she threw the lab's fire extinguisher at Clockwork, hitting his head but apparently doing no damage. The goblin merely turned and smiled, leaping over Lilly and breathing on her as he did so, petrifying her before he hit the ground. Lilly now stood as a granite statue, her body turned slightly to the left, her arms attempting to shield her, her eyes closed as was her mouth. Miss Ocean attempted to rise to her feet but was breathed on while trying to stand up straight, her knees bent low, her arms the same, her eyes out of focus and even a hint of drool on the corner of her mouth as she was yet another person in the lab to be turned to stone.
Clockwork had then turned his attention to Claire and Judgement Girl, who were hiding behind Elsa's desk, but Nathan popped up behind him and fired Lockdown's paralysis ray, causing the massive goblin to freeze in place, his arms raised menacingly as he looked ready to leap over the desk and petrify the two women. "Good work lover," offered Lady Justice as she stood, as did Claire and Judgement Girl.
"That probably won't hold him for long," feared Nathan as he walked over to join the others. "What was Elsa going for?"
"This," revealed Lady Justice, holding up a round black ball. "In case the lab was ever compromised, Elsa had this and the special sealing procedure. We set the timer, we lock down the lab and get over the park so we can unfreeze time."
"Blow up the lab?" commented Judgement Girl, uneasy.
"We have no choice," pointed out Claire. "I'll set the bomb, since I helped Elsa build it. You three get the others out of the room." Moving as fast they could, Lady Justice, Nathan and Judgement Girl gathered up the five stone women, carrying them out into the hall near the stairs, well away from the controlled explosion.
"I think Lilly put on a little weight," joked Judgement Girl as she lugged her petrified friend out of the lab while Claire placed the powerful explosive near the paralyzed Clockwork.
"Okay, the bomb is set, let’s lock this room down!" shouted Claire after the five statuesque women were clear of the lab. Moving fast Lady Justice and Nathan worked the manual cranks, causing the windows to be sealed by titanium panels along with the broken ceiling. The front door was still open enough so that the courageous couple could slide out before it clamped down and the bomb went off, Claire and Judgement Girl having exited before the panels came down.
Two minutes later there was a muffled explosion in the background as Claire, Lady Justice, Judgement Girl and Nathan walked down the streets of New Oslo, their destination Odin Park. The five petrified women had been left behind, safe enough now that Clockwork had been incinerated. After trying in vain to get a car to move Nathan, Claire and Judgement Girl ended up borrowing three bikes from a group of kids while Lady Justice flew, making the trip go much faster. Claire however hadn't used a bike in a while, preferring to jog, and ended up knocking over a few people as the moved down the street.
A short time later the group arrived at Odin Park where, unsurprisingly, time was still frozen. The group of four soon found the Time Key, as it wasn't far from a path. "Any idea how we disable that thing?" asked Nathan.
"I'll need to study it," Claire told him and the other two. "Lets get a closer look..." The four, Claire leading, then walked up the grassy knoll to where the object sat, passing a blond jogger in a white track suit, her hair sitting out behind her and hanging in the air. Soon Claire was within only a few feet of the Time Key, but as she tried to raise her left foot, which was currently trailing, she found herself unable to. "What the...?" she muttered.
"Hey, my feet are stuck!" exclaimed Judgement Girl, who was on Claire's right.
"Mine too!" realized Lady Justice from Claire's left.
"Crap, same here!" said Nathan from behind the three. "Oh no... look at your feet!"
"No!" screamed Claire, taking Nathan's advice. The scientist's heeled shoes, which were supposed to be red, were instead that of granite. The change wasn't just there, however, as everything up to the bottom of Claire's knees were in the same state. Lady Justice, Judgement Girl and even Nathan had the same problem, though the petrification was a bit lower down on their legs than with Claire.
"But... this isn't supposed to be possible!" cursed Nathan, wondering why his natural immunity wasn't working.
"Claire, reach for the sun dial!" shouted Lady Justice as she lost the use of her knees. "Vicky, Nathan, try to throw yourselves backwards!" Judgement Girl and Nathan tried to obey the order but could not get any movement from their lower bodies. It was as if their feet were rooted to the ground itself.
"I can't reach it!" cried Claire, unable to move her waist, her hands fully extended in front of her. "I need... ah, my shoulders!" Claire, unable to turn her neck, glanced at her right arm out of the corner of her eyes and saw it too had turned to stone. A moment later Claire's mind stopped processing thoughts as her head was fully petrified, glasses and all, her mouth frozen in a silent scream. It took another second for her fingers to change as well, finishing the transformation.
"Claire!" cried Judgement Girl, raising her left arm only to see her own hand had become stone, locked into a fist. A moment later Victoria's arm locked in the position, making it look like she was throwing an awkward punch. "Jess, help m-" Judgement Girl was cut off as she tried to form the letter 'e', her tongue petrifying a split second before her eyes.
"Nathan!" cried Lady Justice, her right hand taking his left, their arms outstretched as they turned to stone. "Is this the end...?" she asked her fiancée.
"... I love you, Jess," was all Nathan manged to say with a smile, making Lady Justice smile back as they looked at one another, their arms turning to stone. A moment later the two finished their metamorphosis and all that was left was four statues standing in front of a sundial.
"Boo," said Clockwork almost an hour later, coming up on the four statues. "Nice try, but I'm not so easily destroyed." True to his words, Clockwork, to all appearances, was unharmed. Heat couldn't damage him, and the shrapnel from the blast he'd merely frozen in mid-air. "Ah, four petrified fools, not familiar with fossilization defense I placed around this area. What to do...?"
"How about you go away!" shouted a familiar voice, but Clockwork was too late. Before he could even fully turn around he felt water splash on his back, causing him to cry out in intense pain, his skin sizzling as he turned and hunched over. Time Knight had returned, and with him was Dan Masters who'd just used water from a simple plastic bottle on Clockwork.
"You knew... my weakness..." rasped Clockwork, realizing his folly.
"I'm a master of Dungeons and Dragons, idiot," laughed Dan. "Of course I know all about ancient myths, including the one about the great Clockwork, about how as a creature born from fire his only weakness was water!" With that Dan sent even more water in Clockwork's direction and the creature couldn't gather the strength to freeze it in the air, instead screaming even more loudly as the front of his body burned. A moment later a pop was heard and, which a puff of smoke, the creature vanished.
"That's it?" asked Dan, shocked and the sudden disappearance.
"What do you think this is, the movies?" snapped Time Knight. "Heck, watch those four. Three... two... one..." Right on cue, time resumed. The jogger continued to jog; the dog from the picnic landed on the ground, the mayor cut the ribbon, despite it nearly hitting the ground. Out by the lab the five women who'd been petrified by Clockwork's breath instantly became flesh and blood, collapsing in a big heap. Meanwhile at the park Claire suddenly tumbled forward, her head hitting the sundial and stunning her briefly while Judgement Girl spotted Dan a few feet away. Nathan and Jessica kissed while the young heroine ran over to meet with Dan.
"What did you do?" asked Judgment Girl, certain Dan had saved the day.
"Oh it wasn't me, it was..." Dan started to say, turning to find Time Knight had vanished. "... was the water. Clockwork was weak against water. His little time stop trick didn't work on me so, after slipping out of my cell, I sneaked up on him and soaked him. I guess he was vaporized or something."
"My hero!" exclaimed Judgement Girl, jumping into Dan's arms, and pushing him down, kissing him all the way down.
* * *
Dan ended up taking all the credit for the defeat of Clockwork, not that Time Knight minded. For his heroic deeds Lockdown decided to pull a few strings and the former villain was released from custody. Dan returned home to his pleased mother and was quickly hired by the Justice Force to work at their New Oslo base as a specialist on the occult as well as to do general odd jobs around the lab as a sort of errand boy. Judgement Girl couldn't of been happier.
Elsa now sat in her new lab at Justice Force HQ, editing the computer file on Tick and Tock to list them as inactive. The ambiguous nature of their disappearance had made the Justice Force not to classify them as terminated, merely gone.
Claire walked up to her scientific superior with a chart. "I've got the readings on the temporal distortions," she told Elsa, who reached out and pulled the chart from her assistant's hand.
"Good, they're down to practically null, like we want," observed Elsa. Claire didn't respond. "Claire?" asked Elsa, glancing up from her seat. Claire stood where she was, her right arm still sticking out as if she were holding the chart, her face looking a bit relaxed. Elsa waved a hand in front of Claire's face as she stood up but got no response.
"Don't worry, this one's mine," explained Time Knight as he walked into the room from the hallway. "I wanted to see you, but I can't let anyone else see me."
"I see," smiled Elsa as she put the chart aside and walked over to Time Knight. "I'm guessing you helped Dan—" Elsa was cut off as Connor put his hands on Elsa's shoulders and leaned in, kissing her in mid-sentence. The scientist didn't even act surprised, merely accepting his gesture. A moment later he leaned away and sighed.
"You will forget ever meeting me," Connor told Elsa who's gaze had become unfocused, her body a bit slack. "If anyone asks you developed a device to shield you from the Time Key, but it only worked once and on you. Dan's story is the truth." Elsa said nothing, hypnotized by Time Knight's power. Connor then picked her up, his arms going around her shoulders and knees, and gently placed her back in her chair as if she were a human doll. "You will sleep for ten minutes, and then awaken, not having remembered falling asleep," Connor ordered, causing Elsa's eyes to close and her head to lean to the side. For good measure Connor then dragged Claire over to another chair in the lab and gave her the same orders after unfreezing her, causing her to bury her head in a desk. Satisfied, Time Knight walked out the door. A short time later the time-bubble faded and all was as it should be.
to be continued...