The singularity before the big bang.
Without time and space.
Beyond what would be needed to house a complex intelligence, or for it to be able to construct thoughts to begin with.
Also, far beyond the reach of the existence of the wish-thinking of higher primates to be able to wedge it there.
The big bang.
Matter, energy, time, and gravity are created.
But, still too scrambled for an intelligence to exist.
Fuck you still, higher primate wish-thinking.
The first few billion years.
Matter coalesces into stars and planets, and life arises and evolves on at least one of those planets.
Life on that planet gives rise to the aforementioned wish-thinking higher primates.
Far too late in the game for their wish-thinking fables to explain the nature of the cosmos.
The genesis and evolution of life seems improbable to some of those primates, but that probability shrinks away considering the quadrillions, possibly quintillions of planets, so that not only could it happen, it pretty much HAD to happen, and all the incredulity of the talking apes can't make that go away.
The coalescing of this talking ape species from star-stuff, in effect, could be seen as a slow-motion version of a matter/energy teleporter.
So, all of you out there, you've been disintegrated/reintegrated.
Hope you enjoyed it.
Oh, you weren't conscious for it?
But, one higher primate was conscious for his neurons being proton smashed into miniature big bangs.
This is his story.
We pick it up in the 18th century....
The drawing room of Horatio Allison.
Revolutionary war hero, brewer, print-shop owner, scholar, inventor.
Horatio sat to the right, his mysterious guest sat to the left.
Both of them duded up in their best, powdered wig and all.
"....therefore, I plan on planting more pine trees on the estate", Horatio finished, before refilling his glass with brandy.
The mysterious guest noted the Bible sitting on the writing desk in the corner.
"Tell me, what are you thoughts on religion, Horatio", he asked.
Horatio took a sip, and said "I outright despise it".
"Yes, I've never forgiven those daft puritan jackasses for killing my ancestor, Temperance Allison for the imaginary crime of witchcraft".
The guest looked up to Temperance's portrait up on the wall.
"Understandable", he said with a nod.
"It's not only that particular crime, but also because my family has been all this time rebuilding our name and fortune because of those barbaric bumpkins. I plan on spiting everything they stood for one day by founding a new community built on the principles of enlightenment. I shall call it Pine Nut Cove".
"After your blessed trees".
"Of course! There, all superstition will be abolished, perhaps even outlawed. You won't be able to gain entry to its gates unless you're carrying a book".
"Even a Bible?".
"Why, yes. So long as they read it, they're thinking. Bumpkins don't read a Bible, they have it read to them by bigots and charlatans. I recommend vigorous Bible reading for everyone. It makes more atheists".
The guest liked what he heard, and smiled.
"Well, that brings me to why I came here", he said.
Horatio took another sip of brandy, and listened.
"You're an inventor, imagine you somehow build a universal machine. A machine that can do just about anything. Now, imagine that one of this machine's functions, is that it can construct improved versions of itself. Those improved machines in turn improve upon themselves, and so on. Imagine, that eventually, the machines recycle the parts of the intervening machines, until they've merged into an ultimate machine that directly improves upon itself".
Horatio kept listening with rapt attention, and nodded along.
"Imagine this ultimate machine constructs a seeing machine, and a hearing machine, and then you feed into it all of the books on your library shelves here, and it becomes educated. Imagine that through its improved education, and continued mechanical self improvement, it gains an imagination. Now, imagine it constructs special glasses that allow you to see into its imagination, and it imagines what's in your books, the way we do when we read. Imagine that the glasses give a perfect three dimensional image, to the point you feel you're entering the world of the book the machine imagines for you".
"Fascinating, do go on", Horatio said, refilling his glass.
"Now, if you had such a machine at your disposal, you could enter perfect historical re-creations, and talk to your ancestors. Even old Temperance up there. Now, suppose a man of the future made such a machine, and all of this was the simulation".
Horatio paused, and then said "are you saying what I think you are?".
The guest nodded and smiled.
"Okey-dokey", he said, and with that, the guest's clothing morphed, like paint melting and then un-melting into a new image.
This new person was 6 foot tall, with brown spiky hair, wearing green visor sunglasses, sporting a tattoo on the left side of his forehead of a liquid-y red skull surrounded by electron rings as big around as a thumb, and covering a burn scar as big around as a pencil eraser.
He wore blue workboots, blue pants, a turquoise shirt, over which was a molded plastic black chest-plate armor with epaulets.
On the epaulets were larger decal versions of his tattoo symbol, and across the chest-plate were the numbers "2014", in teal indicating his date of origin.
On his wrists, were two black gauntlets made of the same plastic as the chest armor, and covering his hands were robot-y looking ski-gloves the same color as his shirt.
He wore a generic looking blue belt, but molded into the red metallic buckle was yet another iteration of the skull-atom logo.
"I...am Commander Continuum. Well, that's my traveling alias, anyway, and I am the man from 2014".
Horatio sat down his glass, and said "you look absolutely ridiculous".
"Well, you'd look ridiculous in my time, my friend", the Commander shot back.
"No, you truly look an absolute fool, Future-Man", said Horatio with a giggle at the end of it.
"No, that's somebody else", corrected the Commander.
"Tell me of your method of locomotion through time", Horatio said with a skeptical smirk.
The Commander considered for a moment, and said "I suppose there's no harm in it. Well, an underground research facility is constructed under your pine fields, right about..there", he said standing, and pointing out the window.
He sat back down, and continued "it's an atom smasher, a machine for breaking atoms down to even smaller pieces to discover the ultimate components of nature. We called it the Particle Injection Neutron Exploder, or P.I.N.E. And yes, the acronym really was a happy accident"
Horatio was even more skeptical, and it showed.
Commander soldiered on "a less happy accident was when I was caught in the beam of the P.I.N.E., and was wounded in the brain", he indicated his tattoo covered scar with a tap on the forehead.
"So, you're saying all of this, including myself, is the delusion of a damaged brain", Horatio said barely able to hold in the chortles.
"...an indelicate way to put it, but I guess you could say that. It's a bit more sophisticated, I have more control over it, I call it Time Driving, and...".
Horatio cut him off "enough. The parlor magic and fables have been amusing, and I keep waiting for the end of the joke, but you take this daftness too far".
"It doesn't matter, I think I've got enough of a lock on you. I just needed you to be the fixed focal point for my next series of jumps".
Horatio went to speak, but time suddenly froze, and he stopped dead.
"Once I leave, you won't remember any of this anyway", Commander said.
And with that, he flickered like a blown on flame, and was gone.
Commander Continuum flew through the time vortex with his feet behind him, and his fists in front of him, riding a current like a water-slide.
Time travel wasn't a straight line, nor even a clear smooth track.
There were obstacles, slippery patches, bumps, potholes, furrows, heaves, and also....things lived there.
Teensy biting pests, and huge angry things.
Prehistoric monstrosities from the realm of primal nightmares.
And all of them got horny at the smell of human blood.
Over time, Commander Continuum had learned to navigate all of this casually like a video game champion.
Both as a matter of extra gain to master this realm, and as a matter of necessity to restore his sanity after the accident.
The vortex tunnel branched again and again like a tree.
Commander smirked as he mentally joked to himself that if he could see the tree, it might just be an evergreen.
Finally, he reached the end of the line, and adjusted to normal daylight like exiting a movie theater.
Commander Continuum's senses re-solidified in a small town on a familiar plot of land.
His time-drive there was already beginning to fade like a forgotten dream.
It was always like this.
He looked around.
Log cabins, a saw mill, a small schoolhouse, a church.
Horse drawn carriages.
Dirty faced children with bad teeth playing with sticks.
A painted wooden sign bearing the name "Pine Nut cove".
A distinct lack of the gate to keep out people without a book to read.
Commander Continuum knew immediately that Horatio Allison would have hated it there.
With the blink of an eye, The Commander threw up his mental image disguise.
He still saw himself as Commander Continuum, but everyone else would see him with the proper period costume, and hairstyle.
A formality he always went through.
It made things easier.
On the outskirts of town, he found the descendants of Horatio's pine trees.
Among them, a weathered tombstone of Horatio.
Right next to one of, if not the first of those trees.
Commander contemplated the mundane fact that the roots of that tree had been drinking him, and recycling his molecules into a more immortal form.
Fitting, he figured.
And probably what drew his time-driving here, he also assumed.
Horatio Allison was Horatio Allison, shape be damned, as far as the universe knew.
A perfect legacy.
As for Pine Nut Cove?
Commander wasn't impressed.
But he wasn't surprised ether.
Black people? Absent.
American Natives? Ditto.
"That genocide was nice and tidy", he grumbled to himself.
White Bible-thumpers? Check!
Everyone was a fucking Bible thumper.
"Let's see how fucking tolerant they are of atheists", he thought morbidly, and considered revealing himself for the shits and giggles, but thought better of it.
"Hell, they'd probably tar and feather a guy and run him out on a rail for so much as being a Jew", he thought.
And then, exactly that happened.
The guy's pregnant wife silently sobbing.
He learned from asking around that the pregnant girl was of the Herbert clan, who were friends with the Allisons, who in turn were friends with the Jacks, the Williamses, and the Vances.
He immediately sought out the Allisons.
Surely, they'd be an enlightened bunch.
He was sorely disappointed.
Bible-bashers through and through.
Friendly enough to him, but he was white.
He gave in to temptation, and privately revealed himself, and the secrets of the universe to the father, Langdon Allison (Horatio's grandson), to be sure.
Big bang, evolution, the whole shmeal.
More or less laid out like the beginning of this chapter.
The fella didn't take kindly to it.
Went into full fire and brimstone meltdown mode.
Commander time froze him, rewinded the scene, and undid it, and went back to receiving the family's hospitality.
Later on, he took the daughter aside to see if there was hope for her.
She was 14, went by the nickname of Pipsqueak, and was a younger spitting image of Temperance Allison from the painting in Horatio's drawing room.
He revealed his true self, told her the same spiel about the universe, and she sat enraptured, so he continued on about the time he came from.
At first, she was excited, and illuminated, then fell into deep despair at the shitty time and place she was stuck in.
So, he rewinded her, and undid it.
But, at least he knew.
The fire wasn't extinguished.
He was sad though, that he couldn't bring her back to 2014 with him.
His future self would go on to reflect that she would have made a good friend for Eidolon.
He snapped out of this reverie, and then wandered off to go mock the dopey minister, and quack doctor in a similar fashion to her father.
Pipsqueak ran off, and flirted with a young boy, name of Georgie Jack.
"Elisa's bloodline begins", he thought with a smirk.
He later fast-forwarded the whole town from the vantage point of Horatio's pine forest, pausing here and there, and witnessed a land developer coming in to build a canned baked bean factory, and the townsfolk blowing the place up with dynamite rather than let him have their property.
The factory went up, Pine Nut Cove died, and Lentilville was born.
Only the Allison/Jack bloodline, and the trees remained of Horatio's vision.
Commander Continuum let himself slip into the corridors of time-drive, and jumped to the next crucial point in Lentilville's history.
Automobiles filled the streets, every window was lit with electric light, gas stations at every corner, concrete and asphalt covered every scrap of dirt, and power lines webbed the view of the smokestack clouded sky.
Lentilville was already starting to look like itself.
Commander Continuum felt eerily at home.
It was a creepy sensation.
Commander lazily took note that he'd "landed", near the Horatio-tree.
He set out on foot, and looked around.
Not long after, he witnessed a bank robbery in progress.
Before he could react, a costumed man and woman took the robbers down with their bare fists.
The man wore a red skin tight outfit, the woman, a black leather number with white furry bits.
The white bits comprised a diamond shape on her belly, and a bib over her cleavage area.
She also wore white gloves, and white boots.
She wore a mask that concealed her identity from the nose upward, and there were pointy ears that gave the whole thing a definite catlike look.
From just her mouth and chin, Commander recognized her as yet another dead-ringer for both Temperance Allison, and Pipsqueak Allison.
The puzzle pieces were starting to take shape.
He looked at the man, and he wore no mask, just the tights, shorts, booties, and...
"Damn, he's a dead ringer for Peerless Person", he thought.
"Seriously, Peerless Person stole this guy's style, lock, stock, and barrel", he added.
They ran off when they heard police sirens, and he ran after them.
Then, after awhile, he realized "wait, what am I burning calories for? This is an image!", and with that, he concentrated, and locked onto them in a hover like an omniscient cameraman on a steady-track.
He followed them to their secret base, and then lowered his invisibility, and revealed himself.
They were more willing to listen to his story than anyone else so far.
Indeed, he was easily welcomed as a fellow superhero.
It turned out the man was Danny Hugo, and the woman, refusing to expose her identity, was going by the codename of Miss Pique.
They called their little team "The Freed Radicals", after Danny's fictional origin story involving a free-radical formula.
They talked shop for awhile, Commander regaled them with tales of the future, and then, with nothing more to learn, except that Lentilville was no less racist or sexist than Pine Nut Cove, he slipped into time-drive again.
Commander Continuum materialized at the Horatio-tree again.
Horatio's tombstone was in rough shape, but still solid.
Now, next to the pine forest, was the Elisa Jack school.
The pine forest bordered the playground.
Commander walked towards it to find out why he had been drawn here.
He poked around holo-disguised as a janitor, and found Elisa's office.
He saw her, and there, not at all surprised to see him, was Miss Pique!
She was maskless, out of costume, older, a little saggier, starting to wrinkle and grey a bit, but it was her.
Miss Pique had been Elisa Jack all along!
Now it was all starting to make sense.
The pieces were tumbling together now.
He dropped the disguise, and they picked up their conversation where it had left off 20-something years ago.
He found out that The Freed Radicals had broken up.
She got married, had a son, and Danny Hugo went off to build the biggest nuclear bunker ever, and disappeared.
She showed him a book she had published under a male pen name.
It was called "Combatant", and was about her adventures with Danny Hugo.
The publisher had made her rewrite it to only be about Danny.
Commander was disgusted.
Elisa just shrugged it off.
She showed him a picture of her family, and they looked like a snapshot out of a corny Joe McCarthy era sitcom.
The husband looked like a button down type who wanted his kid to be a Marine.
The kid looked terrified.
He reflected on how both Pine Nut Cove, and 50's Lentilville would soon be propagandized into conservative Shangri-La in no time.
He held his tongue.
Elisa unlocked a drawer on her desk, and showed him her collection of forbidden books.
Beatnik poetry, Shirley Jackson, confiscated horror comics, it was all there.
And she let adept pupils have their pick if they could keep their traps shut about it.
So far, so good.
Yes, the resistance lived.
Commander smiled, and slid into time-drive less cynical than Pine Nut Cove had left him.
Commander materialized right back in Elisa's office, and it took him a few seconds to realize he'd gone anywhere.
Elisa looked beaten down, and way older than the mere decade that had passed.
He engaged her in some stilted discussion about the old days, but couldn't cajole the same enthusiasm out of her he had last time.
Finally, he gave up, paused time, and looked around her office, and in her desk.
He pieced it all together fairly quickly.
Her son had been shipped off to 'Nam.
No doubt egged on by by the jar-headed husband.
The kid got killed.
The marriage broke up.
She threw herself into her work.
The last bit he could tell by the extra plaques on her wall.
He found a magazine in the wastebasket depicting a hippie couple protesting a veteran's funeral.
He hated them instantly.
He shouldn't have been at all surprised when peering into the image too long pulled him into it via a time-drive vortex.
Cooper Avenue, Queens.
Commander Continuum materialized in invisible observer mode in the living room of a small house.
A fuzz-faced baby-boomer and his bride were screaming at a fat older guy in a battered armchair.
It was the hippie couple from the magazine.
He recognized the guy in the chair too.
It was Elisa's ex.
He had a bad 50's sitcom on the TV that reminded Commander of Elisa's family photo.
"Old buzzard's drinking in the fairy tale", he thought grimly.
He paused time, and looked over wallets.
The hippie was Robert Herbert, the woman was his wife, Sally Herbert.
The guy in the chair was sitting on his wallet, but from the shouting match he gathered that his first name at least, was Alfie, and that he was Sally's stepdad.
Alfie kept calling Robert "shithead".
Robert's surname felt familiar, and then the bawling pregnant girl from Pine Nut Cove popped back into his head.
Time-drive never lied, nor was random and coincidental.
They had to be connected.
He was sorting out now why he was pulled here.
He un-paused the argument, and listened.
Typical American right-vs-left political crap.
Alfie was clearly a bigot, but the Herberts were just shrill, and obnoxious, and not making anything better.
Plus, he already hated them for protesting Elisa's son's funeral.
Then, a toddler that had clearly just learned to walk hobbled by.
Commander's attention locked onto the kid, and then he was pulled back into time drive.
Back to Lentilville.
Another living room.
Invisible mode again.
The Herberts again.
Robert's hair was shorter, his beard trimmed, both were greying around the edges.
Both Robert and Sally were in more conservative attire.
They were in full suburban mommy-daddy mode now.
Gone were the shouting matches over political ideals.
Gone were the ideals.
On their TV was a frontier show that looked like a sanitized version of Pine Nut Cove.
"Another American fable", Commander thought with an eyeroll.
Added to their brood were a 7 year old, and a baby.
The boy, Logan, was now 11.
The boy had pulled him here, so he followed him to his room.
He paused time, and looked through the kid's stuff for clues.
He found a copy of "Combatant".
The same copy of "Combatant", Elisa had shown him.
It pulled him in, like the magazine had.
Now, still 1980, and Logan Herbert was in class at the Elisa Jack school.
Elisa was his teacher, still holding up well for 80 years old, and the twinkle had returned to her eye.
Logan was clearly a special pupil to her.
He understood now why time-drive had pulled him aside for that tangent.
He'd never left the Horatio-tree timeline after all.
He fast-forwarded the class until the bell rung, and the kids cleared out, and then he revealed himself to Elisa yet again.
She filled him in on the details of what had gone on, and told him about Logan Herbert.
It wasn't much more than he'd figured out on his own.
Except that the kid's middle name was Walter.
And that he had a friend named Nick, who's dad Logan's dad hated for still being a hippie.
He rolled his eyes at that, not surprised at all.
Also, that it popped up in a class family tree project that Logan's distant ancestor had been involved with the witch trial of Temperance Allison.
He couldn't blame the kid for that, but it filled in an interesting puzzle piece.
The conversation faded out, he said his goodbyes, and left.
As he did, he spotted a poster in the hallway for an anti-drug play involving people in drug costumes trying to tempt kids, and the leader of this evil gang, was "Smackie The Smackman".
That stood out to Commander for some reason.
He made his way back to the Horatio-tree.
He focused on it, trying to get a lock on his next jump, and it took him on an unexpected ride along its root structure...and to the root structure of the next tree over, and the next, and the next...
He was riding an internet of roots.
Then, suddenly, he was in an underground tunnel structure.
And there, was Danny Hugo. In his late 70's, to mid 80's.
Breathing his last.
And then, he was gone.
He knew trying to get help would do no good.
These events were set in stone.
He levitated ghostlike up through the tunnels to the open air.
He found himself up on a hill on the outskirts of Lentilville.
He turned around, and found himself facing a ratty run down ranch house with blue paint
He explored the house, and could find no entrance to the tunnels below.
Danny had walled himself in there for some reason.
"Well, at least I know what became of him", Commander muttered to himself.
"Maybe further jumps will fill in the gaps", he figured.
And with that thought, time-drive yanked him away.
Invisible observer mode again.
Back in the same classroom as Logan Herbert.
But, he of course was long gone now.
Sitting at his desk was a new kid.
Pausing time and looking at his classwork revealed him to be Wayne Vance.
"Of the Pine Nut Cove Vances", he presumed.
A younger teacher in her early 30's with a scowly face had replaced Elisa Jack.
She seemed familiar, and Commander took an instant disliking.
He unpaused time, and watched the kid work.
Every now and then, the kid peeked under his worksheet to something glossy.
Commander paused time, and pulled the glossy something out.
It was a poster for a dwarf comedian who called himself "Offal".
It was autographed.
He slipped the poster back in place, and unpaused time.
The bitchy teacher finally caught Wayne peeking at the poster, bolted from the seat, ran over, tore the poster away, and ripped it up and threw it away as if it had been a love letter from Satan.
"She probably thought it was", Commander thought to himself.
He paused time.
Then, he touched Wayne on the shoulder, and unpaused just him.
Then, he turned visible, and introduced himself, pulled up a chair, and gave the kid the whole score.
Who he was, where he came from, when he came from, the future, the latest knowledge of the truth of the universe, the whole deal, just like when he revealed himself to "Pipsqueak", in Pine Nut cove.
Then, he gave him the real nitty-gritty.
That parody songs sound better than the real thing, because the music industry is a bunch of insincere phonies selling you hollow bullshit, and parodies at least take real creativity.
That the blood groove is allegedly to prevent wound suction, but it's really just decorative bullshit.
That G.I. Joe's stomach didn't cave in, so don't bother looking for a lost episode where it happened. Your little friends are full of shit, because they're practicing to be clones of their parents.
No one really gives a fuck about your elementary school record.
No one really gives a fuck about your High School record.
All anyone looks at are S.A.T.s.
School isn't about teaching critical thinking, it's about making worker drones for the factories, unless you go to an Ivy League.
That when the shit hits the fan, all the noble liberal ideals your teachers are spouting fly out the window, and all most so-called adults really believe in is dumb petty animal level competition, and a white hot fear of homelessness.
And that all of the above is why your teacher is a neurotic spaz who tore up your poster, and why all people like her fear and envy people like Offal.
So, don't be mad, or sad, pity people like that.
And know that you'll outlive them.
Wayne then told him about how a friend convinced him to do some mazes for an RPG board-game, then convinced him to add elaborate booby traps, then convinced him to name each death-maze after a classmate it would be funny to send through the death-mazes, then he was tricked into describing each death-maze aloud while his asshole ex-friend secretly recorded it all on tape.
Said tape ended up in the hands of a teacher, and he ended up in this "special class", with bitch-face.
"Ah, the constipated 80's", Commander thought.
Wayne pleaded with him to go back, and change it, but Commander insisted he could only observe.
That even if he made changes, it wouldn't matter.
Wayne was beside himself.
Commander rewound time, and undid the whole conversation.
Just like with "Pipsqueak".
Telling the kid all that had been pointless, and he'd wondered why he did it, but some weird instinct told him the information would make it to him somehow, and that it would matter in the end.
He paused time at the point before he disturbed Wayne from being yelled at over the Offal poster, and left the school on foot again.
This time, he saw another poster in the hallways advertising the "Smackie The Smackman", anti-drug play.
"Wow, that nut is still at it", the thought.
It stood out even more in his mind now, and gave him a queasy sensation.
He made it out to the playground to try to get another lock on the Horatio-tree, but instead, he saw a bus, and was pulled along a time-drive once he made eye contact with it.
Now, he found himself in front of a high school.
Banner Buzzard High School.
The bus he saw at Elisa Libby, along with a fleet of other buses were there.
A herd of elementary age kids were piling out.
They were being given a tour of their future school by some of the seniors.
He spotted Wayne Vance, and almost waved, and then reminded himself "oh, right, conversation deleted, and I'm invisible. Duh!".
He followed the tour group.
The tour was pretty boring.
Wayne seemed to think so too, as once they made it to the library, he sought out a book of cat cartoons, and buried his head in it.
But then, he saw someone familiar.
It took him awhile, but then it finally clicked.
He was 16 now, his bone structure had grown a bit, and he had on thick glasses, but it was him.
He broke off from the tour, and followed Logan around.
Once again, it turned out he was still in the Horatio-tree timeline.
Even the detours were important.
Soon, Logan ended up in the cafeteria with a group of friends.
Counting Logan, there were three boys, and three girls.
Listening in on their chatter, and peeking in their belongings with time-pausing revealed their identities.
There was Logan, Nick P. Rainey, the friend Elisa had told him about whose father had a feud going with Logan's dad, Broderick Williams, presumably descended from the Pine Nut Cove Williamses, an annoying loud-mouthed little extrovert who Commander took an immediate disliking to, Wilhelmina, Logan's girlfriend, Penelope Herbert, Logan's sister whom he saw as a 7 year old in 1980, and Irma Williams, Broderick's sister, and his exact opposite, an introvert buried under a pile of sweaters, and giving off a faint but distinct cloud of b.o.
Commander listened to them for about 30 minutes, and the only ones he found at all interesting, were Logan, Wilhelmina, and Nick, but that asshole Broderick talked over everyone with loud honking clouds of nothing, so it was hard to cut through the static.
Penelope was kind of a ditz, and Irma had a personality of cardboard.
Commander got tired of their clique pretty quick.
Just when he was going to give up, and try to get back to the Horatio-tree, their teacher walked by carrying a big box of desk stuff.
Her name was Ms. Haley, had a British accent, and she had been unceremoniously fired.
Even though she'd helped get the school going.
The little brats didn't seem to care less.
Except for Logan and Wilhelmina.
Nick was in an awkward fuddle.
Penelope looked like a dead fish.
The Williamses were openly uncaring.
He officially hated the Williamses.
Thankfully, time-drive yanked him away.
Still at Banner Buzzard High School.
It was graduation time for Logan, and all of his clique but Penelope.
They were in the gym at final assembly.
Nick Rainey had seized the podium and microphone, and was giving a quick little speech before he could be run off stage by the teachers.
Apparently, the previous speaker had spoken of "the future", because his opening salvo began with...
"Oh, myeh, myeh, myeh, the future, the future.
Every graduating class thinks they're the fucking future.
All you have to do, is look at your parents, and watch the news to see the fucking future.
You're all going to take part in a system that drops bombs on little brown kids.
Bigger bombs, bigger deficits, more blood for more oil at higher prices.
That's the future.
But the worst part of it is, the part that chaps my hide, is you assholes can't fucking WAIT to do it!
You can't fucking WAIT!
You're foaming at the mouth for it!
Well, fuck you, you brainwashed evil pieces of shit!
I bit my lip for 12 years watching it unfold, but now you fuckheads think you get one last circle jerk all over each other?
You think you're entitled to that shit?
Like fucking HELL!".
He grabbed his crotch, and added "I got your future right here".
As he said "here", he pressed a hidden button stuffed down his pants.
Tiny explosives released bags of confetti from the ceiling.
Each piece was penis shaped.
The podium opened up to reveal a turret mounted machine gun sized squirt gun with a red dildo at the end of it.
Nick grabbed the gun and started firing a watered down lotion mixture into the front row of the crowd.
"Drink Satan's jizz, you fuckers!! Drink Satan's jizz!!!", he hollered, punctuated with maniacal cackling.
A couple teachers tried to tackle him, but he turned and got them both in the eyes with the hosing of artificial cum.
He put a line down on the floor, and they slipped and fell on it.
He looked down at them and said "Mr. Bing? The wood you brought in for shop was shitty, and riddled with knots, you're an idiot who cuts his fingers off, and your breath always smelled of dogshit. Fuck you! Mr. Peters? I know about you fucking your students. You're a dirty old man, and fuck you too!".
Mr. Peters went to say something, but Nick sprayed some pseudo-cum into his open mouth causing him to gurgle and choke.
He then pulled a rolled up newspaper from his jacket, and said to Mr. Peters "and I know you got Ms. Haley fired to cover your ass".
He tossed the paper at Peters, and it splayed open on impact.
Commander paused time briefly to better read the headline.
"Teacher found dead in apartment of suicide".
Nick marched out proudly, both middle fingers extended.
"Fuck all of you, and the horses you rode in on!!".
He then escaped out the back exit, and hopped into a convertible with Logan and the gang waiting for him.
Broderick was driving.
As soon as Nick was safely onboard, they peeled out.
Toward the future.
The Big City.
24 year old Logan Herbert, 21 year old Penelope Herbert, and the rest of the gang of idiots from Banner Buzzard High School were hanging out on the biggest couch.
They'd just recently won a hard won turf war with another gang of six friends for that couch.
They were chugging coffee out of breast-sized mugs, and giggling like idiots over shit that wasn't funny.
Commander squinted his eyes, grit his teeth, and listened in.
Something was always important, even when he couldn't see it right away.
Broderick had open a laptop, and they were all peeking over his shoulder at his handiwork.
A website called "World-Wide Doktor", a sort of medical diagnosing site.
There was a mascot in the upper left corner, and it was a guy in a lab coat, a baby-blue shirt, a yellow necktie, suspenders, green pants, brown work-boots, and purple rubber gloves that came almost up to his elbows.
He had on glasses, but also a pair of goggles hanging on his forehead.
His full red hair was combed and slicked into 3 hair horns.
Completing this spikey appearance was a 3 inch goatee sticking out of his chin.
Commander squinted, and realized, it was Logan.
Logan was the World-Wide Doktor of the site.
The look suited him, he thought.
"He should go around in daily life that way, it would be awesome", he thought.
Apparently, he had seen what he was supposed to, because time-drive yanked him away.
The Big City.
The gaggle of galoots were squabbling amongst each other.
Penelope had revealed that "she just didn't believe in evolution", and Logan was tearing into her something fierce.
Penelope's eyes welled up with tears, and she said "you always have to be right, don't you?".
Logan rolled his eyes, and shot back "and you always have to be a fucking MENSA member! What did you think my reaction would be to that shit? Why toss it out there? Did you want me to pat that opinion on the head, and kiss it, and give a cookie? When do the lies and bullshit stop after I open that door? Fuck you!".
Penelope stormed out sniffling.
The rest of the group huddled amongst themselves, excluding Logan and Wilhelmina.
After a while, they broke the huddle, and with Broderick as spokesman, said "Logan, your behavior of late concerns us, and we no longer feel safe. We would appreciate it....if you leave our group".
"You're...fucking DUMPING me!!??".
"Oh, fuck you, you smelly bitch! When are you not clamped onto your brother's knob in all matters?".
Her expression remained flat, her eyes blank and unresponding.
Logan kept going "look at you, you dumb fucking cow. You've got the personality of a goldfish. I bet this whole thing is a setup from you, you treacherous twat. You always acted like this quiet little non-conformist, but look at you. You work at a fucking investment bank, the most corrupt corporation you can get. How many people did you evict from their homes with a button push today? Huh? Do you even keep count? Could you if you tried? Yeah, you really fucking stand for something. Queen of morality, you are. Fucking nerd-traitor".
He turned his gaze to Broderick "and you, Mister Party Guy. Your mouth always flapped, but I can't remember you actually SAYING anything. Its been white noise this whole time. Why the hell do you exist? I bit my tongue all these years because I thought there was someone who liked you that I'd be alienated from...but who even LIKES you? Why were you our friend? You just glommed onto us. Fuck, I always hated you. Good riddance to you and your douchebag sister. I take getting kicked out of this clique as a fucking GIFT! THANK YOU!!".
He turned to leave, but turned back one last time, and said "and that alien mask you made in high school? It was a peice of shit".
Logan stormed out, never to set foot in Pea-Quads again.
Wilhelmina awkwardly followed him.
Nick made some excuses and left, pretending he'd be back, but he never showed up again either.
Penelope simply vanished.
Broderick and Irma looked at each other and in unison said.
"Let's fuck him out of his shares".
Commander Continuum un-cloaked in a generic street outfit, and told them "you die on September 11th, 2001".
They recoiled in shock.
Then, he rewound and undid it, and let them return to blissful obliviousness.
Man, he hated the Williames.
World Trade Center.
Broderick Williams sat at his desk staring at his computer.
Up on top of his monitor, was an ugly mask made of paper cups, masking tape, and yarn.
He looked up at it and whispered "you look just like Pwedaduh".
Then, he leaned in, and kissed it.
Irma walked into his office, and said "whatcha doing?".
She had finally discovered deodorant.
"Oh, nothing", he said.
"Just e-mailing some friends about my idea. Y'know, the Stated Income Loan. I think it's gonna sell like hotcakes".
"You and your scams", she said with an eyeroll.
"Say", he said "whatever happened to the girl who sat at the end of the hallway?".
"Oh, THAT bitch? She got married, and moved back to that toilet, Lentilville. But get this, her and her husband and brat kid died in a carbon monoxide leak".
"Tch, fuck her. She wanted to go play Little Miss Housewife, good riddance. Those types are a dull inferior breed".
Commander Continuum's lips curled, and his nose crinkled.
He HATED the Williamses.
He focused on the empty desk they were looking at, and rewound time, until he saw a redhead with horn rimmed glasses.
She looked familiar.
Then, it clicked.
That same exact facial resemblance to Temperance Allison, Pipsqueak Allison, and Elisa Jack.
Another puzzle piece!
He snapped back to 2001, and followed Irma back to her desk.
On her desk was a photo of the old BBHS/Pea-Quads gang, and scrawled in marker in the corner was the inscription "to the freak that made it- Nick".
On the other side of her desk was a digital camera.
He paused time, picked it up, and scrolled to the latest photo.
It was a pic of Irma, Broderick, Wilhelmina, and a baby on the observation deck of the building they were in.
He put the camera back, then turned his head just in time to see a plane hurtling towards the windows.
Broderick lunged at the mask on his computer screaming "PWEEEEDADUUUUHHH!!!".
Then, there was a flash, and Commander was suddenly on the ground surrounded by smoke and rubble.
He saw Logan Herbert wandering around in a daze, coated in dust.
He also saw Phidippus-Dude, a.k.a "Phidey", sitting on the front stoop of an apartment building sobbing behind his mask.
Logan looked up to where the towers were supposed to be, and calmly and coldly said, "okay, enough of that. That was the last straw, religion. In fact, that was the last straw for me with bullshit in general. We're not doing this anymore, you and I. It's me or you. One of us has to go".
Logan wandered some more, and minutes later, stumbled upon a 1 year old baby girl in a car seat, on the doorstep of a firehouse, a note with her name and birth date on it safety pinned to her shirt.
Logan looked at her for awhile, tore off and read the note, crumpled it, picked up the car seat by its handle, and walked off with it.
"We're going home now, Winnifred", he grumbled.
Another single tear leaked out.
Commander picked up the note, and saw the child's name was Mary.
Or, it was supposed to be.
It would be Winnifred now, and forevermore.
He focused on that name, and time drive pulled him along, and he saw who left the baby on the doorstep.
His jaw dropped, and he focused on the image of her coldly walking away, and time-drived again to Irma home alone with a pregnant belly, and with an annoyed look.
He focused some more, and jumped back to pre-pregnant Irma getting hot and heavy with a guy, and it was...he squinted.
He focused on Nick, and jumped forward, back to 9/11, and Nick was wearing a dust sprinkled trenchcoat, his eyes bloodshot, his face covered in thick stubble, a haunted look on his face.
Nick shuffled past a strip club, and a woman ran out with a camcorder to capture all of this.
It was Penelope Herbert!
The puzzle pieces were flying together now!
Then, Commander saw the impossible.
But, not really, when he stopped and thought about it, in fact, he was amazed it had never happened before until now.
His future self.
Exactly as he looked now, but with a "2015", on his chest instead of "2014".
2015-Commander looked up at the destruction, and said "I was always glad they died".
2014-Commander instinctively knew he meant the Williamses.
And he agreed.
He hated the Williamses.
Then, time drive pulled him away yet again.
He was glad of it this time.
Back to Lentilville.
5 year old Winnifred Herbert was introduced to her first computer.
Winnifred chose the online handle "Eidolon", because it was a fancy word for ghost, and she'd always felt like one for some reason.
Commander observed that Logan was now sporting the hair horns look from the "World-Wide Docktor", logo.
Also, he was starting to bald in the middle.
Commander paused time, and looked through Logan's desk.
He found files that revealed he short-sold World-Wide Doktor prior to 9/11, and gotten rich.
With the company defunct, he took back the character.
Then, he used some of the money to keep the Elisa Jack school going.
Elisa, having died in 1994.
He also saw that Banner buzzard lost its accreditation, and Logan swooped in, and bought it, then sold it off to be made into a strip mall with a donut shop, sub shop, and erotic massage parlor.
A donut, a sandwich, and a tug job.
That's all that the place stood for now.
Logan's revenge was complete.
Or, was it?
He put the files back, and wandered the hallways of Logan's base.
The corridors looked...familiar.
On a hunch, he levitated up through the ceiling to the outside.
There it was.
The house on the hill.
The paint was flaking off now, the wood was in dilapidated shape, but otherwise, it was the same as in 1980.
Logan's base was in Danny Hugo's bunker.
A couple more pieces snapped together.
Commander warped back to the Horatio-tree and saw a strange man standing there looking it over.
He looked at the man, and a brief flashback showed him it was Wayne Vance.
He looked at the tree, and there were initials carved into it.
"DI + KA".
He focused on the initials, and a flashback image of two children carving it appeared.
A towheaded boy, and a redheaded girl with pigtails.
He focused on the boy, and was drawn into a flashback of him in an Elisa Jack classroom, he peek over his shoulder, and read his name off his schoolwork.
He bounced back to the tree image, and repeated the process with the girl.
Kimber looked familiar, so he focused on her some more.
He flashed back to her pregnant mother, and further back to a pre-pregnant version of her...and it was the exact same image he had seen on 9/11.
Horn rimmed glasses, red hair, and related to Temperance, Pipsqueak, and Elisa Jack.
Pieces were flying together like crazy now.
He bounced back to the tree, and back to 2005, with Wayne looking at the tree, deep in thought.
Wayne left, and he followed him.
A few blocks down the street, Wayne entered a guarded area, showed his badge, then gained further entry by swiping a card.
They entered an underground complex, and soon, Commander saw something quite familiar painted on a wall.
Under that was a map of the complex, and Commander could see they were right under the Elisa Jack playground.
Wayne finally made it to his office, and on a marker board with a complex equation on it, added "DI + KI", into the middle of it, and then came out with a result.
He nodded in satisfaction, and typed instructions into a console.
5 seconds later, sirens started honking.
Wayne ran to the main reactor room of the P.I.N.E., and Commander Continuum floated after him.
Wayne flung open a compartment, reached in his arm first, then stuck in his head, and then....
Wayne's neurons were being proton smashed into miniature big bangs.
It was a Quantum Dissolve.
And then both of them were in the Time-Drive tunnel together.
Commander did his usual effortlessly ingrained navigation, but Wayne was being flung about helplessly.
Creatures snapped at him, and kept miraculously missing.
Then, Wayne landed on the back of a creature, and rode it.
It was a giant red skull with beach ball sized electrons whizzing around it.
After awhile, Wayne began to take note of the skull's flight pattern, and started to memorize it.
After a long while, he pushed off, and flew on his own, able to dodge all the obstacles, and with more practice, he was expert at it.
Commander refused to interfere.
Finally, they exited the tunnel into bright sunlight like walking out of a movie theater.
Wayne awoke in his body.
He was in a strange hotel room.
There was a burn scar on his forehead the size of a pencil eraser.
Memories flooded in.
His brain had been injured, the explosion scar in his brain had looked like a little christmas tree, and he'd spent 8 years learning to talk, learning to walk, getting everything back.
But, another part of him had been in that tunnel, that tree branching tunnel, for seemingly a matter of minutes.
Wayne opened the nightstand drawer, dug out pen and paper, and was compelled to draw the skull.
He stared at it, and muttered "I need to do something with this".
Commander stared into the image, and jumped ahead some months.
Now, Wayne had a tattoo over the scar, and had assembled a costume.
It was exactly like Commander's but had "2013", on the chest.
The tattoo was of the skull.
The identical symbol was sprinkled all over the costume.
Wayne Vance had been Commander Continuum all along.
Commander stepped into 2013-Commander, and they merged.
And then, as one, they flashed back to the talk they had had at the Elisa Jack classroom in 1985.
And a couple more puzzle pieces fit together.
In the next few months, Commander Continuum started using his time-drive abilities to reconstruct crime scenes, and piece together connections normal detectives missed.
A larger pattern started to form across his cases, and things kept coming back to The Jade-Shade, and the school shooting of 1999.
Eventually, Commander Continuum started obsessively focusing solely on that case.
Commander Continuum (now with "2014", on his chest) lock-picked his way into the Elisa Jack school, and headed to the cafeteria.
He pulled a file folder out of a duffle bag, opened up the file, and began to read.
It was research on Lentilville done by Mark Augustine (A.K.A. Hadesburster).
His previous cases had gradually lead him to this evidence.
Now, he wanted to read about the 1999 shooting at the location to get the clearest mental images possible.
After reading for a few minutes, he closed his eyes, and concentrated.
Connections started forming, the pine tree scar in his brain started to spark, and soon, he was in time-drive.
He opened his eyes, the "leaving a movie theater", sensation hit his retina, and he was still in the cafeteria, but it was 1999, and the shooting was taking place.
When the smoke cleared, and the firing stopped, eight year old Kimber Allison ran out of the front doors, covered in blood, tears and snot streaking her face.
"They're all dead!! They're aaaalll deeaaaadd!!", she kept screaming.
Commander paused time, and focused on her.
Time-drive opened up full force, and he went back, back, all the way to the beginning.
It was 1692, and Temperance Allison was being tied to the stake being readied to be burned alive.
He stared into her terrified eyes, and then, another time-drive morphed her into her own portrait up on a wall.
It was now 1784.
It was the drawing room of Horatio Allison.
After a brief conversation with him, and fixing him as the temporal focal point, he took a series of time-jumps across Lentilville's entire history.
19th century Pine Nut Cove, then Lentilville of the 1930's, 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's, then detours to The Big City in the 90's, then back to Lentilville of the 00's, and 10's.
Logan Herbert and Winnifred/Eidolon were in their tunnel base again.
They'd fancied the place up a lot in the intervening 9 years since last he saw them.
Eidolon was 14 now.
Commander reflected that she and Pipsqueak from Pine Nut Cove could have been friends.
Logan was fully bald, only the hair horns remained of his hairline, and he'd gone full World-Wide Doktor.
He WAS that character now.
Eidolon was showing Logan a picture on her tablet computer.
It was of a wax impression of a human ass, allegedly left there by a ghost during a seance.
Logan calmly replied "tapping wax".
Then, he added, carelessly like a footnote "KGB. All modern ghost belief comes from the KGB".
He nodded as if he'd explained something as factual and simple as the sunrise.
Eidolon rolled her eyes, and walked off mumbling "yeah, like you fucking know".
Logan shook his head, smirked and whispered "ah, Winnifred, the daughter of my mind".
He then spun in his chair, and dictated some philosophical gobbledygook into a speech-to-text software.
Something linking superheroes to capitalism, and child abuse, or...something.
There was no doubt, Logan had truly gone full mad scientist.
9/11 broke his gears.
Logan saved his rambling as a file, and then he saw two people on his monitor.
He got ready, and eventually greeted them.
It was Jade-Shade, and Chokecherry.
Commander paused time.
He stared at Chokecherry.
Yet another clone of Temprance/Pipsqueak/Elisa.
He flashed back, and saw her as Kimber Allison both at the Horatio-tree having her initials carved by Dusty Irwin, and at the shooting.
He bounced back to 2014, and repeated the process with Jade-Shade, and saw...Dusty Irwin!
The final pieces snapped into place.
Everything made sense now.
He un-paused time, and learned that Logan was calling himself DOCTOR Herbert, and that this base was "The Den Of Seclusion".
Then, there was another time-drive.
The Den Of Seclusion again.
Dr. H was watching TV and the internet on two screens.
TV had JS and Chokie on the news being talked about.
They had been on "The Krazyfool Show", and violence had broken out thanks to super villains.
But what was really interesting, was the reporter.
Penelope Herbert, except now she was calling herself Penelope Warnimont.
The last little extant corner piece to the puzzle snapped on.
But there was one last time-drive.
Time was paused, but not by him.
Another version of himself appeared.
He was 65, fully grey, still in the costume, but now it was tattered, the armor chipped and dented, and "2040", was on his chest as his year of origin.
2040-Commander pointed upward, and 2014-Commander looked.
A nuclear missile was frozen in the sky.
"You have to prevent this".
"How"? 2014 asked.
"You mean, be a superhero?".
"Why not? You've got the costume".
"I suppose, but I haven't been about getting my hands dirty, I've been more of a detective".
"Well, tough. The next phase, is saving the world. Who do you think has been pulling you along on these time-jumps anyway? I was showing you all this in preparation".
"So, who does this?", 2014 said indicating the missile.
"A descendant of the scumbag dynasty that runs this shithole becomes president. You and the heroes have to bring those scum down once and for all before it ever gets this far".
"And at the same time, accomplish Temperance Allison's long-term revenge, right?".
"You got it".
"All right then, I will. Send me home".
And he did.
Commander Continuum opened his eyes.
Back in the cafeteria of Elisa Jack.
He looked at the analog clock on the wall, and noted that everything from Horatio Allison to now had only taken 5 minutes.
The second-by-second reality was fading like a dream, but the important bullet points would remain.
It was always like this.
He sat and let his head clear for awhile, then bolted into action realizing there was something he needed to do.
He lock-picked his way into the principal's office, then into the student files, and found the one on Wayne Vance.
Right in that file was an audio cassette labeled "Corey's trap".
He held it up, and mumbled "you've done enough harm".
He then shoved it back into the folder, and shoved the folder into the duffle bag along with the Hadesburster file.
On his way out of the principal's office, he saw a poster in the hallway.
It was an updated version of "Smackie The Smackman".
He got chills and goosebumps.
He headed out to the playground, and found the Horatio-tree.
The initials "DI + KA", were still carved into it.
Horatio's tombstone has completely crumbled away, and plants had grown over it.
The land had completely eaten it up.
"Fitting", he thought.
He heard footfalls behind him, and turned around to see who it was.
It was The Jade Shade.
"I was expecting you", Commander said with a grin.
"I heard you've been trying to hunt me down", JS responded.
"Yes, I was trying to crack the case on the 1999 shooting".
"I didn't kill anyone".
"I know. I've got it all sorted out".
"So now what?".
"Well, can I join your team? I've got the costume, and am all rarin' to go. Don't leave me hanging".
JS paused for a moment, and said "well, all right".
"That was easy".
"I was going to ask you anyway. We need people".
They walked off together, Commander following JS.
Commander asked as they passed by the old entrance "say, I've been out of commision for awhile, do you happen to know whatever happened to the P.I.N.E.?".
"Oh, that atom smasher thingy? There was an accident there back in the 00's, and the Republicans were looking for any excuse to slash science spending, so it was shut down, dismantled, and buried".
Commander looked defeated.
"Why? Was that place important to you?".
Commander thought about it, and answered "no...not so much anymore. I've got new things to do with my abilities".
After awhile, Commander asked "does your base have a drawing room, and is it stocked with brandy?".
Fuck you, January and February of 2015.
You miserable bitches.
Fuck you for the 6-8 feet of snowbanks.
Fuck you for the people you killed.
Fuck you for the broken snowblower.
Fuck you for the backbreaking shoveling.
Fuck you for the power outages that dangled us near death.
Fuck you for the bone-piercing wind chills.
Fuck you for the depression.
Fuck you for the cabin fever that bordered on madness.
Thanks to January/February, I spit on the grave of the start of 2015.
Now, to spring.
Unlike last year, it's actually spring.
It's not WARM, best it gets so far is 40 degrees, but it's enough to help melt away the fucking snow, and that helps a LOT psychologically.
Feels like hope after a lot of relentless despair.
Maybe by next month, it'll be the real deal with living plants and stuff.