Note: Due to the nature of this story we travel to several different points of time, with the tale beginning at an undisclosed point in 1960, proceeding to a certain date in 1985 and finally journeying to a rather foreboding date that shall be mentioned later. This is all done in a linear fashion, so those worrying about time jumps need not worry.
ZANE KROLO, THE TRAVELER
Day: 10949 of journey.
Standing over your own grave, I find, often gives yourself a rather queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach.
What is undoubtedly more concerning however than finding a grave with your name on it, is finding that not only does the gravestone belong to you but the body beneath it does as well. The writing on the stone is fairly accurate, listing my name and date of death but not my date of birth understandably, and underneath that is the brief line or two meant to convey into words the life of whoever's lying six feet under.
My grave simply reads: "A man out of time." I feel that's fairly accurate, given the fact that in a few short minutes it will be my birthday. The date of death above reads: "August 1st, 1945." A strange day, but not one I find too concerning. Over my long, largely unexciting career I've visited that day many a time with very little impact.
I'm Zane Krolo, adventurer, passive observer and... as you might have guessed, time traveler. Today is my birthday and as of right now it has been exactly 10950 days since I first donned my Stream suit and stepped backwards in time, making me fifty years old, even though I don't feel it. The day of my birth is a day I decided to start with death and it is also the last that I will be alive.
Due to the wonders of time travel I've encountered the same version of myself at varying points in time and age. None below the age of twenty when I first got the suit and none above the age of forty nine, which I've just now passed.
A sense of melancholy joins the queasiness in my stomach.
I'm currently in Philadelphia, August 1st 1960, chosen for its sunny skies and warm air, a sharp contrast to how I'm feeling. Arrangements have been made of course, a replacement is all lined up... and I have led a good life. There are people I shall miss, friends made that I won't see again... people like Icarus, the Oculus... Kirsty, but I've known this was coming for a good long while and as said, arrangements have been made.
An electronic chirp coming from my armor snaps me back to reality. Familiar with a process I've performed a million times before I pass a hand over my left wrist bringing up a holographic screen listing the required information. A small part of me prays that it won't be the date of August 1st, 1945.
"DETECTED:"It reads in bold, flashing letters. "ILLEGAL TIME JUMP, OCTOBER 25TH 1985!" I breathe a sigh of relief upon not seeing the dreaded date and immediately feel anger at my cowardice.
"It'll just be another job." I mutter to myself while copying the coordinates of the illegal action to my suit's personal transport. "And whatever happens..." The suit begins to hum as it prepares for launch, electricity sparking up into the air in random patterns. "...happens."
The world around me turns black, my old, future grave vanishes and I'm flung forward into the time stream. In the brief seconds that pass as I move through time and space I myself am given time to think and time to contemplate things that might have been. How many times have I leapt off into some adventure without thinking? So many times. I was always confident because I knew my death was long away, but now that it's finally here...
The night sky is the blackest night I've ever seen, illuminated solely by the bright street lamps of the car park I'm stood in. A quick glance at my suit's chronal clock tells me I've reached the right date. October 25th, 1985 flashes brightly upon my wrist, telling me that the jump was a success... and that I am not alone. Before me stands a man, a doctor in the realm of science. He has long, white hair sticking up from the back of his head as well as wide, eccentric eyes that are rather unnerving. Behind the man is a large, transport vehicle, presumably containing the time jump device he has created, but besides that the park is empty and we are alone.
The doctor looks at me as I phase into view before him, not entirely surprised by my appearance.
"Oh!" He says stepping towards me. "I... I suppose you're here for me?"
A smile forms across my lips, charmed. I am glad to be dealing with this matter today, something easy at the end of a busy life.
"No." I answer, extending a gloved hand that glimmers with energy. "I'm here for your vehicle actually." The doctor nods understandingly. "Unfortunately sir you're in violation of Timeweaver's Code: 42, and while you may have invented time travel that doesn't give you the right to misuse it."
"I know, I know." The man mutters, sorrowful. "Honestly I just wanted to see the future before I die."
The time vehicle seems to shine under the light, exterior just sticking out from its transport, its grey hull is a dull exterior for the wonders lying under the chassis. I place a hand on the man's shoulder.
"Trust me, friend. You're better off here." Raising my free hand I unleash a blue beam of energy that envelops the vehicle and promptly ages it and its contents until they're nothing but dust. The scientist looks at his destroyed work, miserable. "Do you need a lift home?" I ask.
"No..." Doc sighs. "My partner'll be here soon."
"Understood." A mission notification pings on my wrist and without thinking I access it, resulting in my suit immediately preparing to jump away. "Have a good night." I say before vanishing. I imagine he says the same, yet it's only seconds later that I realize the date I'm spiraling towards is in fact the one that will end in my death. Again the time stream seems dark, darker than its ever been and as I plunge through unnatural wormholes witnessing colors indescribable, the world of August 1st, 1945 opens up to me.
The sky is black once more, this time due to the battle waging below, the context to which is largely unimportant. Know only that it's a battle involving heroes from every time and era imaginable, from the battlefields of World War 2 to the barren wastelands of the not to distant future, all of whom are combating a single, malevolent entity and losing.
New York is in flames, yet as I descend towards the remains of the Empire State building, lying now on its side, I see the battle's leaders seem to have congregated upon the fallen skyscraper. Just beyond about a mile away lies a wall of steadily approaching darkness. Atop the building are my allies, all of whom are waiting patiently for me to land.
I am expected.
Icarus stands at the forefront of the group, approaching as I land, wings burning bright with flames as always. By his side are perhaps the most prolific heroes of his era, the Ghoul, who is currently putting pressure to a wound on his chest that's turning the white of his outfit blood red, and that alien woman the Exile, glaring at me through that helmet of hers, breathing incredibly loud through a respirator.
"Zane." Icarus says, smiling and reaching forward where I shake his hand proudly. "Good to see you."
"Likewise, David." I say offering a grim smile as lightning silently bursts across the sky in the distance, only to stop and pause in mid-air. "What's our situation?"
The smile on Icarus' face fades quickly, everyone else seems to stiffen up at the question.
"Not... good." He admits, pained look flashing across his face. He begins to explain things to me, mentioning words like Kronos, Crime Cult and, most excitingly, Armageddon. I'm barely paying attention though, these are words I've heard before back when I first donned the Stream suit, and with any luck my younger self will hear them again.
"Has Kirsty shown up?" I ask, interrupting Icarus just as he was beginning to wrap up his explanation. The man blinks, surprised by my question.
"No she hasn't." Icarus answers. "I'm sorry, Zane."
"It's fine." I look past the man towards the impending wall of living darkness just a mile off the coast. There's an ungodly silence that fills the area, as if sound itself is stopping. "Listen. I'm going to go up there and stop that thing. I'm probably going to die..." Everyone's eyes widen. "...so when my twenty year old self shows up in approximately two minutes just repeat what you said to me and tell him that everything's fine. Alright?"
Again Icarus blinks, confused but that's a feeling he's used to when talking to me.
"No... Zane, I'll help you."
I smile at Icarus, sad but just wanting to get the job done.
"You would, but you can't. Kronos is a god. He exists outside of time and if you or anyone else were to go near him you'd instantly get turned to dust. But I can get near him. I can get near him and I can stop him."
There's an eerie silence that lasts a good few seconds. All eyes are upon me, even the various heroes on the ground just below. It's finally the Ghoul who speaks up, speaking calmly as shadows begin to engulf us.
"Do what you've gotta do."
"I will." The flight function of my suit activates and I begin to ascend towards the heavens. "Goodbye my friends, and good luck for the future."
The storm and the god creating it were far closer than they appeared. Flying at top speed it takes mere minutes for me to arrive just in front of the infinite darkness, black, blowing smoke coming towards me as I pause for a minute to think.
"This is it..." I say aloud to nobody in particular. "I'm really going to die." Somehow I'd never really believed it until now.
"Not alone." A familiar voice fills my ears, crackling with energy, beautiful. Behind me hovering of her own power is the love of my life, a living paradox composed entirely of yellow and red fluxing energy. This woman shouldn't exist, let alone be as wonderful as she is.
I've truly been blessed in this life.
"Kirsty!" I embrace her, unable to hide my smile. The static field that generates crackles against my armor turning it charred black as opposed to its normal light blue. She returns the hug and a second of silence passes. "I didn't think you'd show..."
The woman looks offended and gently pushes away from me, drifting faintly in the air.
"I couldn't leave you." She says, stern. "Whatever this evil is we'll face it together." This time Kirsty's the one to smile, albeit sadly. "Together." She repeats.
"No." I carefully float to her. "I just wanted to tell you that 'I love you' one more time." My gloved hand reaches behind her head, gently humming with energy. "And goodbye."
Her eyes begin to close, compelled to sleep by my gauntlets of time. She drifts softly asleep towards the ground below, and content with myself, I turn to face my destiny.
"Alright you b@$%£&d!" I scream, suit flaring with energy as I burst into the storm. "Come and get me!"
The blackness surrounds me once again, only this time it's alive. Eyes follow me as I tear through the smoke and I know that I'm not alone. Finally the drifting smoke stops moving. Everything pauses except for myself and I'm afraid. Out of the dark emerges a lone figure, walking through the air as easily as if he were walking on land. As he draws near I see he's actually completely transparent, no physical features to speak of other than the vague outline of a human being looming above me.
"Who is this flea, brave enough to face me?" The Titan asks, voice the loudest that I've ever heard. "Who dares stand before the god, Kronos?"
"Zane Krolo." I answer quickly. "Traveler and Guardian of Time."
Kronos seems amused. His outline throws back its head and laughs, a loud, aching thing that makes me wince. Finally he stops and regards me sounding almost bored.
"Then you know, Zane Krolo, Traveler and Guardian of Time, that you are in fact facing the God of Time?"
"Sir, you're currently in violation of Code 32 of the-"
My head nearly gets taken off and I'm sent tumbling through the dark. Hard to believe it was just a slap. I feel blood drip from my ears and I shrug it off. My gauntlets begin to charge and I let them fire upon seeing Kronos almost casually coming towards me. The man literally lifts a finger and freezes the beams in mid-air, inches from his face.
"You may proceed." He says, waiting patiently. I do just that, letting loose an array of missiles that all hit their target true, but simply detonate against Kronos' skin with seemingly no harm done. I'm stunned, completely unsure what to do. "That wasn't it, was it?" He asks as I hover defeated. "Embarrassing. Not only to yourself but to me."
That's when an idea springs to mind. Bringing my suit's Head's Up Display to view I forego the routine I've grown so used to and access a menu of the suit that I've barely even glanced at before. The screen reads: "Eject Chronal Core?" And I do just that, pulling out the golden cylinder from my suit's back, suit flickering to reserve power. I grin to myself, the thing had at least a century worth of power left... it seems a shame to waste it but desperate measures and all that...
"What's that supposed to do?" Kronos asks, completely unimpressed.
"You know what? I'm not quite sure." I grip the thing in my hands and begin to squeeze, crushing the container with the last of my suit's strength. The explosion's instantaneous, blue flame bursts from my hands and engulfs me setting everything ablaze and sending me tumbling through the sky. It's only a moment later I realize I'm screaming.
My body's on fire, all my armor burned up and the ground rushing to meet me. Kronos is gone, incinerated by the blast or something else, I don't know. The black smoke fades and time returns to normal.
I lie on the ground by the Hudson river, broken and dying but victorious. With closing eyes I see my friends approaching, but know they won't arrive in time.
"Thanks friends..." I gasp, seeing nothing but blackness. "...for everythin..."
And then I die.