A Tale of Flint Golden
By Michael Kobold
Flint Golden climbed up from the floor onto which he'd fallen. The lab explosion had knocked him off his feet, and at once he noticed his labcoat was on fire. Patting out the flames with his gloved hands, Flint sighed in exasperation. Once again he had failed. His attempt to construct the chemical “heart” of his probability-predicting time-screen had resulted in nothing more than a terrific blast of heat and light. He was lucky he was unharmed, and that Siobhan wasn't around.
As he slowly stood, he wondered if maybe it was a foolish idea trying to build this screen. He and Siobhan had decided, since arriving recently in the 1930s, that they should seek out a team of assistants in the style of Flint's grandfather. Flint was interested in recruiting one of his grandfathers—the less-famous one—into this group, but had been unable to locate him. Siobhan's psionics hadn't helped much in this regard. The time-screen could show them images of the future to reveal the lineup of their team, and the circumstances under which they met all of them. But now it had all gone up in smoke. Again.
Or had it...?
To Flint's surprise, the machine he'd been working on looked untouched. So did the rest of the lab. But this lab was wrong. The cabinets were the wrong size. The beakers and test tubes were rearranged from how they'd been an instant ago. The central worktable was shifted a few inches to the left.
Maybe the calendar would help. He turned back to take a look.
The year read 1997.
Flint released a rare gasp of surprise—and horror. It was his worst nightmare come true. He'd been sent back into the future—in an instant he realized that the explosion could have agitated his time-field to create a ripcord effect, dragging him back to his point of origin. He removed his mask, and rubbed his fingers over the bridge of his nose. His body was cold and faint. At once he feared that his mission to defeat the Thunderchild had been defeated before it even began.
But then his gold-flecked eyes snapped open. If he had failed, why was this lab still here? Why was it still lit, and well-dusted? Something was still wrong. Something he couldn't put his finger on.
Suddenly, a demanding voice cried, “Who the hell are you?!”
Flint turned around, ignoring the fact that his mask was still removed from his face. He didn't care if people in the future knew his identity—he just had to hide his face from his paternal grandfather, to prevent a time-paradox. But when he turned to look at the source of the voice, he wondered if he was gazing into a mirror. The face staring back at him was his own.
No—there was a difference. This man was blond, while Flint's hair was the color of copper. Furthermore, to Flint's eyes, he appeared to be of African descent, rather than Mayan. But the gold-flecked eyes were the same—the well-shaped nose and mouth were the same. The two men stared at each other, wordless, for what seemed an eternity.
“Answer my question, please,” requested the blond Flint. “Who are you? And I'm asking you with twice the urgency, now that I see you've stolen my appearance.”
“Your appearance?” Flint asked. “I've had this face since I was born.”
“I won't ask again,” the doppelganger barked. “Who—are—you?”
“My name is Flint Golden. But I was born under the name of—” and he told the other man his real name.
His interrogator was taken aback. “Flint Golden!” the double gasped. “I-I'm sorry! I should've known!”
“You know me?” Flint asked.
“Y-yes, I just—I was told you always wore your mask.”
“Yes, I took it off for a little bit. I suppose now you know my true face—whoever you are.”
“My name is Flint Lancing. I was named for you.”
Flint raised an eyebrow. “Now this is getting interesting.”
“Well, you must remember! My parents were Dr. John Lancing and Sharon Renault.” When Flint's face remained blank, the other Flint added, “My great-grandfather is the Brute...? One of four, admittedly, along with Grandpa, Jukaro, and Janus...”
“I've never heard any of these names,” Flint Golden said. “And I don't know any of your ancestors.”
At once, Flint Lancing seemed to understand. “You're from earlier in the timeline. Oh, you haven't met my great-grandfather yet, and he was your—” He cut himself off. “Do you know a woman named Connie Bryce?”
“Never heard of her.”
“Well, forget the name. Now I know how early along you are. You're just starting out, aren't you?”
It took a moment but Flint got his meaning. “I-I've just arrived in the 1930s, yes.” He frowned. “Listen, I know your name, but—who are you? I mean, what do you do?”
“I'm a scientist. I carry on my father's work, as a crusader for justice. He journeyed the world with his five assistants, righting wrongs wherever he went.”
Flint Golden rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Sounds an awful lot like my grandfather.”
“Listen, Flint—if you're here, you're in the wrong place,” Flint Lancing said. “I don't know how to tell you this but this isn't your world. It's another Earth in the Multiverse. There's no Siobhan here, and our history is different. And if I'm right about your place in the timeline, failure to return to your proper position in the timeline will result in dire consequences for us all. The Thunderchild must be defeated.”
“My time-screen—I was building one similar to yours,” Flint Golden said. “It exploded, and it must have flung me forward in time—sideways in space. I've known for some time that parallel Earths exist, but this is the first time I've visited one.”
“I haven't been able to finish my time-screen—I was working on the chemical core this morning, but haven't made much progress.”
“If you're using the same mixture as I did, you're in for a similar blow-up,” Flint Golden told him. “It was my flawed formula that destroyed my screen and sent me here in the first place.”
“Then it's good that you interrupted me,” Flint Lancing replied simply. “Well, it sounds like we have our solution. I'll let you blow up my screen, and ideally that will send you back to where you came from.”
“I mean, that's a very imprecise extrapolation of physics. I could end up in yet another parallel universe.”
“You're right—forgive my haste, Flint,” Lancing said. “I-I may be a little excited to finally meet my namesake. Even if I'm meeting him a bit too early.” Flint Golden grinned even as he donned his mask. “We'll do the math together, and figure everything out.”
“I like your spirit,” Flint Golden replied. “Let's get us some good old-fashioned pens and paper, and—” But he was cut off. A white light appeared from nowhere and swirled brightly around Lancing's time-screen. The light enveloped the machine completely, and in a burst of echoing resonance, it suddenly vanished. The two Flints watched their hopes literally evaporate before their eyes.
A moment passed.
“What the hell was that?” Flint Golden demanded.
“I'm afraid I know,” Lancing replied. “I've seen that light before. I was hoping I had finally put him down, though...”
“Put who down?”
Lancing stared at the empty space where the screen had just sat. “Years ago, while adventuring with my uncle Jukaro, we ended up stumbling into one of the dimensional rifts that can be found on the African mountain where my family resides,” he began. “We ended up on a horrifying alternate world which worshipped a foul demon called Vulthoom. Here, the governments of the world were tyrannical dictatorships, and the heroes and superhumans we'd known on our world were maddened tormentors of humanity. In Germany, which had once again become a Nazi state, we battled Mokalish Koh—that world's own version of myself. Grandson of the fascist 'ubermensch' Sun Koh.”
“Nazis unleashed again. I wish that wasn't part of any world's history,” Flint murmured. “There was a Sun Koh on my Earth, a minor fanatic. I believe my grandfather killed him when he prevented Hitler's escape from Lisbon. The dirty Nazi believed himself to be the heir of Atlantis.”
“So did Sun Koh, and so too does Mokalish. Like his grandfather, Mokalish is a genocidal maniac. He murdered his universe's incarnation of the Brute, a man named Elmo Binns, and my grandfather's counterpart, the warrior Bundor. They were two of that Earth's few noble souls. The 'Vanisher' device he used to steal the time-screen is from another of his kills, a mad hunchback who had battled his grandfather. Like I told you, I thought I'd killed Mokalish. Jukaro and I trapped him in his Arctic Fortress and blew it up.”
“Clearly, he used his teleporter device to escape,” said Flint Golden.
“Clearly,” Lancing agreed. “It's a good thing we already have a lead to finding him. Or a chance at one.”
“What are you suggesting?”
“I keep my family's personal travel-machine here in this bunker. It's an ancient Darwood circuit, worshipped by the Wazuri people as their Golden Idol.”
“You mean Waziri?”
“They are the Wazuri on our Earth,” Lancing asserted. “We last used the Golden Idol in 1983, where we traveled into the future and—well, I suppose I can't tell you that, without causing a time-paradox. I didn't go with on that trip, being only seven at the time, but my parents taught me how to use the device. We can use the Idol to lock onto Mokalish's chronal pattern and follow it through spacetime.”
“That's amazing. I didn't know such feats were possible with a Darwood circuit,” said Flint Golden, astonished.
“The Idol is more complex than any modern circuit,” replied Lancing. “Maybe you and I working together could build something like it, but it would take years. We're very lucky to have it, and we honor the Wazuri for allowing us its use.”
“What are we waiting for, then? Let's go!”
Flint Lancing laughed. “I like your attitude, Flint.”
“And I yours...Flint.”
Lancing gave Flint one of his father's old vests, which he believed correctly would fit him perfectly. This allowed Flint to discard the charred labcoat that he had been wearing; Lancing had also been wearing a white coat, and he replaced it instead with a combat vest very similar to the one Flint wore. The two men proceeded at once to Lancing's vault, where he stored souvenirs of his adventures: Captain Seas' hat, a German Luger from Sun Koh's universe, the door-sign of the Three Dragomen Cafe, a golden lasso from the Amazon city of Palmyra. The centerpiece of this collection was the Golden Idol, a statue of a woman with exaggerated proportions.
“It's amazing. Like the so-called 'Venus' fertility statues of ancient cultures,” Flint Golden said. “And I believe you when you say it contains advanced technology. But if that's true, why didn't you suggest it as a way home for me?”
“The Idol is not easy to control. It requires the will of many to guide. I was building the time-screen as a sort of road-map to the various branching timelines, so that individual people could use the Idol more easily.” He removed the Idol from its pedestal, examining it closely. “The navigation works better if there's a contact point on the other side. Which makes these chronon-guided jumps much easier than trying to reach a specific point in time with no lead.”
“I see,” Flint said. “How exactly does this work? Do I just put my hands on it?”
“Essentially. Then you concentrate. You just need to imagine a dimensional gate—since you're a time-traveler, you'll know something of what that looks like. I'll focus on locking in on the chronon trail.”
“I...see. I have to admit, this is a new experience for me.”
“Me too. But it's surprisingly quick when it happens.”
Flint imagined the chronal gateway, as Lancing requested. “How—”
There was a flash, and a rush of motion. Flint felt his hair billow in the wind, as he, Lancing, and the Idol rocketed through time and space. All of a sudden, they found themselves not in Lancing's lab, but in the bombed-out ruins of a building. Flames roared around them, consuming what little remained of the structure. Through the breaks in the ceiling above, the two Flints could see a city beyond, and a flag waving in the wind. A red flag, with a white circle in the center, wherein sat a black swastika.
“Oh, God, no.”
Anxiously, he reached to the Star of David around his neck. Lancing caught a glimpse of this and was at once flooded with guilt. For all their talk earlier, Lancing had forgotten that his namesake was Jewish. It was one thing to hear someone talk about an alternate world ruled by the Nazis—it was quite another to actually see it, and the flames that spread across it.
“I was kind of hoping he was hiding out somewhere on my Earth, as he did in one of my previous adventures,” Lancing said. “I didn't think he'd come here.”
“Is there a name or number to this Earth? Anything to set it apart from ours?” Flint asked. “What are we calling ours, by the way?”
Lancing sighed. “This is complicated. I should've explained before the jump...”
“It gets more complicated from here?” Flint suddenly felt exhaustion grip him.
“Our worlds exist in a strange polarity to each other. The Multiverse, you see, is cleaved right down the middle...”
“...divided by a line of Void known as the Lost Stream. It is a swirling empty whiteness which contains the Multiverse's deleted, non-canonical events.”
“This does not sound...right.”
“Maybe I shouldn't bet so much on the time displacement erasing your memory when you go back to your Earth,” Lancing murmured.
“I'm not exactly keeping up with you,” Flint Golden said, “but you were saying something about the Multiverse split in half.”
“Yes, divided into two Sides, like a vinyl record—an A-Side and a B-Side. Our Earths are counterparts within that duality—yours, on the A-Side, and mine, on the B-Side.” Lancing was keeping his voice down but it kept regaining its volume. “You learn all this in your future. So seriously. Forget everything I told you, if you happen to remember, when this is all over.”
“I will...avoid time paradoxes, yes,” Flint said. His confusion was still at its greatest height. He was hoping he'd avoid time paradoxes, but he knew that averting such a thing required knowing what was going on.
“We'll call your Earth, Earth-A, and mine, Earth-B,” Lancing said. “These names are not fully accurate, because our Earths, as counterparts, actually have the same name, Earth-X. The 'Earth' we currently inhabit is between ours—a hypothetical 'Earth-C.' It exists within the Lost Stream because it is a destroyed timeline from your world. It is an illusory reality created by a momentary diversion of the timestream.
“The last time I was here and fought Mokalish Koh, this part of the world was ruled by a clone of Adolf Hitler—the last viable specimen created from a desperate South American experiment decades prior. This world is consumed by a world war, a nuclear one, and the horror has only just gotten started.”
“And now this Koh guy, who sounds like a Nazi version of us, has a teleporter that can reach into our universes,” Flint Golden said, “plus he has your model of the time-screen.”
“This is Berlin,” whispered Flint Lancing. “Mokalish Koh must have brought the machine here to present to the Fuhrer himself!”
At that, Flint Golden started to climb up out of the building. Lancing whispered a warning, but Flint ignored it. As soon as he reached eye-level with the street, he saw a battalion of soldiers marching down the rubble-crowded road. They were dressed in the trademarks uniforms of Nazi stormtroopers.
“They haven't updated their aesthetic in fifty years,” he said, allowing himself a thin laugh. The soldiers kept on marching by, and he was amazed by how long their column was. He wondered what a force this large was doing here. He knew Mokalish Koh had to be nearby. If the Golden Idol had worked correctly, they had landed close to his present location.
That when he saw the black sedan rolling slowly, boxed in by the squads of troopers. Emblazoned on the driver-side door was a swastika. This car was the only one in the entire parade—which meant it had to hold a very important passenger.
Flint Golden hoped privately that this was just some sick nightmare. Looking aside, he saw that there was more rubble ahead, along the road which the convoy traveled. Using this rubble as cover he made his way ahead of the convoy, seeing now that one building had survived: an open-air amphitheater. As the soldiers pulled in, the car remained outside the building, but when its doors opened, the soldiers seemed to lose control of themselves—shouting excitedly, they began to mob the car, until they were shoved aside by their superiors. A gaunt, hunched figure emerged, surrounded at once by several anxious-looking bodyguards. Flint waited for this man to turn his head in some way, so he could see his face. Though he already knew his identity.
When the man did turn, his face was immediately recognizable, though it was more greatly aged than extant photographs on Flint's Earth. He still wore the rectangular mustache, though it had long since turned gray. Adolf Hitler, or a clone of him, strode up towards the theater stage, even as Lancing came up behind Flint.
“Clone degeneration did in the others,” Lancing said. “Many inherited Parkinson's from their genetic father, while others succumbed to drug addiction influenced by cerebral chemical imbalance. Those who escaped those fates began rapidly aging, as this one did.”
“If we're going to strike, the time is now,” said Flint. “He's guarded only by foot soldiers. Our Nazi counterpart hasn't shown his face yet.”
“Yes—but I think that may change soon.”
Lancing didn't need to point out that another figure was taking the stage now—a tall, strong-looking figure, dressed in the uniform of a high-ranking SS officer. Though he wore no cap over his bronzish hair, he took to another form of headgear instead. Both Flints were taken aback upon observing that he wore a black variant of Flint Golden's mask, with crimson lenses over his eyes instead of sea-blue.
“He wasn't wearing that last time,” murmured Lancing.
“The Multiverse works in mysterious ways,” Flint replied. “And hideous ones, it seems. I say we rush them. Take down the soldiers, and then get our hands on Hitler and Koh.”
“We can't afford to go in unarmed,” said Lancing. He reached into the pockets of his vest, and Flint's as well, each time producing tools and weapons. “We have here some of my father's gas-grenades...”
“Those glass globes filled with knockout gas? My grandfather invented those.”
“Maybe my father used your grandfather's design, after he meets you in your future. Now, this little number is newer—a ray-shield. It projects a curved screen that can reflect anything up to a tank shot.” The object in questions looked to be a simple plastic puck with a thin cross of metal attached to it. But that cross was likely an energy-projector, Flint Golden realized—he had worked on something like this at varying points in his life.
Flint Golden confessed: “I miss my old laser gun, from my Swift Morgan days.”
“Now you have me confused,” Lancing admitted. “But I'm sure that's a story in itself. There's one ray-shield for each of us. I'll give you three of the gas-grenades. Make them last.”
“I wish they were true explosives,” Flint replied. “There are no good Nazis, especially if this world is like what you say it is. They should all hang.”
“I agree,” said Lancing. “Let's at least put a glimpse of strangulation in their lives.”
With that, Flint Golden hurled one of his gas-grenades into the crowd of soldiers, who were waiting for Koh and their Fuhrer to speak. When it exploded a chorus of coughing broke out at once. The pair of Flints charged in and switched on their ray-shields. Though the soldiers were taken by surprise, they saw their attackers and opened fire. The battle had begun.
The Nazi bullets bounced uselessly off the two men's ray-shields, until at last they were within the soldiers' ranks. Here, they bashed Nazis left and right with their shields, saving their gas-grenades for when they were truly overwhelmed. Flint Golden's mask protected him from the gas, while Flint Lancing had been made immune with chemical treatments. As for the Nazis, there was only sleep, by gas, shield-bash, or fist.
The Flints carried their warpath all the way through the crowd as battalion after battalion fell upon them. Flint Golden was down to his last gas-grenade by the time they reached the front of the amphitheater. He was forced to use it when five men jumped Lancing on his flank. Lancing appreciated the save, but now there was no gas left to use on Hitler. Flint Golden was surprised—why hadn't Mokalish Koh ordered Hitler evacuated yet?
When the last of the Nazis were defeated, left coughing at the twin warriors' feet, they stood before the two dictators. Flint's confusion deepened when he saw that Hitler's guards had left the fragile Fuhrer to fend for himself. But then he heard Mokalish Koh's laugh break out—a cold, stiff laugh.
“Do they not make amusing entertainment, mein Fuhrer?” he declared, in a rich, metallic voice. “If you allowed me to take them into captivity, I could turn their rebellious minds towards a more useful purpose, with the aid of my grandfather's brain surgery techniques. Otherwise, I will crush them before you, if you wish.”
“I hoped to never see your face again, Mokalish—and it seems you've gone out of your way to appease me in that,” Flint Lancing said. “You Nazis are usually pretty ugly, and you're hardly an exception. So I appreciate your mask.”
“Your companion appears to share my sense of style, however,” Koh said mockingly. “His ugliness can be chalked up to his Jewishness, presumably.” Again Koh laughed. “A Negro and a Jew believe they can depose me. This is ridiculous.”
“They have also defeated dozens of mein soldiers, mein freund!” declared Hitler. “Smite them, before they kill me!”
“Flint, you get Hitler!” Flint Golden cried. “I'm going to have fun smashing this Nazi me.”
Mokalish Koh seemed to have no comeback for that, aside from the bestial roar he unleashed as he lunged off the stage. Flint was ready for him, deflecting his opening strike with his shield.
As for Adolf Hitler, his rat-like face wrinkled in fear as he watched Flint Lancing take the stage. Flint couldn't resist a laugh. “So this is the great leader of the Master Race,” he mused. “Listen, on my world, Adolf—you burned. Your officers lied to the world, told us that you committed suicide, but in truth you were burnt alive by a hero of flames who assaulted your bunker.”
“Lies! Black lies!” Hitler proclaimed. Lancing closed in on him and smacked him across the face. “No, no! D-don't hit me—!”
“In every universe, Adolf, you're a damn coward. Let's see how well you fight.”
As Lancing advanced on the old man, Mokalish Koh seized Flint Golden, pinning his arms. Flint had dropped his shield when it became clear his enemy was too quick to fall victim to the bashing motion he'd used on the soldiers. His first punch had missed and now Koh snared him. But he jabbed his elbows back with all of his strength, pounding all the force of his arms into Koh's stomach. Though his uniform gave him some protection, Koh cried out and doubled over, his howl of pain sinking to a low, bitter groan. Flint took pleasure in the Nazi's pain, and kicked a strong foot high into his face. The force of his kick reflected off the Atlantean's mask into his foot, but the bones didn't break—unlike the left lens of Koh's mask. When he recovered from his stagger, Koh's gold-flecked eye stared out at Flint, who snapped a hand out towards the mask. He tried to hook his finger under the eyehole to rip it off his face, but before he could, the Nazi grabbed his arm and jerked him forward. Flint lost his footing as Koh tripped him, sending him toppling to the ground.
Flint Lancing laid in punch after punch on Hitler, crushing his nose. “Please...” Hitler begged. “Please, I am just an old man...”
“Fuck you,” Lancing replied, and hit him again.
Flint Golden picked himself up off the ground, and aimed again for Mokalish Koh's stomach. He knew it'd still be tender from before, and his fists found their mark twice. The gurgling noise the Atlantean made meant Flint had made him cough up blood. He knew that if he got his foe's mask off but kept his on it'd be a quick fight—one headbutt and he'd be out. But the reverse was true too. The Nazi would try to get his own mask off, and Flint couldn't allow that. When Mokalish Koh went for his mask, Flint grabbed his gloved hand and twisted his clawing fingers. The so-called heir of Atlantis screamed as three fingers snapped.
Lancing threw Hitler back over to the sedan that had carried him to the amphitheater. There was a stack of crates they'd unloaded from the trunk, and the Fuhrer slammed hard against them. They skidded down over each other and broke open—Hitler spat blood from his mouth. But then he saw what had fallen from one of the shattered crates, and darted for it with sudden speed. Lancing saw it too late—it was a gun of some kind. In an instant it was in the aging Nazi's hand.
“First I shoot the Jew—then I watched mein Atlantean freund destroy you,” he declared. He aimed the gun at Flint Golden and fired. By coincidence, Flint jerked away in time to avoid the laser—a thin, green laser which burst into flames upon striking the far wall. He pushed Mokalish Koh away from him with a hard shove, then took up his ray-shield. Crazed with fear and hate, Hitler shot at him again, just as he snapped the shield on.
The green beam reflected back nigh-perfectly. The Fuhrer gave a final scream before the beam cut through him. He lived only for a moment longer, long enough to see his body erupt in flames.
“That's...actually pretty much how it happened before,” Lancing murmured.
Flint Golden was in shock.
“I-I...” He sounded bemused. “I killed Adolf Hitler...?”
“Yeah, and nice going, too!” Lancing cried. “Now, all we have to deal with is him—”
“Mein Fuhrer!” Mokalish Koh exclaimed tearfully. “Mein Fuhrer, no!” He ran to him, removing and throwing away his mask in the process. As the Nazi leader burned, the young man knelt beside the charred corpse, as if he somehow had the power to bring him back from the dead. His hands trembled, until at last they slumped hopelessly to the ground. Then he turned back to face the two Flints. At once, Flint Golden saw that Koh had his face, except he had grown a Satanic beard to go with it. Slowly, Koh rose to his full height.
“You have doomed our Reich!” he roared. “He was the last of his kind, the last that could be bred.”
“Good,” Flint Lancing replied. “Now your Reich is just a fluke within a fluke.”
Flint Golden said, “I say we prevent a repeat of history, Flint. Let's make sure the heir of Atlantis doesn't come back again.”
“So you succumb to the killing urge,” Mokalish Koh sneered. “You people are supposed to be the heroes, the 'good guys'...but you're already planning to kill me.”
“Let me ask you a question—are you going to stop being a Nazi? Will you set aside the rhetoric of white supremacy and help us defeat oppression and murder?” Flint Golden asked.
“I will always believe in the supremacy of the white race, as promised by my grandfather's forebears in Atlantis. I will always believe we are the purest race, and I would sooner die than let that go.”
Flint shrugged, and Lancing mirrored him. “I guess we have no choice but to meet that request,” said Lancing at once.
Mokalish lunged at them like a wild animal. He was aiming specifically for Flint Golden, but when Lancing tried to intercept him he slowed briefly. Raising a leg mid-run, he kicked Lancing aside with surprising force. Then he continued his sprint towards his masked counterpart.
“I will deal with the African in time, Jew, but you are my primary target,” Koh roared. “Your faith and blood are repugnant to me. And you have killed my master...”
“You think you're so great, when you spent your time serving a weak old man,” Flint replied. He caught Koh's outstretched arms, but with his great strength Koh tried to force his hands towards Flint's throat.
“He was a genius, and you took his genius from the world!”
“He was a butcher, across all worlds. You'll never understand that point, though. You said so yourself.” Flint brought his knee up into Koh's torso—that knocked the wind out of him. Koh was staggered, and Flint closed in. “Even when I was trapped in my world's future, its mid 21st Century, I learned that people find out too late how dangerous fascism is. It has to be crushed immediately, as soon as it appears.” His right hook thrust out and hit Koh square in the face, making a satisfying snap against his skull. “The privileged don't know what a beautiful world they have until someone starts burning its differences away.”
“You're just like all the others, the enemies of our Reich,” Koh shot back. “You can't help but take that holier-than-thou tone. You have no respect for those you protect. You think yourself above them...”
He tried to punch Flint, but he dodged the blow. “I don't hate the privileged for their privilege. Ignorance is bliss. Perhaps it's a blessing that some aren't aware of what evil lurks near to them.”
Koh was bleeding from his nose. “You are a philosopher, I'll grant you that. But you are a Jew philosopher. I have no choice but to destroy you, to make the Multiverse a purer place.”
“Your world is an illusion, suspended in the Void of illusions,” Flint said. “We just need to stop you from leaving that illusion, and coming back into reality.”
“You lie! This world is part of the material reality of the Multiverse—the world where my kind won, and yours lost!” He was about to spit more hateful bile, but by then Lancing was on his feet. He tackled Koh to the ground.
No words escaped his mouth. Flint Lancing had his own ideology, but it was as Flint Golden had said: Koh would not listen. So he punched instead, driving his fist down into Koh's face again and again. Though he was bloodied and bruised, so was Lancing—Koh's kick had hurt him badly. But he refused to give in to the pain. Only Koh's astonishing strength removed him. He tossed Lancing away with a groan of effort.
But Koh was still on the ground. He snarled at Flint Golden and tried to haul himself up. But Flint jumped at him just as he put tension on his arm. His foot stomped down on that arm, instantly breaking it at the elbow. Koh cried out in agony and collapsed. Flint kicked him once more, and he felt the Nazi's femur snapped. Now Koh was at the two Flints' mercy, and he expected none. But Nazis, the Flints knew, are often wrong about many things.
“Turn over your Vanisher device and we'll be even,” said Flint Lancing. “We're going to take my time-screen back to my Earth, and you will remain trapped here, forever.”
“I thought you said you were going to kill me,” Koh muttered.
“We were angry. We didn't mean it,” Flint Golden said with a shrug. “Given that you want to exterminate everyone who bears the slightest resemblance to us, I think that anger was justified.”
“No, I know you. You are base creatures. You can't control your passions...”
“You're wrong, Koh,” said Flint Golden. “It's surprisingly easy. Giving you the beatdown of your life really helped clear the air.”
“I-I am dishonored. I failed my Fuhrer. I anticipated either the success of killing you, his murderers, or the ending of my shame when you struck me down.”
“Then this is something like a fate worse than death, then?” asked the masked hero. Koh nodded. Below his mask Flint grinned. “Good.”
Lancing had gone to retrieve the Golden Idol from their landing zone. When he brought it into the amphitheater, he said, “The Idol is resonating—it senses the presence of another time-circuit. My machine must be nearby. It's deeper inside the building.”
“Well, I guess we're going now, Koh,” Flint said. He knelt down and searched the Nazi's body, until at last he produced a small oval-shaped machine. “I'm sure my friend will enjoy studying your Vanisher device. My own grandfather faced someone with one of these, I believe. Or something similar.”
“Curious, isn't it,” spat Koh, “the parallels between us.” And he grinned. “Our grandfathers, at least, were surely quite similar. They were both raised to be supreme warriors. Without peer, mentally and physically. Bred for war.”
Flint thought of his grandfather, and the complexity in his heart was inexpressible.
But he regained control of himself. “It hasn't been pleasant,” he told the Nazi, and he turned away from the fallen man. Then he strode confidently up onto the stage, where he found the same door that Lancing had. Within the large room beyond that door was Lancing's time-screen. Lancing stood near to it with the Golden Idol in his hands.
“I'll get us back to my Earth,” he said, “and then we'll focus on getting you back to yours.”
“Many thanks,” Flint said. “Let's leave this Nazi ruin behind, and let it succumb to whatever war haunts it.”
They placed on their hands on the Idol, and on the time-screen. In an instant, they were gone.
Mokalish Koh heard the sound of rippling that signaled their departure. He grunted, feeling pain surge through his broken arm. Rising slowly, he found his black mask and replaced it on his face. He knew another battalion would be coming soon. They would escort him back to central command, where he could begin finding another way to breach into Flint Lancing's universe.
However, as the battalion rolled up, they ignored Koh to instead focus on the charred remains of their Fuhrer. They chatted among themselves, and Koh observed that they shot anxious glances his way.
Then a figure presented himself—the leader of these troops, or at the very least their honored guest. Koh felt the blood drain out of his face; he was thankful for his mask. This man was his uncle—his half-uncle, he liked to say. His grandfather's illegitimate son Johann Sonnenlicht was a cold and imposing figure, dressing all in black. He approached Hitler's corpse, and studied it momentarily, his face unchanging. Then he looked up at Koh, and his eyes narrowed.
“Nephew,” Sonnenlicht said calmly, “I've known for a while about your plot to kill the Fuhrer. You believe you can take my father's place, yes?”
Koh said nothing, at first. Already, Sonnenlicht's men were lining up and taking aim at him.
“It wasn't me,” he pleaded. “There were two men, versions of me from other Earths. They invaded our dear Berlin from another dimension. I nearly had them but they ganged up on me.”
“Hm.” Sonnenlicht nodded, and turned away from his nephew. He raised his hand to give a silent order. Long had Koh and Sonnenlicht feuded for power in the new Nazi state. Now that feud ended, in a blaze of gunfire.
“I suppose now that the line of succession falls to...oh, to me,” Sonnenlicht mused. “Fascinating. Other Earths. You know, I'd always thought that was possible.”
He shrugged, leaving Koh's bloody, twitching corpse behind him.
* * *
On the world they'd deemed Earth-B, Flint Lancing dusted himself off. His time-screen was destroyed, and Flint Golden was gone. The exchange they'd shared was brief but respectful, as if they were simply two businessmen concluding an arrangement. But their words had contained the subtle promise of a future reunion. It was like they were only parting briefly, and not for many years, as it was sure to be. For Lancing, the whole thing almost felt like a dream.
There was much he could have told Flint Golden, but didn't. He thought of all that had transpired for his family since Flint Golden first contacted them nearly thirty years ago. He knew he couldn't tell his counterpart about the future, though. He couldn't risk his family's lives changing through alteration of the past.
Speaking of family—and things he hadn't told Flint about—his wife was home.
Evelyn Trowbridge walked into her husband's lab, and immediately saw evidence of an explosion. “What the hell happened here?” she demanded. Flint grinned and went to go embrace his attractive blonde spouse.
“It's a long story,” he said.
“I'm used to long stories with you,” she told him simply. “You're lucky you're not hurt.”
“Luckier than you think, my dear,” he replied. “You see—”
And he told her the full story. As he told it, he made himself his favorite mixed drink, an M&M fizz: ginger ale, chocolate syrup, vodka, and blue food coloring. Ordinarily Evelyn liked one of her own, but declined as her husband told his surprising tale.
“My God,” Evelyn said, once he was done. “I hoped you'd never go back to that evil place...not without me.” She laughed. “I'm dying to know what my evil incarnation looks like.”
“Perish the thought. Your heart is pure in all universes,” Flint mused. His wife laughed, and her eyes glittered. She was a more mysterious woman than she first appeared. She had spent most of her life living on a small island whose location only she knew. Her mother was Eve Ellen Trowbridge, who she was named after. Her father was Robert Donald Rainsford, the famous hunter. The two were castaways on Evelyn's current home in the late 1940s. They had met the island's then-master, a man named Erich Krieger. Krieger turned out to be a lunatic who hunted humans for sport—but Evelyn's father overcame him, taking over his island in the process. Evelyn was as beautiful as her mother, and as keen a hunter as her father.
“You're just trying to butter me up,” she told her husband. “I'm sure that in some other reality I could be a truly evil bitch.”
“Think better of yourself,” Flint encouraged.
“Well, in movies, evil in a woman is always represented by how alluring she is,” she replied. “I could wear lots of skimpy black dresses, I'm sure. But then, your counterpart didn't wear anything skimpy, did he...? Sort of a double-standard, there.”
“I'm a little thankful he didn't wear anything skimpy,” Flint said.
“What about the other Flint?”
“Him I wouldn't have objected to,” Lancing joked.
“Flint! He's your alternate universe self! That's incest, isn't it? Or is it masturbation?”
“I'm sure this question has been asked before,” Flint sighed. “But in all seriousness—Flint Golden is truly incredible. No wonder my parents liked him so much. He is a cunning fighter, and his good heart is immediately apparent.” He spoke knowing that his self from Earth-A likely had no memory of their encounter—all for the best.
“Sort of reminds me of you,” said Evelyn, pulling him close. “Never sell yourself short, hon. You make this other Flint pale by comparison.”
“I'm not selling myself short. I'm merely commenting on how sometimes legends are deserved.” Flint grinned widely and kissed his wife. “I may not be a living legend myself, but I deserve some praise for ending up with you. Took a lot of charm, that did.”
“It did.” Evelyn Trowbridge had picked up a legend of her own—the rumor that she was a supernatural being of some sort, with some sort of connection to mirrors. She allowed these rumors to remain unconfirmed. “You are a charming beast, Flint Lancing. You're a people-pleaser. I'm sure that your other self is looking forward to your reunion with anticipation.”
“I should hope so—because I'm looking forward to it!” Flint laughed, and thought about how good his life was—how it was always getting better. “À demain, I suppose?”
His huntress wife smiled, reflecting on her own joy. “À demain,” she agreed.
To Be Continued...!