Vignette #1:

"Finally, tonight, the solution of a sixteen year-old mystery.

As our viewers may recall, two months ago, the mummified body of an eighty year-old woman was found in a peat bog outside Bourtangerstad in the Netherlands. Preliminary tests indicated that the so-called 'Bourtangerstad Woman'  had lain undisturbed in the bog since approximately 2000 BCE.

However, in a statement released today by UNIT Scientific HQ in Geneva, Switzerland, it was revealed that DNA testing had identified the Bourstangerstad Woman as the remains of Ms. Kimberly Ann Posinki, formerly of Middleton, Illinois. 

Ms. Posinski had disappeared without a trace in May of 2004, one month before her eighteenth birthday.   Posinski, an amateur crime-fighter, was better known by her codename, 'Kim Possible'.  With her classmate, Ronald Stoppard, known as 'Ron Stoppable', she fought several lower-tier super-villains, in particular Doctor Drew Lipsky, alias 'Doctor Drakken', 
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Despite an exhaustive search, no trace of Ms. Posinski was ever found, and no clue to her disappearance was uncovered. Now, at last, the mystery is solved.

In a parchment message that was found with her body, which has been declassified only today, Ms. Posinski states that during an encounter with the criminal time traveler known as 'The Lord of Time', she was sent back to what she eventually realized was Bronze Age Europe.  While she attempted to leave signals as to her whereabouts for her friends in the present to find, in time she came to accept that no rescue was forthcoming.  Joining a local community, she married and had several children and grandchildren.  She arranged for her remains to be buried in the bog upon her decease, in the hope, now fulfilled, that they would eventually be found.

When asked if it might now be possible to rescue Ms. Posinski using some form of time travel, UNIT Scientific Advisor, Doctor John Disco, said,  'Sorry, no, it would create a temporal paradox. Now, shut up, I'm busy.'

Once final tests have been completed, Ms. Posinki's remains will be returned to her parents, Doctors James and Ann  Posinski, still resident in Middleton.

In a statement given this afternoon, Doctor James Posinski said: 'It's a very sad day for us, we'd never given up hope that we'd find her alive and well.  We do take some small comfort that our dear Kimmie will be coming home to us at last.'

In an additional note, UNIT genetic scientists say that Ms. Posinki's descendants may well number in the millions, and that this may help explain certain hitherto unexplained anomalies that have been found in certain  Western European populations."

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Vignette #2:

The Realm of Chaos, shortly before the Beginning of Time

 

Lord Chaos addressed the three figures that stood in front of Him.

 

“You three will be My primary agents in the Universe to come. You will live among the mortals as mortals, living life after life, constantly reborn throughout time and space, but always spreading Chaos wherever you are. I’ve chosen you three for this task because I know that with you doing it this job will be in competent hands.”

 

“Soitenly”, said one of the three, “We’re all incompetent! Nyuk-nyuk-nyuk!”)

Vignette #3:

The Great Hall of the Planet Oa, circa. 5,000,000,000 B.C.

Councilor Piglet assessed his appearance in the mirror. While he would never have admitted to anything so crass as vanity, he knew that he was about to take part in an event that would be remembered in universal history for eons to come, and he was concerned that he should project the proper image of dignified calm. (The bizarre coincidence that his name would have provoked hilarity in the speakers of a language that would not exist for ages to come was mercifully unknown to him.)

 

He left the changing room and walked into the Great Hall proper, where his fellow councilors were gathering for the ceremony wherein the Oans would adopt the title of “Guardians of the Universe”.

 

Piglet nodded to friends and acquaintances as he walked to his place. He looked at the observers’ gallery, where members of various select invited races waited for the ceremony to begin. 

 

One observer in particular caught Piglet’s eye - a large, pink-skinned, hairless humanoid male wearing blue-and-white robes, giving the overall effect of a Brobdingnagian William Frawley dressed for a toga party. (Not that Piglet would have condescended to know who William Frawley was going to be.)

 

This was Luau the Watcher, one of a race of beings pledged to total noninterference in the affairs of other species.

 

Piglet allowed a slightly arch look to cross his face.

 

Does it not occur to them, he thought, that total noninterference is impossible? That the mere act of observation affects the thing observed?

 

In fact, the Watchers had considered just that. There had even been extremists among their number who had suggested that they affected the universe simply by existing.  These had been countered by others who pointed out that it would affect the universe if they ceased to exist, and really, you could only go so far with that sort of thinking.

 

Unaware of this, Piglet took his place.

 

Well, Luau, he thought, we are about to begin “interfering” in rather a large way, whether you approve or not.

Vignette #4:

U.A. High School, Japan, May 2021

Asui Tsuyu adjusted her costume before she left the automobile which had brought her to her alma mater.  When she was satisfied, she exited the vehicle and approached the school.  A school official appeared from the gates and introduced himself.

 

“Good morning, Asui-san, I’m Murai”, he said. “It’s a great pleasure to meet you.”

 

“Likewise”, Tsuyu replied.  “I’m afraid I’m a bit early. My apologies, I overestimated how long it would take me to get here.”

 

“Think nothing of it”, said Murai. “We have a waiting area that I hope you will find reasonably comfortable.  One of the other guest speakers is early, also. You may find him interesting to speak to.”

 

Murai led her to the waiting area, which proved to be larger and better furnished than Tsuyu’s current apartment.

 

“Reasonably comfortable”?, she thought. Well, a school like U.A. would have frequent VIP guests that the administration would want to impress.

 

She saw her fellow guest speaker and recognized him at once. He was in costume, as she was, and although he gave the appearance of a fit man in late middle age, she knew he had to be on the high side of a hundred years old.

 

He stood when he saw her enter.

 

Murai spoke: “Garrick-sensei, please allow me to introduce Ms. Asui Tsuyu, one of your fellow speakers.  Asui-san, this is Doctor Jason Garrick, one of your fellow speakers.”

 

Garrick doffed his helmet to her, then held out his right hand. Tsuyu checked an instinctive bow and shook the proffered appendage.

 

“A pleasure to meet you, Garrick-sensei. I’m the Rainy-Day Hero, Froppy.”

 

He smiled, and said, “I’m the Flash, the Fastest Man Alive.  Well, one of them, anyway.  But please, call me ‘Jay’.”

 

“I’m Tsuyu”, she said, matching his informality. His Japanese was quite good - probably one of the reasons he’d been invited.  She wondered if he’d learned it during the Pacific War, but although she was known for speaking her mind bluntly, even she knew better than to bring that up.

 

The two heroes sat down.

 

“So, what are you speaking about today, Tsuyu?”, asked Jay.

 

“Well, you know”, she said, “I only graduated from here myself a few years ago, so they’ve asked me to speak about what graduates can expect when they first start out as heroes. You know, joining the Hero Association, whether to join a team or an agency or go independent, how to get recruited to a team or an agency if that’s what you want, and other things like that. Also, the more mundane stuff, like getting insurance, finding a place to live, that sort of thing. And you?”

 

“Oh, the usual”, said Jay.  “The early days of super-heroing in the U.S., what it was like when there were no rules, and we had to make our own.” He sighed. “Just once, I’d like to be asked to speak on chemistry.  Oh, and you can bet any amount of yen you like that during the question-and-answer period someone will ask me what the first Batman was like.”

 

“I get that with Deku sometimes”, said Tsuyu.

 

“There always seems to be someone who gets all the attention”, said Jay.

 

They sat quietly a moment, and then Tsuyu spoke.

 

“Jay, can I ask you a question that could be considered personal?”

 

“Sure”, said Jay. “If it’s too personal, I’ll let you know.”

 

“Well, you know”, said Tsuyu.  “I was born a Quirk – what they call a ‘mutant’ most places.  Both of my parents had ‘Frog’ as their Quirk. It was a common one where I grew up, so from my earliest childhood I was around people like me who had the same abilities I did and who could teach me how to use my ‘powers’. I always wonder what it would have been to grow up as a mundane and then suddenly have these powers that you were totally unprepared for.  It’s not always something you can ask here – it’s often considered intrusive. I was hoping that as an American you might be more open to talking about it.”

 

“Sure”, said Jay. “I don’t mind.  First off, what have you heard about how I gained my powers?”

 

“Just that you inhaled fumes from hard water and they catalyzed your latent Speed Quirk”, said Tsuyu.

 

“Mostly correct”, said Jay.  “Of course, we didn’t know anything about ‘catalyzed mutants’ in those days. No one did until Charles Xavier came along in the 60’s. No, back then, we all just assumed it was the hard water that had given me my powers somehow.  Of course, it wasn’t what we call ‘hard water’ these days – it was more like ‘heavy water’.  In those days, we were playing with things we didn’t understand.  It drove the scientists - myself included – crazy because it shouldn’t have done what it did. And it didn’t for anyone else.  A couple of people tried it, and all they got was sick.  I, however, got super-speed, and the enhanced constitution most of us mutants get, which is why I look barely sixty when I’m actually over a hundred.”

 

Jay shook his head and continued.

 

“I didn’t really understand it until I got to talk to Charles.”

 

“You know Professor Xavier?”, asked Tsuyu.

 

“Most of us heroes who were scientists talked to Charles at some point in time or another”, said Jay. “At least until he went off to become a wizard.”

 

Jay shook his head again.

 

“Anyway, to get back to what you actually asked, about what it felt like to suddenly be the fastest man alive. To this day, when I’ve had eighty years to think about it, it’s still hard to describe. It was exhilarating and frightening at the same time.  In a certain way, I had suddenly become a completely different person. I’d always been particularly slow – they used to call me “Lead-Foot” at school. To suddenly be faster than everyone else – it was almost intoxicating. I also didn’t know how long it would last. For all I knew, my speed might have been temporary. How little I suspected!”

 

They sat quietly again for a bit, until Tsuyu spoke again.

 

“Do you know about this theory that Doctor Dey is going to speak on? These ‘Celestials’ she theorizes about?”

 

“Well, the Celestials are no theory”, said Jay.  “I saw them when they came to Earth back in the 70’s. As for her theory that they affected human DNA, allowing for the eventual evolution of mutants, Eternals, Deviants, variant humans and demi-humans – well, I think it’s possible.”

 

Just then, a woman’s voice came from the doorway.

 

“Hello, Jay, are demonstrating your little-known power of long-windedness?”

 

“Hello, Deirdre”, said Jay.

 

Tsuyu looked to the door, where she saw Murai with a Caucasian woman who looked to be about 65 years old.  The woman turned to Tsuyu.

 

“Hello”, she said, “I’m Doctor Deirdre Dey, sometimes called ’Doomsday’, and current headmistress of the Westchester School for Gifted Youngsters.”  If anything, her Japanese was even better than Jay’s.

 

Since Dr. Dey did not hold out her hand, Tsuyu bowed and said:

 

“Hello, Doctor Dey, I’m Asui Tsuyu, Rainy-Day Hero Froppy.”

 

The older woman returned the bow and said, “A pleasure to meet you, Asui-san”. I’ve heard of you. I’d love to have a chance to examine you sometime.  However, right now, I think they’re about ready for us.  Shall we go?”

Vignette #5:

Empire State University, New York City, September 2020

  A smartly dressed woman in early middle age approaches a podium at the front of a classroom.  While she looks mostly human from the waist up, her razor-sharp teeth, the membranous wings attached to her arms and her reptilian lower body mark her as one of the dinosaur folk - in particular a pterosaur.  She looks over the assembled students and begins to speak.

 

“Good morning, I’m Professor Kklak.  Welcome to ‘The Fourth Civilization: An Historical Overview’.  Now. The term ‘Fourth Civilization’ derives from the tendency of recent historians to divide the history of intelligent life on this planet into five distinct eras, or ‘civilizations’. These five civilizations are typically described as follows:

  • The First Civilization encompasses the period that the Earth was dominated by the various species now classified as ‘Homo Reptilia’, and my own ancestors, the intelligent Dinosaurs.
  • The Second Civilization was the so-called ‘Bedrock Civilization’, which dominated the Earth during the First Stone Age, and which is now generally believed to have been founded by time travelers from the year 1960.
  • The Third Civilization was the Atlantean civilization that arose after the Second Stone Age and which dominated the Earth until the event known as the Great Cataclysm, and a fragment of which survives in the present-day undersea city of Atlantis.
  • The Fourth Civilization consisted of the various societies that dominated the Earth between the Great Cataclysm and the event known as the Great Flood.
  • The Fifth Civilization is the one that arose after the Great Flood and which continues down to the present.

 

Now. All of these divisions are to an extent arbitrary and gross oversimplifications. This is perhaps most true of the Fourth Civilization, which is in many ways merely a catch-all term for the various societies that existed between the Third and Fifth Civilizations, and mostly could not be considered part of either.  You will hear many names in this class – Cimmeria, Hoshido, Nohr, Valla, Gotha, Hyrule, Gondor, Rohan and others – that you are perhaps not familiar with. You will learn what we know of who these peoples were and how they lived, and what, if any, continuity and interaction they had with one another and what impact they had on our own ‘Fifth Civilization’. Now. We will begin with the aftermath of the Great Cataclysm and the rise of the so-called ‘Atlantean Successor States’…”

Vignette #6:

Somewhere in Armorica, sometime in 42 B.C.: That mysterious traveler in time and space known only as “The Doctor”, who was then in his tenth incarnation – or at least, the tenth that he was admitting to at that point in his lives -  was walking through the forest with his traveling companion, Donna Noble.  They had just left a small village of indomitable Gauls who held out against the Roman occupiers.

 

They’d helped the villagers defeat a Roman spy – who, unbeknownst to the villagers had actually been a Rutan spy posing as a Roman spy.  Then they’d partaken of the great banquet which apparently followed each of the villagers’ triumphs. Now they were walking back to where they’d left the TARDIS.  The Doctor was fidgeting with a small stoppered gourd that he held in his left hand.

 

“I’m surprised that druid let you have a sample of that ‘magic potion’ of his”, said Donna. “Not with the way he treated it like a state secret.”

 

“He didn’t”, said the Doctor. “I just used a little sleight of hand to take some.”

 

“Are you a Time Lord or a pickpocket?”, snorted Donna.

 

“The two are not mutually exclusive”, the Doctor said. “Actually, I just wanted to analyze it chemically and compare it to that Miraclo pill I had off Rex Tyler, to test an old theory of mine that they were basically the same thing.”

 

“Is that what you do”, asked Donna, “travel around space and time nicking things off of people?”

 

“Well”, said the Doctor, “that’s not all that I do.”

 

“You know”, said Donna, suddenly thoughtful, “I can’t help thinking about Asterix and his friends. They’ve fought the Romans so hard for so long, but by my time, most people will think that they were just comics characters, and the ones who do believe they were real won’t even be sure where their village was.”

 

“Well”, said the Doctor, “I did tell Albert and Rene that it would be best to fictionalize their stories.”

 

“But what I mean is”, said Donna, ignoring her friend’s name-dropping as she’d learned to do, “they tried so hard, but in the end, their victories will be so, so temporary.”

 

“All victories are temporary, Donna”, said the Doctor.  “Few people know that better than I do that there’s no such thing as ‘happily ever after’, just ‘happily for a while’, or ‘happily until the next challenge arises’.”

 

“So, there’s no end to it?”, asked Donna.  “No final victories?”

 

“No”, replied the Doctor. “or final defeats either, really.”

 

“Then why fight?”, asked Donna.

 

“For today’s victory, today’s happiness, today’s justice”, said the Doctor. He looked up and saw that they’d reached the TARDIS. He unlocked the door and he and Donna entered.

 

“You see, Donna”, he continued, “the fact that a victory is temporary doesn’t mean that that it has no value.  In the end, I know that –“

 

But the rest of what the Doctor said was drowned out by the time machine’s ancient, grinding engines.

Vignette #7:

Outside Ingolstadt, Duchy of Bavaria, Grand Duchy of Germany, Principality of Europe, Kingdom of the Earth, The Imperium, June 29, 2815:

 

Charlotte Esposito was a short, somewhat plain-looking woman in her early twenties, with shoulder-length brunette and a perpetually uncertain look on her face.  She was dressed in plain, sturdy clothing and wore a backpack that contained the tools of her chosen trade, archaeology. She was currently hiking through the woods in pursuit of a find that she hoped would aid her in her quest for a doctorate.

 

With her was her wife, F’Tang. F’Tang was a tall (six feet!) Vulcan, unusually buxom and curvy for a woman of her race, and something of an eccentric. Oh, not that she was given to overt public displays of emotion – no, her eccentricity was in dress. Except on formal occasions where a certain type of dress was ordained by law or custom, F’Tang wore whatever she felt like.

 

Today, for example, she was wearing a sailor suit that would have done the heroine of a Twentieth Century manga proud. Her long hair, normally black, was dyed lavender and tied back in a pony-tail.  Impractical wear for archaeology, one might have said, but Charlotte had learned that F’Tang had a gift for not getting dirty, no matter what she was wearing or what she was doing.

 

Charlotte and F’Tang had met in September of their freshman year of college when they had been assigned to the same dorm room. Charlotte had initially been intimidated by F’Tang and bewildered by her thick Irish brogue.

 

(F’tang’s parents had been somewhat eccentric themselves.  Successful ichthyologists, soon after they married, they had moved to Earth to study that world’s more abundant oceans, settling in the west of Ireland, where their daughter was born. Even FTang’s name was eccentric, being an obscure Vulcan dialect for “fish”.)

 

Charlotte had not had much interest in romance before, with either women or men, and so had been surprised by falling for F’Tang like a ton of bricks. Bewildered by her own feelings, she had done her best to hide them from her roommate. F’Tang, for her part, was unreadable to Charlotte, as Vulcans often were to humans.

 

Thus, it had been a shock when, on the first of October, F’Tang, wearing a basketball uniform, had gotten down on one knee before Charlotte, presented her with a ring, and said:

 

“Charlotte, I believe that it would be eminently logical for us to become life partners.  Will you marry me?”

 

“Yes!” had fallen out of Charlotte’s mouth before she’d even processed what F’Tang had said.

 

Three days later, wearing matching replicas of Nineteenth Century wedding dresses, Charlotte and F’Tang had been married at the local Imperial Registrar’s office, with a classmate who’d been studying in the dorm’s common area dragooned to serve as a witness.

 

That weekend they’d gone for a somewhat brief honeymoon to a small island off the coast of Ireland where F’Tang’s parents owned a small cottage.  On their wedding night, F’Tang had opened her heart to Charlotte, telling her that, however illogical it might seem, she had fallen in love with Charlotte at first sight. She had also demonstrated to Charlotte that Vulcans were capable of expressing love physically more often than once every seven years, if they chose to do so. That weekend F”tang had mind-melded with Charlotte, and they had shared an intimacy deeper than the mere physical.

 

It was only when they had returned to the dorms that Charlotte had time to think about the impulsive thing that they had done.  Their witness had spread the news all over campus, and it had found its way to their parents.  

 

Charlotte’s parents, Victor and Emilia, had been shocked, but had taken to F’Tang almost as quickly as Charlotte had. F’Tang had been bemused to find herself being taken to Emilia’s kitchen and given Emilia’s own recipe for Charlotte’s favorite pasta dish.  Nevertheless, she had listened dutifully and had soon mastered it.

 

F’Tang’s parents, Stalk and T’Pai had merely nodded and said, “Welcome, daughter”, to which T’Pai had added, “I hope that you understand what you have let yourself in for, Charlotte.”

 

Later, F’Tang had said, “They must really like you, Charlotte, I’ve never seen them so effusive.”

 

When Charlotte had decided to pursue a doctorate in archaeology, F’Tang had almost casually decided to pursue a doctorate in entomology. Under the Imperial system, only nobles were allowed to pursue higher education beyond the college level.  However, in order not to waste potential, worthy commoners were provisionally made non-hereditary nobles, the honor being made permanent if and when they attained their degrees.  Typically, their titles would die with them, but if they made some noteworthy achievement in their chosen field, they would be elevated to the hereditary nobility and given some more impressive title.

 

As it happened, F’Tang’s grandfather was the hereditary arch-praetor of a resort town on Vulcan, which allowed her to quality as nobility.  Charlotte was a commoner, but on qualifying for the doctoral program, she had been made Provisional Countess of Deaf Smith, a place she had never seen, and would probably never see. Mostly it just meant that she had to send birthday and holiday greetings to the Duke of Texas, and that on certain ceremonial occasions she had to wear what looked like a cowgirl costume that had been designed by Cinderella’s fairy godmother, assuming that worthy had just been hit on the head with a mallet. Charlotte accepted it as one of the burdens she had to bear if she was to achieve her goal of becoming an archaeologist.

 

Their current expedition had its roots in a conversation that Charlotte and F’Tang had had a few months after they’d gotten married, before she was ennobled.

 

Charlotte had been re-reading Frankenstein by Mary Shelley while F’Tang had been studying a holographic representation of a rhinoceros beetle.

 

“It’s funny to think it was all real”, Charlotte had said.

 

“What was?”, F’Tang had asked.

 

“Frankenstein, and what he and his descendants did”, Charlotte had replied.

 

“You believe that he did what Shelley claims he did?”

 

“You think it was all made up?” Charlotte had replied.

 

F’Tang had looked thoughtful.  “There is sufficient evidence for me to accept that Viktor Frankenstein and his descendants existed. However, I find it difficult to believe that a man of the Eighteenth Century could have done something that our own science could not.”

 

“Then what do you make of his creation? Of the creatures that were said to have been derived from his experiments – say, the giant Frankenstein that appeared in Japan in the 1960’s, the Frankenstein Jr. who fought crime around the same time, or the Frankenstein that served with S.H.A.D.E. in the early 21st Century?”

 

F’Tang had tilted her head. “I point out that while there is ample documentary evidence for the existence of Viktor Frankenstein, there is no evidence for the existence of his alleged ‘Creature’ beyond Ms. Shelley’s account.  Frankenstein Jr. is a robot that was created by a human named Buzz Conroy. He – the robot, I mean - is still operational. I met him when I was a girl, when my parents took me to a robotics exhibition in Tokyo.  As for the others you mentioned, it seems far more probable to me that they were mutants who were called ‘Frankenstein’ because of their physical similarity to popular fictional representations of Frankenstein’s alleged creations.”

 

“You may be right”, Charlotte had said. “But imagine if I can prove it was all real.”

 

All through her undergraduate years and even when she’d been pursuing her Master’s Degree, Charlotte had spent all the time she could spare on finding out every bit of information she could about the real Viktor Frankenstein.  She even went so far as to learn how to read German, French and Latin, rather than just rely on translations. 

 

During that time, she found tantalizing hints but nothing concrete. However, when she qualified for the doctoral program, she found a whole new world of resources open to her, archives open only to nobles – even temporary ones.  Some of these held records going back over two thousand years, including many old documents that had never been copied or put on-line. 

 

It was in one of these, a dusty old library in Pretoria, of all places, that she had first found something that could be called solid information.  She had followed a trial of clues around the world – so many old libraries had had to be relocated owing to various alien invasions over the centuries.  Once, she’d even had to go to a vault on the Moon.

 

Even the virtually unflappable F’Tang had found her nearly infinite patience tested.

 

“I seem to recall having a wife”, she’d said.  “But if I did, surely she would spend more of her time with me.”

 

Then one day, Charlotte had come home with a big smile on her face. 

 

“I’ve found it!”, she’d said. “The proof I’ve been looking for!”

 

“Proof of what?”, F’Tang had said.

 

“Proof that the story of Viktor Frankenstein was true.  I’ve found the location of his secret laboratory, and if it’s where I believe it is. I’ll find all the proof I’ll need.  Imagine if I could find his notebooks, his equipment.  It would mean my doctorate, a hereditary title…more than that, it could revolutionize science, it could change the world!”

 

F’Tang had looked nonplussed.  “Calm yourself, my wife.  Let me see this evidence you have found.”

 

Charlotte had handed a PADD over to F’Tang and left the room.  She had learned better than to hover over F’Tang in situations like this.

 

Sometime later, F’tang had sought her out.

 

“Well?”, Charlotte.

 

“Well”, F’Tang had said, “I will tell you up-front: I am not as certain as you are that you have found the definitive proof you have sought. However, I am convinced that what you found is substantial enough to warrant further investigation.”

 

So it was that they found themselves hiking through a sparsely-populated hilly region in Bavaria.

 

“Charlotte”, said F’Tang, “have you considered what will happen if you do find Frankenstein’s notebooks and equipment?”

 

“I haven’t thought about much else”, replied Charlotte.

 

“I wonder if you truly have thought it all through”, said F’Tang.

 

“What do you mean?”, asked Charlotte.

 

“Consider that even now we cannot do what Frankenstein is alleged to have done. Think about the effect his discovery might have on society, if it proves to be real. Consider what ‘certain elements’ might do with it.”

 

Charlotte knew what F’Tang meant by ‘certain elements’.  Even out here where it was quite unlikely that they would be overheard, F’Tang discreetly did not mention the Imperium by name.

 

Charlotte was quiet for a while, and then sighed.

 

“I take your point”, she said, finally. “But I have to know. After all the effort I’ve put into it, even if no one but you and I ever know about it, I have to know.”

 

F’Tang allowed herself the ghost of a smile.

 

“Charlotte, I understand your need to know. Recall the Ferengis’ Seventy-Ninth Rule of Acquisition: ‘Beware of the Vulcan greed for knowledge’.  I do regret that even if you succeed, you may not receive the recognition you desire and deserve.”

 

Charlotte smiled, and said, “As long as you know how awesome I am, babe.”

 

“I already know that”, replied F’Tang.

 

Finally, they came to a rocky outcrop surrounded by trees. Charlotte consulted her PADD.

 

“This should be the place”, she said.

 

F’Tang took out a tricorder that looked as though it had come out of a trunk from the Twenty-Third Century and scanned the area.

 

“Fascinating”, she said.  “I’m detecting a metal slab buried under the rock face and what appear to be tunnels behind it.  The minerals in the rocks are interfering with the scan.  The penalty I pay for carrying such an antique.”

 

“Well, only one way to find out”, said Charlotte, taking out a phaser-cutter, a precision tool used by archaeologists.  F’Tang stood back as Charlotte began expertly cutting away the rock. Eventually she revealed a large iron door with a large ring on one side.

 

Charlotte tugged at the ring in vain, before turning to F’Tang and saying:

 

“Oh, super-strong wife, would you mind?”

 

F’Tang tugged at the ring.  For moment, it looked as though even she might not be able to shift it, but eventually it opened, albeit with the tortured screeching of ancient hinges. It revealed the entrance of a tunnel. A rush of dank, stale air came out.

 

“This is not a natural formation”, said F’Tang. “My tricorder indicates that it goes deep into the hillside.”

 

Charlotte reached into her pack and pulled out a lantern-drone, which she activated. This was a flying light-source that was programmed to follow simple commands.

 

Charlotte and F’Tang entered the tunnel. It continued for a hundred yards, before ending at another heavy door. This time it took all the strength of both of them to open it. More stale air came out.

 

At Charlotte’s command, the lantern-drone passed through the door, revealing a large room. Charlotte and F’Tang entered and saw a large room filled with equipment, all carefully covered. Along one wall was a large bookcase, crammed with books.

 

F’Tang scanned the room with her tricorder. The readings she got astonished her.

 

“Holy Mary, Mother of God!”, she said, before recovering herself. “Most of this equipment is eight hundred years old, some of it much older. Charlotte, I owe you an apology. I am rapidly coming to believe that you have found exactly what you thought you would. What a fool I was to bring this antique tricorder!”

 

“No worries, babe”, said Charlotte, brandishing a state-of-the art tricorder. “A fine archaeologist I’d be if I didn’t come prepared.”

 

“Well done, my wife”, replied F’Tang.  With her tricorder, Charlotte would be able to scan everything in the room in such detail that they would be able to replicate it all. They would be able to read what was in the books without taking them off the shelves.

 

As Charlotte began scanning the room, F’Tang continued her own scans until she noticed an envelope on a table.  The words “To you who find this place” were written on it in German.

 

“Charlotte”, said F’Tang, “There is a letter here for you.”

 

“What?”, said Charlotte, racing to her wife’s side.  She handed her tricorder to F’Tang as F’Tang handed her the letter.  F’Tang continued Charlotte’s scans as Charlotte began to read:

 

“My friend –

 

My name is Igor. I served Doctor Frederick Frankenstein as my grandfather Fritz served his grandfather Heinrich. When Master Frederick opted to return to America along with Inga, Miss Elizabeth and his creation, who had taken the name ‘Adam Frankenstein’, he asked me if I wished to accompany them.

 

I refused, not wishing to leave my native land. He understood and settled an extremely generous sum on me for my service. He asked me only that I destroy all of his and his ancestors’ books and equipment.

 

I remonstrated with him, but he was adamant, and so I reluctantly agreed to carry out his request. However, when the time came, I could not bring myself to destroy the unique things that his family had worked so long to create.

 

Instead, I moved it all here to this room, a secret sub-basement beneath Castle Frankenstein which had an equally secret passage to the outside. I was aided only by Karl, a young fellow I hired. Karl was a deaf-mute, and somewhat simple, but was possessed of prodigious physical strength, so we accomplished the job quickly. I had no fear of his betraying my secret as he retained even the most basic information only with great difficulty. More often than not, I had to guide him home after a day’s work.

 

At any rate, once everything was moved, I paid Karl off and then sealed the passageway between this room and castle. Once I have finished writing this letter, I will leave this place, sealing the outer entrance and covering it up as best I can.

 

And so I leave the fate of the Frankensteins’ work up to you who, by whatever means, whether by God’s will or by chance, after one year or a thousand, have found this place. 

 

Perhaps you will honor Master Frederick’s wishes, and destroy it all. Perhaps you will use it for your own purposes, whether for good or ill.

 

Whatever you choose, I wish you the best of luck.

 

Sincerely,

Your friend,

Igor

Frankenstein, Bavaria

February 12, 1956”

 

Charlotte handed the letter to her wife and took the tricorder from her and continued scanning. F’Tang read the letter, and then resumed her own scanning. When they were done, they checked each other’s work. Then they left, sealing the vault and then sealing the outer door once they were outside.  They covered up the entrance as best they could, then swiftly returned home.

 

They spent all of their spare moments over the next few weeks studying the information they’d scanned. Finally, one evening, F’Tang, who was wearing a silk kimono and sitting on a couch, spoke:

 

“Charlotte, once again, I must apologize. I am now convinced that Viktor Frankenstein was a genius unique in human – perhaps even galactic – history. I am also convinced that he – as a human might say it – put the ‘mad’ in ‘mad scientist’. However, now that we have found his work, we must decide what to do with it.”

 

“Well”, said Charlotte, “it was you that pointed out how dangerous this knowledge could be.”

 

“I know”, said F’Tang, “and yet, now that I actually see it, now that I know that it is real, I understand Igor’s reluctance to simply destroy it.”

 

Charlotte dropped herself onto F’Tang’s lap, kissed her on the cheek and then said:

 

“Well, I see three options: 

 

            One:  We wipe the info from our tricorders, then go back Bavaria and do what Frederick wanted, and destroy everything there.

 

            Two: We do what Igor did – we sit on it, let someone else find it someday. We leave the stuff in Bavaria where it is and keep the information we have to ourselves. 

 

            Or Three: We use it – or part of it - ourselves.”

 

The two women began to discuss their next move. They were still discussing it when the sun rose the next morning.

Vignette #8:

:Excerpted from an interview of Anne Warbucks, CEO of Warbucks Industries, published in the January 1979 edition of WOMAN magazine. The interviewer was Carol Danvers, the magazine’s editor.

 

Anne Warbucks:  No, I never did find out who my birth parents were. Honestly, I never even tried. I don’t know that anyone could find out even if I’d asked. From what I was told, I was left on the steps of the orphanage with no note or anything, like something out of a vaudeville melodrama. Batman – the first Batman, I mean - once offered to try and find them for me, but I told him not to bother. Anyway, once Daddy adopted me, he was all the family I needed.

 

Carol Danvers: “Daddy” was Oliver Warbucks?

 

AW:  That’s right.

 

CD: Had you heard of him when he adopted you?

 

AW: No. It was only sometime later that I fully understood who he was.

 

CD: So, you didn’t know what a controversial figure he was?

 

AW: Not at first, no.

 

CD: I understand that you didn’t get along well with Mrs. Warbucks?

 

AW: No, I don’t like to bad mouth her, but she wasn’t “Mother of the Year” material. As it happened, she passed away two years after Daddy adopted me.

 

CD: What was your childhood like?

 

AW: Eventful. It seems as though I was constantly on the run from one or another of Daddy’s enemies. I must’ve lived with dozens of different families while I was waiting for Daddy, Punjab and the Asp to come and save me.  (Laughs) Nowadays the Child Protective people would have taken me away from Daddy even though he was rich, but things were different back then.

 

CD: Who were Punjab and the Asp?

 

AW: They were Daddy’s… “aides”, I guess you might call them. I never knew their real names. Actually, it never occurred to me to ask.

 

CD: You must have had a very “irregular” education.

 

AW: “Irregular” is a good word for it. I spent a lot of time in what we used to call the “School of Hard Knocks”. I did do my best to keep up my studies, though. That was really important to Daddy.  He always said that got nowhere in life without an education.

 

CD: I’m told you were in New York City when the first King Kong was brought there.

 

AW:  That’s right. I was fifteen years old then, Daddy and I were there on Denham’s opening -and closing – night. Later we saw Kong climb the Empire State Building, and the planes shooting him down. I guess you could say we got our money’s worth. Oddly enough, years later, I was in Tokyo when Pacific Pharmaceuticals brought the second Kong there. I actually saw it fight the second Godzilla.

 

CD: Eventually, you joined your father’s business. What was that like?

 

AW: That’s right.  I graduated from college in 1937, and Daddy took me into the company at an entry-level position. He did his best to make sure that I knew the business from the ground up. He didn’t want me to just be the “boss’ kid”, although of course that’s what I was. It really was like being thrown into the deep end. To this day, it amazes me that I made it through those first few years.

 

CD: Where were you when the so-called “Tripod-Riders” invaded New Jersey?

 

AW: We were in New Mexico on a rare family vacation. Missed the whole thing. I did meet Popeye the Sailor years later, though, and heard his account of the whole thing.

 

CD: What was it like when the Second World War started?

 

AW: Well, Daddy had seen it coming for some time, and had begun preparing to shift the company’s production towards munitions and other war materiel. When we entered the war in 1941, I was 25 years old and by then I was effectively Daddy’s second in command. In early 1942, he was “drafted” by the government for “special duties”. I never knew much about what that meant, and what little I do know, I can’t talk about even now. 

 

CD: What did that mean for you?

 

AW: What it meant was that I was just 26 years old and was running a company that was a vital part of the war effort, and that was an extremely unusual thing for a woman to be doing in those days.

 

CD: Did you think of yourself as a pioneer?

 

AW: No, at the time I was just trying to keep the business running and fight off the people who didn’t think I had what it took.  However, to everyone’s surprise – including maybe even my own, a little – I did just fine, though I say so myself.

 

CD: And after the war?

 

AW: I was ever so happy when the war ended, because it meant Daddy would come back. He came back, alright – for about a week, long enough to tell me that I’d been doing a great job, and that he was retiring and leaving the company for me to run.  That was when my life became interesting.

Vignette #8:

A letter dated December 5, 2033, from retired restaurant owner Harrison Phelps to college student Danielle Cage:

 

“Dear Ms. Cage-

 

Thank you for your letter. Nothing about it bothered me at all. It’s true – if I’m going to tell my story, it had better be sooner rather than later.

 

You asked about the first meeting of the All-Star Squadron. I was there. I was one of the catering staff. At 108, I’m reasonably certain that I’m the last of the staff still alive, and as it happens, I have a story that I’ve never told to anyone before, and that I’ve never seen mentioned in any other source.

Now I’m sure you’ve seen the group photo they took that day, the fifty-seven heroes who were the Squadron’s founding members.  What you don’t know – what no one knows but me – is that there actually sixty heroes there that day. My story is the story of the three heroes that never made it into the group photo.

 

The way that day went was like this:  The heroes arrived at the meeting hall, then there was a brief introductory speech from a Presidential aide, and then a greeting from FDR via closed-circuit TV. After that, there was a longer speech from Captain America – how the Squadron would operate, what would be expected of the members, that sort of thing.  Then they did the group photo.  I wasn’t there for most of that, because after the group photo there was a buffet lunch, and we catering staff were busy getting it ready.

 

A number of heroes left after the photo – the Spectre, the Old Soldier, Doctor Fate – but most of them stayed, certainly enough to keep us busy. I had gone back to get some more Vienna sausages – super-heroes sure do like Vienna sausages, for some reason –  and was on my way back to the dining room when I ran into a hero I’d never seen before.  That was no big deal – I hadn’t heard of most of them back then, even some of the ones who became a big deal later on. 

 

Anyway, the hero I saw was a short, stocky dark-haired guy. He had a stereotypical ‘super-hero’ outfit on – domino mask, cape and tights, all in gray and brown.  The words ‘RUTAN THE MAGNIFICENT’ were written on his shirt. The overall effect was of a costume designed by a man who didn’t know how to sew.  That was also no big deal – lots of those early heroes’ costumes looked like that.

‘Rutan’ brushed on by me.  I asked him if he wanted anything, but he ignored me.

 

Before I could react any further, two more people came up behind me. One was a blonde woman wearing a striped shirt, blue jeans, boots and a long lavender-gray coat. She had a domino mask on and carried a small silver rod in her right hand.  Next to her was a dark-skinned, dark-haired girl. She might have been a Mexican, or maybe an Arab. She wore street clothes supplemented by a domino mask and a cape that was obviously a re-purposed blanket.

 

‘Hello’, said the blonde. She sounded English, sort of.  ‘I’m the Doc – er, that is, I’m Doctor Mysterio, and this is my sidekick, the, um, Jasmine Kid.’

 

‘The what?’, said the Kid.

 

Doctor Mysterio shushed the Kid and said, ‘I was wondering - have you seen a fella calling himself Rutan the Magnificent? We, uh, we wanted to have, um, a hero conference with him.’

 

I pointed down the hall the way Rutan had gone.

 

“Thanks”, she said, taking a sausage off my tray and popping it in her mouth.  “Mmm, I love a nibble. Come on, Yaz!”

 

The two heroines took off down the hall. I went back to work, and didn’t think anything more about it until later when I saw the group photo in the paper, and noticed that there was no sign of Rutan the Magnificent, Doctor Mysterio or the Jasmine Kid in the picture.

 

I asked around to as many as I could of the other folks that were working catering that day, but no one else remembered them.  It occurred to me that they might have been spies or something, so I called the FBI about it.  An agent came and talked to me about it, but it was odd - he was almost casual. He asked me a few questions and then told me not to worry about it, in a way that somehow managed to be genuinely friendly and still a gentle but firm warning to keep quiet about it..

 

So, I kept quiet about it, but over the years, on my own time, I read up on every super-hero I could, and to this day I’ve never found anything about Rutan the Magnificent, Doctor Mysterio or the Jasmine Kid.  Who were they? I guess I’ll never know.

 

Anyway, that’s my story. I hope it’s useful to you. Feel free to write again if you have more questions.  I’ll be happy to answer them if I can, and if I’m still here.

 

Sincerely,

Harry Phelps”

I've been on a bit of an Asterix phase right now, reading the books and seeing the movies. I've thought about him and Obelix in my own writings. I was putting him as an ancestor of Lancelot, Popeye, Al Pratt and possibly even Steve Rogers.

And I have some thoughts about the various King Kongs as well.

And the Asp studied with the Shadow.

Little Orphan Annie got into some weird stuff over the years.

Philip Portelli said:

I've been on a bit of an Asterix phase right now, reading the books and seeing the movies. I've thought about him and Obelix in my own writings. I was putting him as an ancestor of Lancelot, Popeye, Al Pratt and possibly even Steve Rogers.

And I have some thoughts about the various King Kongs as well.

And the Asp studied with the Shadow.

Vignette #9:

: The kitchen of the Kent farm, Smallville, KS, September 1960. Clark Kent Sr. and Lorraine Potter, a young reporter for the Daily Planet are sitting at the kitchen table.

 

“Thanks for seeing me, Mr. Kent”, began Lorraine,

 

“Make it ‘Clark””, said Clark.

 

“’Clark’, then”, said Lorraine.  “I hope you aren’t offended by being part of a ‘Where are they now’ column.”

 

“Not at all”, said Clark. “How are things at the Planet these days? I hope Jimmy isn’t running you people ragged.”

 

“’Jimmy’? Oh, you mean Mister Olsen? No, no, not at all.”, replied Lorraine. She looked around the kitchen.  “This is a nice place. So much quieter than Metropolis.  Do you ever miss the bustle of the big city?”

 

“Not really”, said Clark.

 

Especially since I’m up there as Superman just about every day, thought Clark. It would have been much too obvious if Superman left Metropolis at the same time I did.

 

“What made you decide to leave Metropolis, anyway?”, asked Lorraine. 

 

“Well, you must remember that I grew up here, and I never quite cut my ties to the old place. I had any number of offers to buy the property over the years, but I could never bring myself to sell it. Lois and I got married near the end of the War.  We stayed in Metropolis for a few months, but once Clark Jr. came along we decided to bring him up Smallville. Not that Metropolis is a terrible place to raise a child, I just wanted him to grow up where I did.”

 

And once it was obvious that Clark Junior took after me, we knew that the farm would be a much better place to raise a child with super-powers than the city was.  It was also amusing that Lois and I became “Ma and Pa Kent”. 

 

“Still, it must have been quite an adjustment”, said Lorraine.

 

“Moreso for Lois than for me.  She’d been a lifelong city girl, and farm life was a little too ‘quiet’ for her at times.  Still, C.J.  – that’s what we call Clark Junior - kept her busy. Things got a little busier when we adopted our dog Bud five years ago, and our daughter Karen came along around the same time.”

 

C.J. was overjoyed to have a “super-dog” of his own, and a little sister to dote on.

 

“And last year, we took in my Cousin Linda after her family was killed in a fire.

 

I’ll never forget the look of outrage on Lois’ face when I suggested Kara should be put in an orphanage.  Of course, there was nothing for it but that she come and live with us.  As Lois pointed out, it didn’t hurt to have a super-powered live-in babysitter.

 

“Anyway, with C.J. now in high school, Karen in kindergarten and Linda here to help, Lois has gone to work part-time for the local newspaper. If there’s any news to be found in Smallville, Lois will find it.”

 

“So, no regrets?”, asked Lorraine.

 

“No”, said Clark. “In many ways, this is my dream life.”

Is Lorraine Potter related to the Potters from the Superman mythos: Professor Potter and Lana Lang's mother?

And in the Silver Age, Lois was a farm girl, as her parents had one in Pittsdale.

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