Nyhtwulf closed his eyes and tried to ignore his overloading senses. He crouched, went intangible and launched himself upward through the ceiling. When he opened his eyes, he found himself successful. All the versions of himself were now hovering in the air, but the sight below was far worse. It was as if time and space had been folded over on itself dozens of times. For each layer there were duplicates of all his friends and Sylvia. To make matters worse, they were shuffled like a bizarre deck of cards so that no one could act in the same frame of existence as the allies they were supposed to be with.
Dreamseer writhed in agony as her telepathy fractured across time frames that weren’t supposed to exist. It created mental echoes that threatened to tear her mind apart. Doctor Vampire wanted to help her, but no matter how he moved, he went to the wrong one.
“You have to stop this, Sylvia,” Doctor Vampire tried to say past the echoes of himself. “You’re fracturing time! You don’t know what you’re doing!”
Sandstorm also closed his eyes to shut out the visual madness. He felt for the life force of the Earth itself, but even that wasn’t helping. He couldn’t divine where Sylvia really was and he dared not act without precision, lest he hurt a friend. What he could feel was the damage her abuse of the hourglass was doing to the immediate vicinity. If this continued much longer, Sylvia would destroy them all and herself as well.
Kyte slowly extended his shadow tendrils toward a form of Sylvia, trying to ignore all the images of himself doing the same thing. As his tendrils reached their supposed target, they couldn’t make contact. He discovered what slowly became apparent to each of the heroes. They would have to target a version of Sylvia far away from themselves and risk hitting each other worse than before.
Blacktide was frozen in terror. His worst fear was always that he would hurt friends and family with his disintegration powers. He dared not move and feared even breathing.
“Can you hear me?” Nyhtwulf’s voice came to his mind.
“What? Wow! Yeah, I can hear you.” Blacktide thought back at his partner.
“Our psychic bond keeps us connected and no doubt other versions of us as well. Perhaps we can use this to our advantage?”
“I can’t disintegrate her, she’ll turn it on someone else.”
“No. Keep your disintegration aura in as tight as you can. We won’t use it on her. I will guide you. Walk towards the version of Sylvia that appears closest to you, but not too fast.”
“We do this the old fashioned way, my friend. Punch her in the face.”
Blacktide launched a fist at Sylvia’s laughing face. It passed through her doing nothing and showing that he had the wrong target.
“Ignore her and walk to the next one you see.”
“Got it.” Blacktide did as directed, and tried to punch that Sylvia with the same results.
Each time this was attempted, everyone could see the multiple Blacktides switching positions to other Sylvias to punch them in the face. All of Blacktide’s friends remained still, not wanting to interrupt what looked like a good plan. Three more tries occurred with no result. Blacktide walked up to another Sylvia, cocked back his fist and hurled a punch forward. He froze and inch from her nose.
“That was almost clever,” Sylvia echoed. Unlike the others she still spoke in unison with her other replicas. “You almost had me. Well, no you didn’t. But don’t you feel better for trying?”
“You deserve to have me erase your face,” Blacktide tried to say.
“Oh, so angry! You’re almost cute when you’re mad. Face it. I’m more powerful than any of you! I’m more powerful that Father Time himself, if he even exists!”
A peal of thunder sounded and the scene blurred as all fragments of time were reset into the present. Sylvia stood in shock as it was not her doing. The heroes all looked to each other in confusion. Sylvia mouthed words no one could hear and another clap of thunder shook them all. Strobes of lightning crashed into the center of them all, forcing everyone back from Sylvia. A new tall form entered the fairway.
He stood tall and powerful over all of them in long white gossamer robes. His gray and white hair stood out in all directions and his beard went nearly to his sandaled feet. Arcs of lightning danced about his eyes in an expression of intense rage. A long bent staff held a wickedly curved scythe that could make Death jealous.
“NONE TOY WITH MY LAWS AND THEN QUESTION MY EXISTENCE, PITIFUL GNAT!” The power of his voice shook the ground and everyone had to hold on to something or someone nearby.
“THAT IS MINE. I AM ONE OF THE FOUR LORD ENTITIES OF ALL THAT THERE IS, WAS AND WILL BE! YOU ARE LESS THAN A GRAIN OF SAND IN AN INFINITE DESERT! I HAVE HALTED THE EVOLUTION OF EMPIRES OVER LESSER OFFENSES THAN YOURS. YET I SHALL TAKE WHAT IS MINE AND LEAVE YOU TO A WELL DESERVED FATE. LET THESE BEINGS AROUND YOU THAT YOU HAVE SO TORTURED, HAVE YOU AS THEY WISH!”
In another clap of thunder and a blinding flash, he was gone.
Before anyone else could react, Traveler tossed down her staff and stomped over to Sylvia. She grabbed Sylvia and struck the woman with a right cross to make prize fighters proud. Sylvia hit the ground with a hard thud, unconscious.