It was a busy day in the city. The mayor had recently made the announcement that the city's name would be changed, which had sparked a great deal of controversy. The city had been called New Oslo, but the name had never been officially logged into the government records. The city was not the only to suffer from this problem, as it had recently been revealed that over forty American cities did not have government-recognized names. Thus when the mayor had learned of this big news she'd decided to call on the citizens to help decide what the city's official name should be. Unfortunately for them many were against New Oslo, which had particularly upset two people in particular.
All of a sudden things started to go awry. Mayor Rushmore was repeatedly discovered in public either dressed inappropriately or doing something worthy of a scandal. In addition to her several aides were also found in similar situations. Over the course of two days a grand total of twenty-six scandals would be uncovered by the press, all of which city hall denied.
City officials weren't the only ones having problems. A subway train had also gone missing, and despite searching all the routes for it no signs of it were found. Two flights also went missing, the planes becoming lost to radar in mid-air with no logical explanation for it. It was by this time that Elsa Louiselle realized it could all be the work of Tick and Tock.
“They're servants of Loki, according to the myth,” explained Elsa to Lady Justice, Judgement Girl, Nathan and Claire. “They play tricks and cause mischief, so I wouldn't put this passed them. We know they can freeze time as well as hypnotize people, which could easily be used to explain all the mysterious events that have happened so far.” The group groaned when Elsa's explanation was finished.
“Figures it's the most powerful villains we know,” muttered Judgment Girl. “I mean, they can freeze us with ease and we won't even notice. Plus when we get frozen we can't be traced or reached unless someone actually goes and finds us. To make it worse not even Nathan is immune to their powers, and they can also turn invisible. We can't really do much to fight them at the moment.”
“Agreed, we need to find a way to deal with them,” said Lady Justice.
“I've been working on that,” announced Elsa. “Well, actually, Claire came up with the method.”
“It was your idea,” argued Claire, becoming slightly red with embarrassment.
“Anyhow, we've modified our city monitor to detect any temporal distortions,” explained Elsa. “For those not familiar with the term, it means we can detect when something happens to affect the flow of time. Because time is a dimension, it is possible to find irregularities, though you don't see them unless something a time-bubble crops up.”
“So effectively we now have a way to track them,” realized Nathan. “Not a bad start.”
“Still, if we get frozen the only thing that can release us besides them is a temporal re-aligner,” commented Lady Justice. “We need something that can make us immune to time-alteration. Is that possible?”
“Maybe, but it would be hard to develop,” admitted Claire, considering the idea. “We've been trying to come up with immunity devices for dealing with many of villains for some time, but it's tricky since we can't project a field that follows movement. We might be able to create a sort of energy wall, but you'd need to be standing still to benefit from it.”
“Okay then, we'll have to make due for now,” decided Nathan. “So have you detected any time-bubbles yet?”
“Several,” revealed Elsa as she called up the lab's city monitor. The group gathered around and saw several sections glowing red. Elsa used the computer's mouse to indicate an area in turn. “Two bubbles are over the city, which are probably where the missing flights are. There's another underground, which is probably the subway train. City Hall is covered with them. City Cabs is also affected, which would probably explain why the company hasn't answered any calls for taxis as of late. But what really worries me is this one.” Elsa used the cursor to highlight a time-bubble on the map. It was located within the main police station.
“What will we do then?” asked Lady Justice. “Go check these places out?”
“No, I've already contacted the army, who's sending teams with temporal re-alignment devices out to deal with the problem,” explained Elsa. “I think our best course of action would be to have you go out on patrol and just alert you when the next distortion crops up.”
“Well, I don't like it, but I see your point,” voiced Lady Justice, crossing her arms.
“I've got a class to teach, so you'll have to do without me,” Nathan announced, stepping away from the machine he'd been leaning against and heading for the door.
“Hey Elsa,” Judgement Girl suddenly said after Nathan had left, “I have an idea. Set the computer to track us, so if we get caught in a time-bubble at least we'll know where. You might want to track Lilly too.”
“Sounds good, but why Lilly?” said Claire as she moved to activate the program.
“Last time Tick and Tock went on a rampage Lilly was their favorite victim,” explained Elsa.
* * *
Lilly Anderson stood at 4th Street's subway platform, awaiting the train that would take her home. She'd just finished doing some shopping at the nearby mall and was now eager for some downtime at home. With her was Jenny Oliver, her chatty friend that attended law school with her and Victoria.
Jenny had gone with Lilly on the shopping trip but ended up only buying a bracelet, which she now wore. She was of average height with dark, wavy hair and dressed only in a tank top and skirt. Lily on the other hand wore her usual halter top and shorts, since the weather was still quite warm and would continue to be for at least a month. This became somewhat ironic as when Lilly and Jenny prepared to board the recently-arrived train they both suddenly froze.
Tick and Tock giggled with glee as they moved from their hiding spot on top of the train. To really cause chaos they'd frozen the entire subway system this time, though they had been tempted to just freeze Lilly. The young woman and her friend were both frozen in mid-stride, the only two trying to enter the train from that entrance. Lilly was facing straight ahead, a shopping bag in each hand hanging at her sides. Jenny had turned her upper body towards Lilly and her mouth hung open, her hands out in the middle of some kind of gesture that supposedly reinforced her words. Nearby were at least another two-dozen people, all frozen as they were going about their business.
“We're near out limit, Tock,” commented Tick as he circled Jenny, admiring her body and even taking a peek up her skirt. “What will we do when they show up?”
“We'll have to release those planes,” decided Tock. While Tick and Tock did possess a great deal of power, they could only affect so much at once. The two goblins approached each other and, touching their palms together, released the two planes which had been frozen above the city.
“Think they'll stop trying to change the name soon?” asked Tick next as he moved to remove one of the bags from Lilly's hands.
“Hopefully,” sighed Tock. “I've never seen master so mad...”
* * *
“There's a huge bubble in the subway,” Elsa told Lady Justice and Judgement Girl over the communications device. “Everything there's been affected, and Lilly's signal is gone, so it's probably all frozen.” Judgement Girl let out a sigh and silently worried for her friend. Lilly had been through a lot lately, and getting trapped by those goblins again certainly wasn't going to help. She reached into the backseat of the vehicle and grabbed a temporal re-alignment device.
“We'll go to her last location,” Lady Justice decided, directing the statement at both her sidekick and Elsa. “Where was she before her signal vanished?”
“The station at 4th street,” Elsa replied, her voice carrying some concern. “That isn't far, so I think I'll head over there too. Who knows what those little monsters are planning this time...” The comm clicked off, and Lady Justice shut it down on their end.
“We really need to get some kind of shielding device,” muttered Judgement Girl as the vehicle zoomed towards the subway. Lady Justice nodded in agreement.
A few minutes later the duo arrived at the station and could instantly see something was wrong. As they approached the bottom of the steps they came across a pair of teenage girls dressed in fairly revealing clothes leaning against the railing, chatting away on cell phones. Or, to be more accurate, they would be chatting were they not frozen in place. One girl, a blond in a pink spaghetti-strap top and black mini-skirt, had her mouth wide open as she held her phone to her right ear, her left hand outstretched as if trying to portray frustration. The other girl, a brunette, was running her free hand through her hair.
“Probably the first time we've managed to be around their handiwork and not be a part of it,” mused Lady Justice as she waved her hand in front of the blond's face. Unsurprisingly the girl didn't even blink.
Continuing on, the two superheroes soon found themselves nearing the platform. Everyone around them stood as still as mannequins, a frozen tableau. Rent-a-cops were casually patrolling the area, friends stood in circles chatting, business-types exchanged pleasantries... It had been captured perfectly. Needless to say, the two heroines were a bit impressed. They'd known Tick and Tock were powerful, but this was amazing.
It was Judgement Girl who spotted Lilly first, the young woman having been moved by Tick and Tock to be standing in an open area, holding nothing but air now. Instantly both heroines began to dash towards the girl, hoping to grab her and get out before it was too late. Unfortunately for them Tick and Tock were in fact standing right beside Lilly, invisible to the naked eye.
As the super-powered duo approached, the two goblins put their palms together and instantly the heroines halted in mid-stride. Lady Justice's right foot was on the ground, her corresponding arm outstretched backwards. Her left leg, meanwhile, hung behind her, while her arm was bent before her. Her face showed a simple determined expression, and she was leaning forward slightly. Judgement Girl, meanwhile, had concern showing on her face. Both her feet were touching the ground, her right having just hit the ground with her left preparing to be raised. Both of the sidekick's arms were bent at a ninety-degree angle, completely rigid.
Tick and Tock giggled with delight at once again capturing the superheroes. They proceeded to even dance around Lilly and the heroines, very proud of themselves. This, however, was interrupted with Elsa's arrival. The scientist barely had time to register surprise before she too was frozen by the goblins, her arms spread out to her sides, her mouth open in shock. The interruption dealt with, the goblins returned to their strange dance.
It was roughly half an hour before Nathan and Claire arrived. By then Tick and Tock had become impatient and hidden beside the two girls that had been talking on their phones. As Claire approached the two girls in fascination while Nathan hung back, scanning for the others, Tick and Tock acted, freezing the late arrivals as well. Claire's right hand was hanging in front of the blond's face while her left rested on her hip, her face full of curiosity. Tick and Tock burst into a full laugh this time. “No one can stop us now, Tick!” exclaimed Tock.
While this was going on, another person had arrived in the subway. Saeko Tachibana, currently working as a journalist, had been sent to investigate. She wore her usual reporter suit, a black jacket with a matching skirt and a white blouse. She wore her black heels with pantyhose, generally looking quite dark. The reporter had entered via a service stairway and was now studying the frozen scene down on the platform. Saeko had just gotten to the superheroes when Tick and Tock had returned to find the woman. “What on earth are you two?!” screamed Saeko when she saw the goblins. Reacting instinctively, the goblins froze the woman in place. Now, Tick and Tock had never tried to freeze Saeko before, so what happened next was something they'd never expected.
As Saeko stood between Lilly and Lady Justice, her hands to her face as she showed an expression of fear, smoke suddenly began to circle her. Tick and Tock looked at one another with confusion as the mysterious smoke quickly hid the reporter from view. Next came a sound that reminded the goblins of a sort of female screech. A few moments later the smoke cleared, and the goblins gawked in amazement.
The woman before the Tick and Tock still looked like Saeko Tachibana, but she'd radically changed. Instead of the suit the woman now wore only what appeared to be a shimmering red dress. Her hair was the same, but Saeko now had purple lips and eyes that seemed to glow with a hint of blue. However, what was most different was that she was floating six inches off the ground, somewhat like a cliché ghost, her dress flickering in a breeze that had suddenly come up.
“Servants of Loki, listen well,” said Saeko, speaking with a powerful and booming voice. “I am Shina-To-Be, the goddess of wind and clouds. I have chosen this woman to be my avatar, as I plan to exact my own revenge on the humans for forgetting the old ways. I am aware of your master's current wrath over the attempted change of the city's name, but he must not forget that it was both the Norwegians and my own Japanese followers that founded the city in ages past. Stay out of my way, and I shall stay out of yours...”
Not bothering to wait for a response, Saeko suddenly flew forwards and up out of the subway into the night. Tick and Tock found themselves quivering. “This is back, Tock,” Tick gasped. “We'd better go speak to the master.”
“Agreed, Tick,” said Tock, equally stunned. The two goblins touched their palms together once and then vanished. All at once, every time-bubble around the city vanished, making time go back to normal. In particular, the subway was unfrozen, as were the heroines, who could only look around in confusion.
* * *
Two days later Nathan and Jessica were laying in bed at Nathan's apartment, cuddling and watching the news. None of them were aware of the disappearance of Saeko, nor why the goblins had stopped their pranks. Still, the city's protectors decided to enjoy the reprieve, Victoria and Lilly going out to a club, Elsa and Claire taking a break from the lab, and of course Nathan and Jessica just plain enjoying each other's intimate company.
As the news began to repeat the top stories Jessica rolled over and positioned herself on top of Nathan, pressing against his body and moving to kiss him. However, before this could happen a distinctive chiming sound was heard from the TV and Jessica suddenly stopped, her lips mere centimeters from Nathan's. The anchor had also stopped talking. Then a new face appeared on the TV screen, though all who'd heard the bell sound just then wouldn't be aware. The sound had caused a mental lock in the brains of all who had heard it, effectively freezing them.
“I am Nighttime,” announced Saeko as she stood before the TV camera. “You humans have forgotten who led you to found this city, who raised you during your primitive times, who nurtured you to become what you are. I am here as a messenger of the old gods to help you remember what you have so casually forgotten...”
Continued in The Endless Night...