Dateline: 2005, Eastern Time. Our hero and story protagonist, Dagmar Pumpernickel, found herself wandering streets of her childhood city of Brookston, Newssachussetts with nothing but an absent mind and a head full of steam. A voice broke her out of her trance.
“At ease. That’s my daughter.”
She was surrounded by mobsters now, trapped in a standoff with an immaculately dressed old man she hadn’t seen in eight years. “Out of the way, pops. I’m not here for you,” she said.
“Sweetheart, this doesn’t have to be hard. Come home. What ever happened to your dream of taking over for me as the head of the whole entire Mafia stationed from Brookston for the sake of familiarity to our primarily American audience at great personal cost for the fact that you would have to fend off an endless string of assassination attempts from people who think they deserve to be my successor and having to be responsible for hundreds of murders despite your heart of gold under your brash exterior?” said Dadmar.
“That was your dream pops, not mine!” said Dagmar.
Over her exclamation, the crowd heard an echoing splash and a sound like a raygun as a whirlpool opened up in the air behind her. Dagmar turned around, and through the portal Harriet Tubman, Marie Curie, futuristic disabled boy Anorak and captain Xander Time swam into view on their noble timedolphin steeds and timeswimming hyperwheelchair.
“Dagmar, we need you! Take my hand, I’ll explain on the way!” said Xander.
Dagmar smiled and said, “Keep dreaming old man,” saluting him with two fingers. Xander pulled her into the closing vortex. Inside the timestream, she tightened her grip on Xander’s hand to keep from getting lost to the event current. “Is there a fourth dolphin kicking around somewheres? I’m slipping here!”
“Don’t worry, you can take Peanut,” said Xander. Anorak pulled up next to him and Xander climbed onto his lap. “I’ll be riding my new boyfriend! Don’t you love fanfiction?”
“Wow, congratulations!” said Dagmar, boarding her faithful dolphin companion. “Now, where exactly are we going? Are there more Timesharks that need a talking to in the form of bullets? Is there some cat that ended up stuck in a tree fifty years before cats became domesticated?”
“I’m afraid it’s far worse than that,” said Anorak. “Marie Curie and I have just discovered a nefarious group of time villains in another dimension. They’ve repeatedly abused time travel to tear apart families, out Edgar Hoover in a time when being gay was illegal, imprison a man in solitary confinement outside of time, non-consensually experiment on a scientist’s brain and kidnap dozens of orphans, on top of stealing an innocent woman’s iPhone 8. They call themselves ‘ODAR’.”
“Cripes! Ain’t youse the defenders of the multiverse? Why haven’t you stopped them already?” said Dagmar.
“This fanfic only exists so the author can get catharsis for all the terrible things that have happened to their favorite characters, and they didn’t start listening to Ars Paradoxica until after season 2,” said Harriet Tubman.
“Yeah ok, I’ve done that before. I’m still grateful to the Care Bears for murdering the Death Eaters,” said Dagmar. “So, what’s the plan?”
“We’re gonna blow up ODAR!” said Xander.
Dagmar waited for elaboration. Marie Curie coughed. Finally, Dagmar said, “That’s the entire plan, ain’t it?”
“Yup! Don’t look now, but we’re coming up on a random point in time Point-of-Exile, Colorado in the 1940s or 50s!”
Meanwhile, relatively speaking, in the cafeteria of ODAR, Esther Roberts and Dr. Sally Grissom were in the middle of a heated conversation on the nature of ethics.
“So, you do see the error of your ways?” said Sally.
“ No, Sally, I don’t. I just have the good sense to know that there’s always another shoe,” said Esther.
Chet Whickman walked through the doors followed by three guards. Just as he was nearing Esther and Sally’s table, a vortex opened up behind him. Xander Time landed with a dropkick straight to Whickman’s chest.
“That… was not what I meant,” said Esther.
Harriet Tubman stuck the landing, rolling through. Anorak activated jet propulsions on his wheelchair to break his fall. Emissions from Marie Curie’s radioactive skin did the same for her. Dagmar face planted.
“Xander! Pick a lower landing point next time ya big jerk!” said Dagmar, struggling to her feet.
“Oh I’m sorry, let’s see you make a dramatic entrance that cool from ground level!” said Xander.
“Maybe I will!” said Dagmar.
“Hey! Hello? Who are you people?!” said Sally.
Xander turned to her with dramatic twirl, pointed and said, “We’re the–”
“Timeswimmers,” said Esther. “I’ve been expecting you.”
“You have? Wait… time… swimmers… These people are time travelers? And they use… water? How does that make any sense?” said Sally.
“Our current hypothesis is that they’ve figured out how to encode timepiece data into DNA which they then transport through water. The blackroom relays not just ODAR activities to us, but all forms of scientific breakthroughs in case we’ll be able to use them, and in the future there will be experimental studies in getting computers to read DNA. From what we know of the Timeswimmers, they seem to be able to travel even further in time than us, so it’s entirely possible they already know how to use that kind of technology for time travel,” said Esther.
“What? No! We swim!” said Xander.
From the floor, Whickman groaned in pain. “Guards… don’t just stand there…”
“Why have they just been standing there anyway? Did our wannabe writer really forget they put them there?” said Dagmar. Between the three guards and Whickman, only four of the Timeswimmers were needed, so Anorak ended up staying between the violence and the two women of science.
“Writer?” Sally said with a laugh. “That… oh god… actually makes too much sense.” She brought her hand to her forehead.
Esther sighed. “Sally, don’t listen to them. They’re clearly deeply delusional.”
“Are they? Aren’t you the one who said my phone looked like something from a Huxley novel? How often do we say stuff like that? Besides, just look at that lady who’s… shooting radioactive lasers from her hands? How??” said Sally.
“She was bit by a radioactive isotope,” said Anorak.
“Each day I die a little more,” said Marie Curie.
“So? What about her?” said Esther.
“Don’t give me that. You know exactly who that is.”
“It’s… someone who looks an awful lot like Marie Curie. You know that doesn’t prove anything,” said Esther.
“I’m still here you know,” said Anorak.
“Was she serious? That girl who looks like she stepped out of a Halloween shop and bought the nearest mobster costume? Wow, that is some uppercut she just gave that guard,” said Sally.
“Yes. We exist in a fictional world,” said Anorak.
“But… you’re time travelers! Why do you bother trying to change the past when you believe you can’t even change the future? Or the present for that matter? For years now I’ve felt like I might be fighting a losing battle against forces beyond my control if I try to make the world a better place, but I was thinking, like, super powerful government organizations and bureaucratic red tape, not having zero choice in the fucking words that come out of my mouth!” said Sally, her words quickening as she spoke.
“Hey now, I don’t take too kindly to being told that my life’s work is meaningless,” said Anorak.
“Yeah, or mine!” said Esther.
“Of course we live in a deterministic universe, but that doesn’t mean it would be good for our health to act like we do,” said Anorak. “I’m fictional, yes, but I’m still real. I have needs, and that includes the need for peace of mind. If I’m going to be a character, I’d much rather have an active role in my own story than be in the background or not even show up for the plot. I’d spend too much time in existential terror that way.”
Sally rubbed her forearm. “Heh, yeah… been there, done that. My therapist told me basically the same thing.”
“You did, and then you weren’t here to be a part of the conversation when the very decisions you were just lecturing me for making were taking place,” said Esther. “We’re not fictional characters,” she said glaring at Anorak, “but even if we were, I’d still be proud to be the kind of character who moves forward.”
“I don’t know what kind of character that makes me then,” said Sally.
“You’re not a character!” said Esther.
Taking a moment to catch her breath as the guard she had been fighting stumbled to the ground, Dagmar said, “What in blazes are they yapping about?”
“Oh, one of the science ladies was asking why we bother to make what we perceive to be choices in a deterministic world, and Anorak said we do it for fun! He’s so smart,” said Xander.
“Ahem. Aren’t you four forgetting something?” said Anorak, taking his timegun out of its holster.
“Jesus, not another fucking gu– What the…” said Sally, her eyes glazing over in confusion. Since she was uninitiated, from her perspective the timegun appeared to be nothing more than an alarm clock duct-taped to a handgun.
“Oh yeah!” said Xander, taking out his own timegun. Anorak’s interjection had given Whickman just enough time to get his bearings back, and he ripped the alarm clock off of Xander’s gun in one swift movement. “Gasp! Our weapons are useless here!”
“But ours aren’t! Esther, forget about the courts, we’ll deal with that later! Just go get some guards with real, actual guns! They’ll be here before you Flash Gordon rejects can say ‘retreat!’” said Whickman.
“I’ll be the judge of that! Timeswimmers, RETREAT!” said Xander. They began a synchronized dance sequence, and with a graceful jeté a whirlpool opened up and they were back in the timestream.
Sally nudged Esther and whispered, “Didn’t you say you were expecting them?”
Motioning to the bodies on the ground, Esther whispered back, “I’m sorry, did you not want to see this?”