The AI’s voice broke through Sara’s jumbled and tired post-nap thoughts. How long had she slept? If Gideon thought it wise to wake her, after so little sleep, then it had to be urgent.
“What now, Gideon?” she groggily asked, rolling out of bed and doing her best to shake off the exhaustion.
“I have detected a temporal anomaly of unknown origin at the Vanishing Point,” the AI answered, “as well as a string of anachronisms throughout the timeline past August 2018.”
“All right,” Sara said as she made her way to the bridge. “Wake everyone up. Even Mick.”
“Certainly, Captain,” said Gideon, although Sara got the distinct impression that the AI didn’t much enjoy having to deal with a possibly grumpy arsonist.
The bridge was still deserted when Sara got there, so she sat down in the captain’s chair and waited for the rest of the crew to arrive. She was glad for the temporary solitude, because it gave her time to mentally prepare for the potential disaster of what more than one anachronism meant. It was a miracle that Ava hadn’t shown up yet.
“There better be a good reason for this, Boss!” said Mick, as he walked in pulling a sweatshirt over his head. He headed for one of the jumpseats and plopped down into it with a grunt, leaning back and closing his eyes. “Wake me up when everyone’s here.”
“Sure thing,” she said.
Sara was surprised that Mick had been the first to show up. That was always the thing about him; one never knew how he’d react.
A whoosh and a gust of wind that blew Sara’s hair around announced the arrival of their resident speedster who, despite his swift entrance, only looked half awake.
“Couldn’t whatever it is that’s wrong this time wait until we got some more sleep,” Wally groaned, his words almost slurring.
“Apparently not, otherwise I don’t think Gideon would’ve risked having to poke Rory awake,” said Amaya from the doorway, fighting to tame her hair and losing spectacularly.
“Amaya’s right,” Sara said, chuckling and nudging Mick with her foot. “Not even Gideon likes to do that, especially since most of us tend to be cranky if we don’t get enough sleep.”
Ray and Nate appeared next, both of them in pyjamas and sporting impressive bed heads, while Zari followed behind them with eyes half closed, looking like a sleepwalker. Of the three, Ray seemed the most awake and to Sara’s – and everyone else’s – eternal gratitude, he was carrying a jug of coffee in one hand and cups were dangling from the fingers of the other.
“You’re a lifesaver, Haircut!” said Mick, who had perked up at the scent of fresh coffee and made a beeline for Ray, helping him distribute the hot beverage to the team.
“So, now that we’re not sleepwalking anymore,” Sara said after a while, “we can ask Gideon what’s going on.”
“Yeah,” Zari, whose eyes were still bloodshot, grumbled, “some info would be really nice…”
“I do apologise for disturbing your sleep,” said Gideon, “but my sensors have detected a severe temporal anomaly, located at the Vanishing Point, that seems to have caused a number of anachronisms throughout the timeline starting August 2018.”
“What caused the anomaly?” asked Mick.
“I don’t know yet, Mr. Rory,” Gideon said, “but it seems that whatever it is has caused a ripple effect on the timeline.”
“What sort of anachronisms are we talking about?” asked Sara. “And how many?”
If this was really as bad as Gideon thought it was, then there was no telling how hard it would be, or how long it would take, to sort everything out. Hopefully, they wouldn’t need to ask the Time Bureau for assistance.
“That seems to be the problem, Captain,” said the AI, “because I can’t pinpoint them. There are several hundred, all at level 1, that keep fluctuating, which makes it impossible to asses the exact changes that are occurring. What is happening, when and where, is constantly changing.”
“So how do we fix it?” asked Zari, who was now a bit more composed after her second cup of coffee. “If we don’t know what’s going on, how can we change it?”
“The only stable reading I can detect is the anomaly at the Vanishing Point,” said Gideon. “That and the fact that the anachronisms, as unstable as they are, are confined to the future, starting August 2018.”
“So we go to this Vanishing Point,” said Wally, “fix whatever’s gone wrong there, and it all goes back to normal. What exactly is this Vanishing Point, anyway?”
“It’s a place I really didn’t wanna go back to,” said Mick, flipping the lid of his lighter open and closed with increasing annoyance. “I frickin’ hate that place!”
“The Vanishing Point, Mr. West,” Gideon explained, “is a place outside of space-time where the Time Masters had their base of operations, including the Time Council. When my former captain, Mr. Hunter, rebelled against them, he and his team realised that the Council was using a device, called the Oculus, to manipulate people’s choices in order to steer history in the direction they saw fit. The device was destroyed, but at the cost of one of our own losing his life.”
“That team mate was Snart, wasn’t it?” Nate asked.
“Yeah,” said Ray, “it was. He held down the failsafe and sacrificed himself so that the rest of us could get out alive.”
There was a moment of silence, as the people who had known the original Snart were reminded of their loss. Sara was starting, just like Mick, to get fed up with that place. Having to go there after its destruction, to retrieve part of the Spear of Destiny, was one time too many for her.
“OK, Gideon,” Sara said, turning her seat around to face forward. “Set a course for the Vanishing Point. Let’s see if we can get rid of that place once and for all this time around.”
The Vanishing Point hadn’t changed much since the last time Sara had set foot there. It was still a ruin and it still held unpleasant memories, which she tried to push to the back of her mind. Some of her struggle must have shown on her face, because none of the members of her team said anything to her before they headed for their quarters to get changed. Now, she sat in the captain’s chair, trying not to think of what ifs and would-have-beens, as the ghosts of the past taunted her. She was glad she and Ava had decided to take a break from their relationship, because Sara didn’t know if she could deal with having to explain to a woman she loved why this place held so much pain for her. Leonard Snart would always be her greatest regret, the only what if without a possibility of change. At least with other relationships, she’d had a choice.
“Oh-oh,” came Zari’s voice from the entrance to the bridge, effectively cutting through her melancholy, “you look like you want to murder someone. Should I be worried for my safety?”
“No,” Sara said with a sigh, “you’re not the one I want to skewer. And those I do are long gone.”
“Good to know,” said Zari, making a show of looking relieved, which made Sara chuckle. “Will you reconsider that if I asked what’s eatin’ you?”
“Maybe,” Sara smiled as she said it. “But if you must know, I’m angry at the people who ran this place for their manipulation. It’s also frustrating that this place existing outside of time doesn’t allow me to change what happened here.”
“You mean Snart dying?”
“Among other things,” said Sara. “They also tortured Mick and turned him into a bounty hunter to chase us down, so they were grade-A jerks, through and through.”
“Yikes,” said Zari. “I guess they were poster boys for the ‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely’ saying.”
“Are we doin’ this, or what?” said Mick as he entered the bridge, geared up and ready to burn everything in sight, interrupting the two women’s chat.
“As soon as everyone else is ready,” Sara said, patting Zari on the arm in gratitude.
Having someone to talk to had calmed her conflicting thoughts somewhat, and she was now as eager as Mick to get to the bottom of this anomaly. Even if not much was said during the brief conversation she’d had with Zari, it had eased the tension a bit. She was glad she’d gone to bed fully dressed, because it gave the her time to talk to her team mate.
“Should we tell the Time Bureau about this?” Ray asked, ATOM suit helmet in hand. “Or do you think they already know?”
“I think we should wait and see what’s wrong first,” said Sara. “If we can’t figure out how to fix it, we call for help.”
“The less time it takes, the better,” said Mick. “I don’t wanna spend more time here then I have to.”
By the time the rest of the crew filed in, Sara had gotten even more restless, but she held her irritation under wraps. She was the captain, after all. No need to behave like an eager brat and annoy her team too. With everyone present, though, the decision was made that they should get going, so Sara parked the Waverider in front of the building that had housed the Oculus. It was the closest open space, and something told her that the problem would be there.
“Gideon, can you pinpoint the location more exactly?” Sara asked, dreading the answer despite her hunch.
“The anomaly is located at the site of the Oculus Wellspring, Captain,” the AI said, confirming her suspicion.
“Peachy,” grumbled Mick, who was already on his way to the exit.
Once outside, Wally sped around the place to make sure they weren’t walking into an ambush of some sort. Sara was thankful, because in their line of work one never knew. They entered the building when they got confirmation from the speedster that the coast was clear, but Sara just couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right. With her senses on high alert, she and Mick led the others inside, where Wally was waiting for them.
“I think I found the problem,” the speedster said, staring at the place where the Oculus device had once stood.
“What problem?” said Nate.
“Dude, it’s right there,” Wally said, pointing towards something apparently only he could see.
“I don’t see anything either,” said Ray, looking a bit unsettled by the exchange. “Anyone else see what Wally’s seeing?”
“Nope,” Zari answered, slightly perturbed as well.
“I see somethin’,” said Mick. He put his heat gun back in its holster. “Looks kinda like a haze, though. Nothin’ clear.”
“Hold up,” Wally sped away and back, now holding a device he’d once made with Ray, when they were both bored.
It was a repurposed tablet that could measure a wide array of frequencies invisible to the human eye. He fiddled with it for a minute, then turned it so his team mates could see the readings.
“How about now?” he asked.
The screen displayed an image of something that looked like a rift in the fabric of reality, surrounded by flares of wispy strands coming out of it and dissipating. It reminded Sara of the solar flares she’d seen in documentaries, but instead of a star, the source was something else entirely.
“Well, crap…” was Nate’s reaction.
“It looks different to me, though,” said Wally, “like a doorway to another place.”
“What’s on the other side?” Mick asked, studying the image intently.
“A windy wasteland with a weird green fog blowing about,” said Wally. “Kind of like the timestream in colour.”
“Well, whatever that place is,” said Sara, “this rift leading there seems to be causing all these anachronisms, so we better find a way to close it.”
“We better do it fast,” Zari added, her eyes glued to the readings, “’cause it looks to me like it’s growing. At this rate, it’s gonna swallow the whole building in a few days.”
“If it weren’t for all these weird anachronisms,” Mick grumbled, “I’d say let it.” He studied the readings pensively. “Ain’t gonna be easy, though. And something tells me blowin’ it up a second time won’t work.”
“What if blowing the Oculus up,” said Amaya, “was what caused this in the first place?”
“That’s possible,” Ray mused. “Maybe that explosion ripped open a gateway to another dimension, so another explosion would definitely not work again. Might do the opposite and blow the rift wide open.”
“And then,” said Sara, “we’re in even deeper trouble. Great… this place seems to be the gift that keeps on giving.”
A chorus of sounds of agreement accompanied that statement.
“What if,” said Zari, “instead of blowing it up, we make it implode?”
“That could work, right?” said Ray.
“Let’s ask Gideon,” Mick said, taking the tablet from Wally and heading for the exit. “If we’re gonna fix this, we gotta do it right. Don’t want an encore of what happened last time we tried to destroy this place.”
Neither Sara, nor Ray wanted to point out to him that Gideon had been involved in the plan back then too. And even she could not have predicted the outcome. So they both said nothing and, together with the newer crew members, followed him out. Hoping against all hope that, this time around, things would work out better.
Ray was becoming increasingly frustrated. None of their simulations, so far, had been successful and running on less than six hours sleep didn’t help, either. He, Zari and Wally – with the occasional input from Mick and Cisco – had been working with Gideon non-stop to find a way to close the rift. Particularly, a method that didn’t cause the entire universe getting sucked in as well. So far, they’d hit dead end after dead end. Ray was starting to think that throwing in the towel and taking a break was the only sane thing to do in light of their failures. They all needed a breather and probably another gallon of coffee. Sooner or later, something had to give. So they did just that.
Sara had gone over to the Time Bureau headquarters to let Ava know of the cause of all those anachronisms. The Bureau had probably already started trying to deal with them, but Sara wanted to make sure they knew why they were popping up. She came back with the news that Ava would deal with the effects on the timeline and that they should call in back up from her agency, should they need it. Ray had then sent Sara to take a break, promising to call her if she was needed, and went to the kitchen to get a coffee and keep Wally company.
Eventually, Wally grew restless and decided to see if he could pass through the gateway and then come back, but was stopped by an invisible barrier. On the one hand, Ray was glad the younger man didn’t succeed, because they’d have yet another problem if he couldn’t get back. On the other hand, that in itself was a problem. If even a speedster couldn’t get through, neither could the device they’d eventually manage to whip up. So they were back to square one.
“I don’t understand why it’s not working,” said Wally as he was scarfing down his third sandwich. They were back in the kitchen now, where the speedster was re-fuelling. “Am I not going fast enough? I also tried slower and normal speed… not even vibrating works.”
“Maybe you’re not vibrating at the right frequency,” said Ray.
“Yeah, I tried matching that frequency and I can,” Wally waved a vibrating hand in front of Ray’s face. “Still a no-go.”
“That might be,” Gideon chimed in, “because your own natural frequency doesn’t match, Mr. West.”
“And you didn’t tell me that before because…?” Wally asked her indignantly.
“Because,” the AI responded, “I have just now made the correlation.”
“Is there anyone on the ship who does match?” Ray asked.
“Not on the ship, Mr. Palmer,” said Gideon. “But if my calculations are correct, Mr. Allen’s natural vibrational frequency might correspond. At least, according to the readings I have performed the last time he was on board, there is a possibility that he’d be able to break through the barrier.”
“He could?” both Wally and Ray asked, their tone hopeful.
“As I said,” Gideon went on, “if my calculations are correct. I would have to do another scan to be certain, but my database suggests that a speedster who has time-travelled using the Speedforce acquires that particular frequency. Or rather, their own internal frequency changes and adapts to accommodate time travel.”
“So we have to go get Barry to help us,” said Ray. “Sara can do that. Let’s get back to work.”
“I’ll go tell her,” Wally said, putting his coffee cup away.
“And I’ll let Cisco know she’s coming,” said Ray.
They both went on their way and Ray felt a bit better, knowing that they at least had part of a solution. Now, if only they could get that damn implosion to work.
Barry was having a really bad day. On top of being late to work – as usual – he’d had to speed off at least five times to deal with crime in the city, one of those crimes being a bank robbery. He was on his sixth trip now – a fire – and he was fed up. He just wanted to finish his workload and get ready for the date he’d planned. He and Iris hadn’t had an uninterrupted date night in so long and he was looking forward to it. All work and no play made life rather exhausting and it was really not fun. He just wanted some peace and quiet to enjoy with his wife.
Having finished with the fire, he headed back to his lab to finish his work and clock out. He’d ask Cisco and Ralph to cover crime-fighting for the rest of the day, with Caitlin running comms. Then he could enjoy some much needed time out with Iris. Barry was just about to call her and tell her the plan when his phone started ringing.
“Yeah, Cisco,” he answered, while speedily finishing up his last report for the day, “I’ll be done in a minute and then head over to STAR Labs.”
“Good,” came Cisco’s reply over the speaker, “’cause Sara’s here and she needs your help with something.”
“Fantastic…” Barry grumbled, “just what I needed today.” He paused, pinching the bridge of his nose in irritation. “Tell her I’ll be on my way in a bit.”
He hung up and heaved a sigh. If Sara was asking for help, it probably wasn’t going to be an easy fix and would almost certainly take a while. So much for his plans tonight he thought, as he filed the report.
His work finished, he shot Joe a quick text to let him know he’d be going straight over to STAR Labs and sped off. He first ran a few laps across the city to clear his head, though. If he was going to help the Legends, he needed to calm down.
The cortex was crowded by the time he got there. Cisco was talking to Ray on his special communicator, while Sara and Amaya were explaining the problem to Iris, Caitlin and Ralph. They stopped as soon as he entered the room, and Iris met him half-way to give him a hug and a kiss.
“So now that we’re all here,” said Cisco, hanging up on Ray, “let’s get Barry up to speed on what’s going on.”
“Seems that now that the geek squad finished the bomb,” Sara started, “we just need you to be our delivery guy. There’s a rift at this place outside of time that needs closing, since it’s causing trouble throughout the timeline. We’ve just figured out how to do it, but we need you to get in, drop the charge and get out. Then we’ll be out of your hair.”
“Get in where, exactly?” Barry asked, confused.
“Some sort of other dimension,” said Sara. “But if we don’t close it soon, it’s gonna mess up the timeline even worse.”
“OK, I’ll do it,” said Barry. “Let me get my suit and kiss my wife and we’ll be on our way.”
“Just don’t take too long, lovebirds,” Sara joked and everyone laughed.
Barry grabbed his suit and led Iris away from the group, going into Cisco’s workshop to get some privacy.
“Promise me you’ll be careful,” said Iris as Barry speed-changed.
“I promise,” he said, hugging her tight. “You know I’ll always run home to you, no matter what. You’re my lightning rod, after all.”
“I know,” said Iris, “but that doesn’t stop me from worrying every time you put that suit on. I just want you to be safe.”
“I will,” Barry said. “I love you.”
“And I love you,” said Iris, kissing him and lingering a bit. “We’re doing date night as soon as you get back.”
“I’ll be back before you know it,” he said, hating that he had to leave.
“You better,” said Iris, smiling into the kiss. They broke apart and headed back to the cortex, holding hands. “Say hi to Wally for me,” Iris added as they rejoined the others.
“Will do,” said Sara. “Took you long enough, loverboy,” she teased Barry.
“Shut up,” Barry mumbled. “Waiting for you now.”
“Alright, let’s go,” Amaya piped up, interrupting their good-natured bickering.
Nodding, Barry gestured for the ladies to lead the way and followed them out of the cortex. They had a job to do and he really wanted the problem to be dealt with, so he could return to his lovely wife as soon as possible.