When you get right down to it, grief is a funny thing.
From my view, it's been five years since my mom died, but sometimes it still hits me like it was yesterday. A smell, a word, a phrase, a thought--and I'm twelve years old all over again, face buried in the pillow while I quietly weep my eyes out.
The first thing I found out when I stepped through that portal was that Sumerset was dead. And ever since that day, I've grieved, and I've mourned, and I've spat and I've cursed until I felt like there was nothing left to feel about it at all.
And after two years, I felt like maybe, just maybe, I'd gotten over it.
But like I said; when you get right down to it, grief is a funny thing.
Two years later, here I am--a razor-sharp instrument of fearless, unstoppable justice--and I am bawling my eyes out over a man who, for me, died a lifetime ago.
We're in Wytch's house, patched up as best as we can. Mulligan's arm and leg are in a cast; Paladin's got bandages all over him. Red is bruised, Bonesaw is still partially deaf, Woot and his family are stashed away in the bedroom, and a severely beaten Sovereign is barely conscious, laying on Wytch's cot.
Everyone here looks like hamburger except for me, and I'm the one who's crying.
I'd call that weakness, except I know what Sumerset would say. He'd just give me a pat on the back and say 'Fuck it. Cry all you want. Anyone give you shit, you go ahead and break their arm, starling.'
"Sue," Mulligan begins.
"Yeah," I say, dragging myself out of it as best as I can. "Yeah, okay. I guess I need to start from the beginning."
"You've really been gone for two years?" Paladin asks.
"From my view, yeah," I tell him. "Sumerset set this up. Triggered to activate on his death. Message to Temporis. After the first fight I had with Scourge, he tracked her down--the time-travel girl. Started communicating with her."
Mulligan nods. "Started setting up a contingency plan in case he got killed."
"Why the fuck couldn't you save him?" Bonesaw asks. Something in her voice quivers--indignation, anger, disbelief--I don't know.
"Because it would disrupt the loop," I tell her.
"The fuck kind of bullshit is that?"
"Whatever message Sumerset set to send for Temporis," Mulligan explains, "it was triggered by his death. If Sue prevented his death, the message would never be sent, and hence she'd never come. Unstable time loop."
Bonesaw starts to pace. Claws extend and recede into her knuckles. I knew she wouldn't take any of this well.
"God damn it," she says, and then she buries half a clawtip into the wall.
"Watch the drywall," Wytch tells her, but then she turns her attention back to me. "Sue--"
"It's still you, isn't it?" Red asks.
I look to her.
"I--I just mean," she says, looking nervously to the side. "You say you've been gone two years, so I imagine you might have, you know, changed, and--"
I reach out and touch the edge of her fingers. Some of her agitation evaporates, but not all of it. She smiles.
"Sue, what happens now?" Wytch asks.
"I learned a lot on my trip," I tell her. "About what's going on. About what the Mirrorverse planned; about who Percival Murdoch is, and what master he serves." I shift my eyes to look over the others. "When Temporis first came over, to warn me about the future--way back when I first fought Scourge--she had a newspaper on her. It was from an alternate timeline--one which she prevented from ever happening. In it, Sovereign turned against the government."
"Why?" Paladin asks.
"Because the government's already turned over," I tell him. "After 1984, the Mirrorverse realized they couldn't win by brute force. So they started working more subtly."
Wytch's eyes narrow. "They're already here."
"Yeah," I tell her. "Percival's one of them. There are others. They've been working since then, eroding the Society, working to kill or disband heroes. Subtly, so no one will notice. And gathering power themselves."
"That's why they wanted to kill Sovereign," Mulligan says. "He's probably the biggest threat to their power. But--"
"But that doesn't answer grandmother's question," Red says, and then she squeezes my hand tighter. "What do we do now?"
"Now?" I say, and for a moment, I hesitate.
A voice, raspy and wet, speaks for me.
"Now?" Sovereign says from the cot, slowly sitting up. "Now, you go underground."
All of us turn to him. Wytch did the best she could for him; his face looks like something you'd find on a Mongolian barbecue bar, but it looks like it's healing. Slowly.
"If even half of what you're saying is true," he says, "then all of you are in far deeper than you can imagine. You need to find out who's on your side, and who's on their side. Gather your resources. And then..."
"Then," I say, "we expose them, beat the shit out of them, and send them back where they came from."
Through the blood and meat, Sovereign smiles. "Simple plan. Clear, sensible, straightforward. You're a lot like her."
"Are you going to help us?"
The smile splits into a slow grin. Several teeth are missing. "Wouldn't be much of a superhero if I didn't, ma'am."
I smile back. Then I look to the others.
"Anyone wants out, this is the time to do it," I tell them. "We've got no idea what we're up against."
No one backs down.
"Alright, then," I say. "Let's fuck some shit up."