The Old Man talks

“You’re a fool, Tyme” he said.
“It’s been said before,” I replied.
“What do you expect to acheive by this?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know. You. I thought you knew the future.”
“There’s a lot of future, old man. No one can think of it all at once.”
“Don’t crack wise with me. You know what I meant.”
“I do. But honestly, I don’t know. I’m operating on intuition here.” He gave me a long, speculative look.

“Intuition,” he said at last. “Careful boy. You wouldn’t want to stray into mad scientist territory there.” I shrugged.
“It’s just something I feel that I have to do, and I’ve learned not to ignore these feelings.”
“Oh, tell me you’re not prolonging my suffering for the greater good,” he said, sneering on the last three words.
“‘Fraid so,” I told him. “You’re going to do something worthwhile with what’s left of your life if it kills us both.”
“You hope,” he muttered, but I could see he was worried. Despite his scoffing, he knew as well as I did how good my intuitions usually were.

Greatest Hit

To my mind, the most impressive crime that the old man ever pulled off is impressive mostly for how terrifyingly excessive it was. Although perhaps I’m biased, as it was partially my fault.

One time when I was going up against the Doctor – this would have been maybe ’38 or ’39, I think. It was in Vienna, after the Aunschluss. Anyway, the Doctor was attempting to kidnap some physicist – something about using quantum indeterminacy as a vector for his disease, and I intervened. No particular merit in that – like the physicist, I was in town for a conference on physics.

In the course of our struggle, my technology interacted badly with that of the physicist in question, and I accidentally dumped the Doctor in the late 14th century. From here, still in Vienna, he concocted a plague I still don’t quite understand, and basically wiped out almost every human being (and numerous other primates) in Europe, Asia and Africa before I found him, ten years up time from where I’d lost him.

It didn’t rewrite our timeline (the uncertainty principle also applies to whether a change a history rewrites the future or merely splits off another timeline, although it can be rigged a bit. Also, the people in the alternate timeline who died would probably object to me saying merely back there.), but it did open a massive can of temporal worms for me, and I spent a year and a half of experienced time trying to fix it. The Doctor I left in prison, but he escaped without too much difficulty.

The reason I call this excessive – and yes, genocide is always excessive, but this is particularly so – is that the Doctor’s motive for doing this was to get even with a nobleman whose carriage splashed him with mud in passing.

It’s memories like these that make it hard to feel too sorry for Doctor Armageddon. He wasn’t kidding with that name.

At last!

The old man finally spoke to me today.

Well, to me might not be quite right. At me might be a more accurate description of his peremptoriness.

I didn’t really mind the fact that he was trying to give me orders, because I’d made damned sure that he would.

After parading at least three dozen different nurses before him in an attempt to select the right one – and having three of them run away when I told them who he was (plus the one who tried to kill him) – I finally realised that the decision wasn’t really up to me.

So I got a number of the better candidates, plus the very worst one I’d found, and lined them all up in front of him. Then I asked them questions. The questions didn’t matter at all – it was Armageddon’s reactions that I was really watching.

So I waited and waited and asked question after question, and finally, when he started to get so bored he was restless, announced that I’d made my decision. And picked the one I’d planned to all along – the worst of them.

Doctor Armageddon sat bolt upright in his bed, and pointed his withered hand at a different nurse. And with a voice I remembered only too well from back in the day, commanded “No, that one!”.

“Thanks, Doc,” I told him. I winked at him, and he glared back, and I knew things would be easier from now on.

But I didn’t hire the one he wanted, either. I hired one who wasn’t even invited that day, but who had a rep for getting even the most recalcitrant of patients to talk to her.

Hopefully, that’s not what he anticipated I’d do.

The First Tyme

I’m not actually the first of my name, although the story is kind of complicated, the way that time travel stuff so often is.

My father, Cornelius Tyme, was born several years uptime from today, in the third decade of the 21st century. He himself was (or will be – time travel and grammar do not mix) the grandson of a science villain named Professor Pariedolia, who operated out of New York City in the Seventies. The Prof I don’t know much about, but I do know that my dad perfected some of the retired villain’s devices, notably his time machine.

Somewhere out there in Brooklyn, or maybe down in the Village or maybe even across the river in Jersey, the boy who will one day be Professor Pariedolia is about three years old right now. I’ll never meet him – I have a destiny uptime after Doctor Armageddon dies later this year – but it’s weird to think of him out there.

My dad travelled back to the late Nineteenth century, which is where he met and married my mom, and where he became a science hero. He was always careful to avoid upsetting the continum too much. In fact, I think originally he hadn’t planned to use his knowledge of the past in any way, but then there was an alien invasion that needed repelling, and the technology of the era wasn’t up to it. He did what he had to, and he found that he enjoyed being a science hero. Not for the fame, I think, so much as the simple pleasure of doing good and helping others. He teamed up a lot with a duo called Needle and Thread, who were crimefighting tailors or somesuch.

He never fought Doctor Destruction, although they were active at around the same time, and he eventually died in World War One, fatally wounded while evacuating wounded men under fire. I suspect he would have wanted it that way. Mom gave me all his gear when I was old enough, but I haven’t used much of it – a side effect of my Dad’s exposure to chronal radiations gave me innate powers of time manipulation, and I’ve rarely needed more than those, my wits and my fists.

Mom died not long after Pearl Harbour – she lived to see the Christmas, but not the new year – and the last thing she ever said to me was that she loved me and my father would have been proud of me. I’ve tried to live up to the example of the man I never knew in my own adulthood. From reading his journals, I think he’d approve of my life and what I’ve done with it, but I won’t know this side of the grave. It makes me wonder how Doctor Armageddon feels about his parents.

Finding a Nurse, part one

It took me a while to realise that I couldn’t look after the old man myself. Even with the ability to time travel oit, grab a nap (or whatever), and come back an attosecond later, I couldn’t do it. For one thing, the old man may not be healthy, but he’s still sharp. He can tell when I jump out and in again, and I find myself losing sleep worrying about what opportunity these tiny windows might give him.

Also, frankly, I lack the requisite medical knowledge. I’m not sure that anyone does have the right medical knowledge to help the Doctor, frankly – a good part of his condition seems to be a result of being one of his own lab monkeys. I pulled in Jonas Salk once, but even he couldn’t diagnose half of the things the Doctor had. (He was able to assure me that polio wasn’t one of them, though.)

So I decided to get a nurse.

Someone whose job it would be to look after him and make sure he took his pills on time, and so on.

Someone, hopefully, who could get him to talk, because the six weeks of obstinate silence I’ve endured since I started looking after him have been punctuated only by snoring and farting.

Never when you expect it

I don’t think that anyone was anticipating the Doctor’s heart attack. Armageddon had seemed to be above such things for so long.

And when he abruptly clutched his chest and fell to the ground mid-combat, well, I can’t really fault the Gas Lord or Juliette of the Night for not wanting to approach him. Feigning injury or weakness isn’t unheard of, especially when a science villain is losing a fight. Assuming that they’re fighting someone inexperienced enough to fall for it or soft-hearted enough to risk it being a trick, it can be just the right play for them – it’s usually used to gather their strength before fleeing.

It took over an hour for the paramedics to do anything to help the old man, although that is partially due to having to use weapons confiscated from the Incandescent Man to cut through the Doctor’s armour.

It was another two hours before he was moved to a hospital, and not until the following morning that I was contacted. I went straight away, of course.

What else was I going to do? Sure, I had plenty of reasons to hate the guy – we have been arch-enemies ever since the retirement of Timothy Crowley, Armageddon’s former arch-enemy – but that wasn’t why I went. I went because, well, I’d had a weird idea recently. And I wanted to see if it would work.

No villain is a villain to himself

I intercepted some time-zeebs from the 23rd century today. They’d come back in time with the intention of cloning Doctor Armageddon and getting the clone to rule them. Said that they were doing it because it’s always been that way, etc, etc – the usual time traveller ends justify the means justify the ends crap.

I took a brief hike uptime and discovered that they were right, but letting them just attack the old man with the robot they had seemed a little excessive, given my plans for the good Doctor, so I offered to get the genetic sample for them.

They were really picky about it, too – not before the Doctor’s third clash with the Ghost Chemist, when he got mutated accidentally when chemicals splashed on him the Ghost’s lab; not after he was sent to the electric chair in Sing Sing and briefly developed lightning powers.

It took some doing, but I managed to get a blood sample from a shard of glass left from a broken window he was thrown through by Cosmos the Starkiller in a dispute over who had the right to destroy the Earth. Doctor Armageddon won that round, which worked out well for the Earth, but on the other hand, Cosmos later reformed (ethically as well as physically, I mean), and these days calls itself Cosmos the Starsaver, so it’s hard to say who had the moral victory.

The time-zeebs were happy enough with the blood, and promised that I’d never hear from them again. I didn’t have the heart to tell them about the USS Philedelphia, currently heading through the timestream and due to collide with them about thirty relative years uptime from them.

The First Time

When the Doctor and I first met, it was as enemies, but it was nothing personal on either side. We were simply two professionals at cross-purposes.

It was the Doctor’s first outing as Armageddon – up til then, he’d been Doctor Destruction. But he was chuffed by the relative success of an epidemic he’d started the year before – relative in that he was apprehended and forced to provide the antidote, but not before millions of people died all around the world.

The new name would prove to be no mere affectation, and we all took note of it and wondered what he’d don next time. He’d been a science villain for over a decade by that time, and he’d made a reasonably intimidating rep for himself.

I myself was still quite new at the science hero game back then. The Doctor was only the third science villain I ever faced, and the first one outside of New York. I’d already clashed with Mad Runyon and the Wred Wraith (don’t blame me for that name – that’s how he insisted we spell it on the arrest paperwork) by then, but Doctor Armageddon was a class or two above them. He was way out of my league, truth be told, and I think that was one reason why my defeat of him that time always rankled: on paper, he should have won, and we both knew that only luck had allowed me to win.

His scheme that day involved an attempt to poison the waters at Niagara Falls, which would have wound up killing a lot of people had it succeeded. It was just dumb luck that I was there that day – a friend had decided to have not just the honeymoon, but the wedding too at the Falls.

When I got wind of the plan, I tracked down the Doctor and his men. He and I exchanged inconclusive blows, and then he hid behind his minions. None of them – not one – could fight worth a damn, but their sheer numbers made them a danger to me. It was only after wading through their ranks that I realised that this was just a feint. Like I said, I was inexperienced then. Naive, even.

I managed to find a pilot who was willing to fly me in pursuit of the Doctor, and I remember wondering if we’d catch him in time. The plane was an ex-Canadian Air Force biplane, a two-seater with no canopy, so we couldn’t talk much during the flight. Fortunately, the Doctor was easy to follow: he was heading almost due north, where his plan was to seed the Arctic ice cap with poison that would be slowly introduced into the oceans as the ice moved and melted.

My pilot, a gal named Whime Dickson (I later learned that her first name was actually Whilhemina), shot down the Doctor’s zeppelin somewhere above Baffin Island. We followed him down, and I fought him again, this time beating him soundly. The Doctor never was much for fisticuffs.

But we both knew that if I hadn’t found Whime when I did, there would have been no one to stop him, and my meeting with her was the endpoint of a string of unlikely coincidences for each of us, although it did turn out well. Or well, for a time, at any rate. He killed her on the day before our tenth wedding anniversary.

I like to think she’d understand why I’m taking care of him the way I am now, but sometimes, in the wolf hours after midnight, the sound of the wind outside is just like how it sounded in her plane that day, and it gnaws at me that maybe she wouldn’t.

The Old Man

It is said that on the night of his birth, an angel and a demon fought for the soul of the boy who would become Doctor Armageddon. There are three schools of thought about the outcome: that the demon won, that the fight still goes on, and that the angel won.

I find the last of those the most terrifying possibility. It would mean that the Doctor has been on the side of right for all these years, and that’s not something one likes to think about a genocidal science villain.

Looking down at the sleeping old man now, sleeping so lightly that I wake him if I move too loudly, it’s hard to believe he’s been responsible for so much suffering, so many deaths. I’ve spent a good portion of my adult life fighting him – and I certainly wasn’t the first to fight him – and yet now I spend my nights making sure that no one bothers him.

Partially, that’s because I don’t want anyone to provoke him – I wouldn’t put it past him to still have a trick or two left, even now that he’s in his nineties. But mostly, I just feel sorry for him.

I’m his arch-enemy, and yet, here at the end of his life, I’m the closest thing he has to a friend.

Preventing Doctor Armageddon

The Centre Cannot Hold presents a tale of mortality, compassion and time travel…

It is the tale of the greatest science villain the world has ever known, genocidal mad scientist Doctor Armageddon, as told by his arch-enemy, science hero Jack “Stitch” Tyme.
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