Echo

byJukeboxEMCSA©

WildRose knew right away that this case was going to be one of the weird ones, but she didn't realize how weird until she rounded the corner and literally bumped into herself. She and her doppelganger bounced off each other and rubbed their foreheads with simultaneous stares of irritation, before letting out identical sighs and muttering, in perfect unison, "What the fuck?"

Instinctively, WildRose started to ask if Sharpe was getting any of this...but her words died in her throat as she remembered that she hadn't gotten a signal on her earpiece in over two hours, not since she first stowed away on the cargo ship heading out of Samson City with about six tons of stolen experimental technology. WildRose liked to think of herself as self-reliant, but it made her uncomfortable to realize just how much she had come to depend on Sharpe for things like intel on the ship's registry, GPS coordinates for the island harbor it berthed at...even just having a little voice in her ear to remind her that she wasn't entirely alone as she crept through the vast underground network of steel-walled tunnels meant the world to her now. Losing Sharpe made her feel utterly alone in a way that even a second WildRose couldn't fix.

Assuming she was real, of course. In a world with robot doubles, clones, evil opposites from the Negaverse, shapeshifters, telepathic mirror-fae from the hidden realms, and induced hallucinations, WildRose wasn't exactly about to take Penelope Powell 2.0 on faith. "Who are you and how did you get here?" she asked in low, determined tones, dropping into a fighting stance just in case.

The other WildRose dropped into an identical stance. "I'm me," she said, her voice making Penny wince in that way that hearing yourself talk always does. "Which is I guess you? I think it's something quantum or something, like a side-effect of the device we're tracking down. I don't suppose you paid more attention to Doctor Balkowicz's lecture than I did, did you?"

WildRose shook her head sadly. "No, I figured Sharpe would pick up the details. She's the one with all the PhDs. I got 'you've got to keep it out of the wrong hands', but everything else just sounded like the grown-ups from Peanuts talking." She shrugged. "I think I get the idea, though. It's like that one experiment everyone always talks about with the cat. We're both here because the universe can't decide what's happened to us yet, not until we catch up with whoever stole the device and stop them." She looked down the corridor the way WildRose-the other WildRose-came. "Speaking of, what's down that hallway?"

"Storage space and some barracks," the other Penny said. "Yours?"

"More of the same." WildRose nodded down the unexplored corridor, and her counterpart nodded in return. They began to pad down the corridor with identical, silent steps. (No wonder she bumped into herself-WildRose was probably the only person in the world quiet enough to sneak up on WildRose.) "I didn't see any soldiers, though. Maybe they're all up helping unload the stolen goods? Six tons of experimental machinery isn't exactly the kind of thing you get your buddies to help you move with beer and pizza."

The other WildRose gave her a slight tilt of the head and shoulders that Penny instinctively understood to mean, 'It seems likely but we can't take it for granted.' It was incredibly strange, seeing yourself from the outside like this. She couldn't read her double's thoughts, exactly, but she knew her own body language on a level so intimate that it was like having a near-telepathic degree of understanding. They seemed to be exactly alike...

But they couldn't be, could they? Doctor Balkowicz got lost in the weeds pretty quickly when he tried to explain it to her, but WildRose was pretty clear on that part. The quantum beam reordered space and time, reshaping whatever it hit in accordance with the wishes of its user. The bigger the change, the more powerful the ripples to reality... and because it changed time as well as space, the effects could happen before the cause. The other WildRose was an echo of the shift in the universe; the fact that she was here now, before they even found the thing, probably meant that it was a pretty big shift.

WildRose didn't have time to examine the uncomfortable implications of that thought-her twin held up a hand, and they both stopped dead and listened to the sound of massive machinery at work down a side passage. "They've hollowed the hell out of this place," the other Penny whispered. "I don't know how they could have done this much work on an island this close to Samson City. We were on the cargo ship, what...an hour?"

"A little less," WildRose said, carefully edging around the corner to look down the hallway. She gestured an all-clear to her duplicate, but made sure to hang back just a little to make sure she brought up the rear. It wasn't that she didn't trust herself-if you couldn't trust you, who could you trust? But if she was right, the other WildRose had been... would be... hit by the quantum beam. She was, or would be, or would will have been, or FUCK she hated weird time-travel bullshit! She was changed by the device. And it was a big enough change that it couldn't just rewrite her to have always been that way. It was a big enough change to put a crack in time that went back several hours. WildRose wasn't narcissistic, but she thought she was a good enough person that changing her that much had to be for the worse.

The other WildRose either hadn't thought of it yet, or was feeling pretty confident in her ability to win a fight against herself. She took the lead, loping down the corridor with the grace of a panther. In a quiet voice that nonetheless carried back to Penny, she said, "Less than an hour. There aren't any islands this close to Samson City big enough to conceal an operation like this, at least not on the charts. So either someone's been censoring the navigational charts, or..."

She didn't have enough time to finish the sentence before the rumble of the machinery became a roar. WildRose felt her body get heavier for a moment, like she was riding an express elevator to the top floor of a very tall building. At the same time, her twin gasped loudly and sprinted down the hallway, not waiting for WildRose to follow. Which turned it into a chase, because WildRose already had the same suspicion that her duplicate had, as well as a suspicion about her duplicate based on their shared suspicion, and if both of those suspicions were true, there was only one possible course of action open to her.

They both burst out into a wide, open room with a deep shaft in the middle. Massive engines designed to counteract the very existence of gravity, not merely its effects, hung suspended in the middle of the shaft with maintenance walkways all around. Dozens of people stood at control stations, each one helping to control the flow of power to the anti-gravity engines. None of them had noticed either of the WildRoses yet, but it was only a matter of moments before they reacted.

Three things flashed through WildRose's head in a fraction of an instant. One, all of the technicians wore a uniform with a logo emblazoned on it, a crimson fist ascending from a lightning bolt. The symbol of the Rescuer's arch-nemesis, Doctor Damian Darke. Two, the island wasn't on any of the charts because it wasn't there before-Doctor Darke had steered his floating fortress into the bay under the cover of his artificial clouds, staying in the water to avoid attention. And three... the other WildRose reacted the way she did because she was worried about reality-altering technology falling into Darke's hands. She feared him. She wasn't devoted to him-

The train of thought unwound in her mind in just about the amount of time it took to spin-kick her doppelganger in the side of the head.

The other WildRose staggered, but refused to fall. Her indomitable will struggled against the concussion that dizzied her, pushed her to ignore the pain and fight back. Against any other opponent, it might have mattered, but she was fighting someone who knew everything she did, had her exact reflexes, the same strength, even the same willpower (albeit gloriously subverted to the will of Doctor Darke). They were identical...but only one of them had just been kicked in the head. That made all the difference. WildRose put her counterpart down in a matter of seconds, before calling one of the technicians over for assistance.

"We have an intruder," she told him. "Send down a detachment to place her in custody." He scurried to obey so readily that it utterly shocked WildRose when Doctor Darke's men showed up, took one look at her, and tasered her into unconsciousness.

*****

They must have both recovered at nearly the same time, because WildRose woke to hear her counterpart saying, "Unnnnh... what hit me?"

"I did," she replied, getting up and testing her limbs. She felt sore and achy, but basically unharmed. She was glad of that-if her counterpart was anything like her, she was bound to react badly to the news, and WildRose really wanted to be able to defend herself if she had to. They were both chained to the wall, but the manacles wouldn't hold either one of them for long. They were designed to resist breakage at the hands of an inhumanly strong modern titan, not being picked by a sneaky bitch who kept thieves' tools tucked between her cheek and jaw for just this kind of situation.

A spitting sound told WildRose that her twin was doing the exact same thing she was. "Care to tell me why?" the other Penny said, her voice thick with anger. "Because I fucking know you're not working for Darke. There's no brainwashing in this world strong enough to leave me following orders from that sick son of a bitch. And not in any of the others, either."

WildRose smiled, working away at the manacles with methodical swiftness. She knew her other self hadn't completely recovered from the concussion yet, an advantage she planned to exploit to the fullest. "I'm not brainwashed at all," she said, her voice filled with quiet joy. "Brainwashing implies a change in a person's patterns of thought, and I have always belonged to Damian Darke. There has never been a time when I haven't known his truth to be the only truth, deep down in every fiber of my being. I belong to him, mind, body, and soul. He is-"

"Oh, shut the fuck up!" the other WildRose snapped, her lockpick skidding across the surface of the manacle in frustration. "I didn't ask for your fucking life story, okay? I just need to know why, how he did it. How to undo it. There's got to be something of me left inside you, something that can snap out of this long enough to tell me how to fix you. He did this to you with that quantum gun, right? Tell me how it-aigh!"

Her duplicate's words broke off into a yelp of surprise and frustration as WildRose popped the lock on her manacle and swung her free hand over to swat the other Penny's lockpick across the room. She then carefully undid her other cuffs, tossed her own tools into the far corner, and smiled with cruel affection at her helpless counterpart. "He didn't do this to me. He will do this to you," she said, in tones of quiet triumph.

She walked over to where her other self was bound, easily avoiding the other woman's fumbling attempts to assault her with the grace of someone who knew exactly what was coming. "You were right all along-it's a side-effect of the device. One I didn't understand until I realized just how different we really are. You're a shadow, an echo of the reality that Doctor Darke is going to erase. He's going to come in here, he's going to use the quantum beam on you, and you'll become me. No, you'll always have been me. The universe will forget that there was ever a Penelope Powell that didn't worship Doctor Darke with all her heart. This thing, there being two of us-that's just temporary, a little glitch in space and time. Doctor Darke probably already knows about it, he's probably already working-"

The other WildRose groaned theatrically. "Is this some kind of supervillain membership thing? Turn evil and you instantly start yammering? I get it. You can't resist him because you're the version of me that never did that. There's nothing in there that even sees a problem. But it's not predestined, right? I mean, it could be you that fades away and me that stays?"

WildRose grinned, resting her hand on her double's shoulder and enjoying the way her counterpart tried vainly to shrug it away. "But you're the one who gets shot, Penny," she whispered, enjoying the dawning helplessness on the other woman's face. A good disciple of Doctor Darke always took pleasure in the defeat of an enemy, after all, and what greater pleasure could there be than in watching oneself struggle and fail to resist Doctor Darke? "It's the only logical outcome. You're not going to be created by the quantum beam if it hits me, because why would he bother reshaping me? I'm already his perfect, obedient slave. And soon...you will be too."

She gave her counterpart a slow, sensuous kiss, reveling in the feel of her own soft lips. It felt wonderful, like masturbation with foreplay, and her hands drifted down to slip into the other WildRose's waistband and find her cunt. The duplicate struggled for a moment, but of course WildRose knew everywhere she liked to be touched and all the ways she liked to touch them. It wasn't long before the other woman was sagging helplessly in the manacles, moaning with pleasure.

Was this how she was to be defeated, in the future that was approaching? Was it predestined? WildRose hoped so. She longed to believe that it was her seduction that lowered the other woman's defenses, sapping her alertness and drugging her with pleasure so that when Doctor Darke entered, he found a willing servant and easy prey. They would unite in that perfect moment, she was sure of it; she would feel the other WildRose's orgasm hitting just as Doctor Darke took away everything that didn't serve his will. And then she would help him enslave every hero, every human, all existence itself. The universe needed to worship Doctor Darke. She knew it.

She rubbed the other WildRose's clit, eliciting a shuddering whimper that her shadow desperately tried to bite back and failed. "That's it," WildRose purred, "you can't fight it. You're going to come for me, and then you're going to become me. It's just the way of the universe. I only exist because Doctor Darke created me. Even if that creation hasn't happened yet, it's only a matter of time. And when it does, my little shadow, you're just going to fade away, and his control will be unbreakable. Irresistible. You will be his servant at all times." She mercilessly teased the other woman's cunt, pounding her fingers in and out of her doppelganger's wet channel. "Tell me you don't want that."

"I... I..." The other Penny's eyes rolled back into her head, the pleasure overwhelming her. The door opened, and WildRose turned to see Doctor Darke stepping into the room, quantum gun in hand. He had a grim smile on his face, as if he already understood the secret of the twin WildRoses and knew just what needed to be done. Only one of them was his. Only one of them could remain in this universe.

And in that split second of distraction, the other woman grabbed WildRose and shouted, "She's loose, Master! Quickly, before she gets away!" WildRose tried to speak, but the manacled hand gripped her throat too tightly to prevent speech. And Doctor Darke's lightning-fast reflexes only meant that he wasted no time in firing on the one woman on this earth that he knew would never submit to him.

There was an instant of blue-white heat as the beam enveloped her, connecting her and Doctor Darke in a web of filaments that stretched down to the level of the sub-atomic. In that instant, they both felt it. Her body blocked the beam that would have led to her creation. Her existence was prevented by her existence. Her presence was a paradox that unraveled any attempt to create her before it could happen, sending ripples and shockwaves forward and backward in time and space until the underlying structure of reality burst at the seams.

There was no pain. There was no pleasure. There simply was no sensation at all. WildRose survived just long enough to see Doctor Darke pulled into the quantum foam, sucked away into dimensions beyond the knowledge of humanity in the sudden implosion of the quantum gun, before the paradox of her existence unraveled and she unhappened with a sudden 'POP!'

"Ohhhhkay," WildRose-a duplicate no longer, as reality reasserted itself-muttered to herself. She squirmed in the manacles, grimacing as she contorted her thumb into position to wriggle free. "This is why I hate the weird ones." If anything remained of the other Penny to agree with her, there was no sign.

THE END

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by PhiroEpsilon09/19/18

A new highlight

I like your superhero stories anyway, but this is definitely a new climax.

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