By Leonard Pigg, Artwork by Andrew Dimitt
Doctor Omega reconfigured his ship to look like an unassuming blue shed as it had begun to disappear from Earth’s orbit. He had materialized it off the coast of Gabon, on a small deserted beach. He felt it was time to relax and enjoy the warm weather. He walks out, dressed in black with a white lab coat. Calamity Jane and Koschei both come out in swimwear and rush towards the water, shoving past the Doctor. Omega laughs, as the two swim around and splash each other. The Doctor finds a rock and sits on the beach, taking deep breaths. “Finally, some peace and quiet. Let’s try to just relax and keep out of trouble for a time, eh?” he says to his friends.
“Why ain’t you takin’ a dip with us, Doc?” Jane asks.
“Not yet. I just want some fresh air. Perhaps later, my dear.” Omega says with a smile. He takes a small palm-sized device from his pocket and starts to punch in a few buttons. It beeps a few times and a few minutes later, a waiter in white walks to the area of the beach with a tray of food.
“Sir John Doe?” the waiter asks.
Omega nods and says, “Thank you. Is the condo ready yet?”
The waiter gestures up towards a beach house at the top of the hill and hands Omega a key. “Sir Doe, the embassy arranged everything and it is at your disposal for the weekend. I’m Pietro and will be here to take care of you.”
Omega reaches into his coat and pulls out a bag of gold coins, handing it to Pietro. “For you, my friend. Please look after those two as they are my trusted advisors.” Pietro smiles and bows.
Suddenly, Omega gets a chill up his spine and he notices that the water has stopped moving, as have Jane and Koschei. Pietro is motionless and the birds in the sky are suspended in place. He reaches down and grabs a handful of sand, tossing it into the air and watching it hang in place. “Someone’s frozen time. Come on out, I’ve no time for games!” Omega says as he walks around the beach, with his wand in hand. He thinks to himself, “Strangely, enough I sense no danger. However, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be at the ready. I could feel the temporal distortion, just unable to identify the source.”
An Aboriginal man in a suit walks out from behind the shed, barefoot with a leather satchel over his shoulder and walking with a gnarled stick. He gives a wild smile and says, “No games, my old friend. Thoth the Atlantean needs your help. I just wanted some privacy while we talked. You’ve changed faces since we last met, but the aura stays the same. I see you’re traveling with a new friend and an old enemy. Interesting times…” Doctor Omega goes over to Thoth and the two hug.
“I’m assuming you lost my phone number? What’s going on?” Omega says with a smile.
“I’ve been tasked by the ancient god Shango to find someone to wield his sacred hammer. Someone must stand against the darkness when it comes calling. I’m supposed to train this person. Perhaps you could point me in the right direction?” Thoth says.
Omega looks at Thoth quizzically and says, “I’m not fit to wield a hammer of Shango. I don’t really consider myself a warrior.”
Thoth sits in the Lotus position mid-air, placing his stick on his lap. “He wants a legend to become a greater one. Someone that knows how to handle a hammer and can win against incredible odds. This might require you making a subtle change to history, my friend. Know that this will serve a greater good in the days to come. When we next meet, I will have more allies. This world needs more heroes.” Thoth points at a piece of metal that is sticking out of a nearby rock.
Omega stares at the rock and then looks at Thoth. Inspiration strikes and he says, “I’ve got it! There’s no time to lose! Someone that is a legend!” Rushing toward the blue shed, Omega opens the door and goes in. A moment later, he pokes out his head and looks at Thoth. “You coming?” he says with a smile.
Thoth casually floats back to his feet and walks to the shed. “My friend, when you have a time machine… there is never a need to rush.” Thoth says getting in. As the ship powers up, the didgeridoo sound resonates around the beach, there is a large gust of wind, a flash of light and the shed fades away.
On the outskirts of Talcott, West Virginia, a legend was being made. John Henry had just defeated the steam drill in a steel driving contest. As the contest came to an end, the story goes he had pushed himself far beyond human limits to beat the machine and died. The crowd of onlookers watched as he lay on the ground, clinging to what remained of his life. “Somebody should call a doctor,” a woman in the crowd said. A few people scrambled around to check on the dying man, while the didgeridoo sound nearby echoes through the area. A young boy looks over and sees the blue shed which seemed to appear out of nowhere, tugging at his mother’s arm and pointing.
Doctor Omega rushes out of the shed and exclaims, “I’m a doctor! Stand aside, please! Let me see the man.” Omega sits on his knees, looking John Henry over. He takes a small wand-like device and waves it over John. It hums and beeps a couple of times. “There’s still time to help! Please help me get the man into my ship- I mean, my shed!” he exclaims.
Several people help carry the fallen hero over to the shed. Once the Doctor gets him inside, he follows in and shuts the door. Thoth stands over the fallen Henry and begins to recite a chant. He holds up his hands, which glow like neon. He places them onto John’s body. A moment later, John begins to breathe again.
“What’s the prognosis?” Omega asks.
Thoth looks back at him and says, “All praise to the source of all things, he will live!” The shed begins to glow and then disappears, leaving the crowd stunned by this seemingly impossible feat. The legend of John Henry is solidified in American history.
John Henry awakens in a bed, looking around confused. He sits up, looking around at the strange white room. On the table next to him is a cup of tea and four pieces of toast. He picks it up and begins to sip from it, giving a sigh of relief.
“Chamomile Tea. It’s quite soothing. I’m glad to see you’re still with us,” Doctor Omega says as he strides into the room. “Mr. Henry, I’m Doctor Omega. I am what you might call a casual adventurer and this is my friend Thoth,” he says as he sits next to Henry.
John looks at him and says, “You’re a doctor? I didn’t think they let our kind do that sort of thing.”
Omega laughs and says, “I’m from a time and place where all things are possible, John. You should know about impossible things, as you beat the machine by your own hands. Don’t let my appearance fool you, I might have the same complexion, but I am not actually of this planet.”
Thoth sits in a chair nearby and says, “Your legend has just begun, my friend. Shango, the African god of thunder and fire has tasked me with finding someone to wield his mighty hammer. I believe that person is you.”
Just as the three are chatting, the room shakes and there is a loud humming. “What the?!” Omega says as he heads towards the control room. Looking at the monitor, he sees a swarm of giant metallic hummingbirds flying around the ship. Thoth and John walk into the control room and look at the screen as well.
“The Automata are attacking. This means that one of the other gods must be upset with our actions. All the gods should be in Divine Council at this time, hence Shango asking me to act on his behalf. No matter where we go, these things will follow. I’ve got an idea…” Thoth says as he spins around his stick, which glows. The ship begins to vibrate and glow.
“What are you doing?” Omega asks. “Taking the wheel! We’re going to get the home court advantage at Atlantis!” Thoth says.
The shed appears in a grassy field on a hill. In the valley are emerald buildings that shine in the sunlight. Thoth reaches into his satchel and pulls out a hammer, handing it to John Henry. The club hammer has an emerald head and a wooden handle wrapped in leather. Once in John’s hands, it has a golden glow.
“We’re going to have to fight these things off. Less chance of casualties here as this is in a pocket dimension.” Thoth says.
Omega opens a trunk, which is full of weapons. He pulls two laser pistols, a few grenades and and says, “I don’t think Jane will mind me borrowing these.”
Thoth laughs and says, “I didn’t think you liked guns, Omega.”
Omega says, “I think of it like fist fighting or parallel parking; I can do it, but I actively try to avoid it.”
John laughs and says, “This is crazy! I thought I was dying.”
Omega looks at him and says, “Well, you still might get your chance.”
Thoth pats John on the shoulder and says, “The hammer will help you through this. Just do what feels right with it. It’s meant for you.”
The three exit the ship. Omega charges out, firing both guns and takes out two of the Automata. Thoth comes out, gesturing wildly and sends a stream of fire to drive the swarm back. John Henry holds up the hammer in the air and tendrils of lightning cut into the horde.
“Damn, that’s some serious magic!” John says. Omega throws a grenade, which destroys a few more. One of the Automata swoops down and grabs him in its talons. Thoth and John continue their energy attack, carving a swath through the birds. As Omega is carried high into the sky, he shoots the creature repeatedly with his laser gun. It screeches and starts to fall to the ground, loosening his grip on him. Omega begins to go into free fall and goes into a skydiving position to guide himself toward the swarm. He lands on the back of another bird and hangs on for dear life, while shooting at the other birds. John leaps into the fray, striking a nearby bird with his hammer, as he feels a strength he’s never had before. Thoth uses his stick and spins it around, causing a small cyclone. The birds are drawn into the wind and John unleashes a column of flame into the vortex of flame. The group attack destroys the horde, leaving scrap metal in its wake. Omega leaps from the bird before it is drawn in and he starts to fall again. This time, there is nothing to break his fall and he hits the ground.
Thoth and John rush over to Omega, who is lifeless. Putting his hand on Omega’s chest, Thoth checks for a pulse. “Out of his three hearts, it seems only one is working now. He’s fading fast. I could let him change, but I don’t think he’s ready yet. John, send some lightning through the hammer and touch his chest. If we can jump start the other two hearts, he can heal up on his own.” Thoth says to John, who does as he asks.
Once the electrically charged hammer touches Omega’s body, he convulses and raises back up screaming.
Thoth puts his glowing hand on Omega’s shoulder and says, “Let my energy help restore your form, old friend. John got your heart going, but the rest of your body will recover in due time. No need to change that face yet!”
Omega coughs and replies, “Thanks. I think. I hope you know how to pilot my ship, I’m wiped out. John Henry, you did great. Thanks for your help. Don’t worry about ol’ Thoth, he’ll get you on the right path.”
John and Thoth help Omega back to his feet, then the three go into the shed and disappear into the time stream. The shed reappears on the beach, just a moment after they left and all three exit the ship. Omega comes out in swim trunks and heads towards the water.
Thoth smiles and says, “Perhaps you’ll relax a bit more on the beach now, Sir John Doe.”
Omega stops at the edge of the water and says, “As soon as you unfreeze time, Tehuti.” Thoth conjures a portal and says, “I haven’t been called that in centuries, Doctor. I would say goodbye, but we will meet again… and again.”
John waves at Omega and steps through the portal behind Thoth. Time starts back up again and Omega frolics in the ocean with Jane and Koschei, who are both unaware of his adventure between moments.