100 - Stasis

She’s dreaming, fitfully, unable to wake up, not quite able to rest peacefully.

Perhaps this is for the best. A suitable punishment.

In the absence of new input, her mind does what it’s meant to do. It remembers.

Flashes of panic - bombs at Jason Quill’s house - Otto, running away, after somebody - Alycia Chin, gathering up bombs, handing them over for safekeeping - a dark future - a horrifically scarred other self - the return trip.

Leo. That’s when I lost Leo.

The time tunnel twisted and bucked. She realized much later what had happened. Adam had twisted the “present”, the one to which the team was trying to return. The power of his wish warped local spacetime, like closing one window and opening another one. The problem was, the Phoenix had already aimed at the old one, and was flying in fast.

There was a crack-up, like a bird hitting a window. Otto ejected, saving everyone inside of him. But Leo had been in the Phoenix cockpit. And he and the Phoenix–

We didn’t know, at the time. Adam took it especially hard. He and Leo had been bonding, after going through the difficulties of losing Sol. Both of them blaming themselves, both waiting for the other to hate him. He’d held onto a Keynome. He was ready to give it up.

I was suffering too. I wasn’t so clear-headed. “Give it to me,” I’d said. “I’ll keep it safe.”

Oh, certainly, I could do that much. I presented a case with airtight logic why an immortal gynoid was the best protector for a power like that. And Adam believed me.

The power of the Keynome could change things. Adam had proved it. And it was, basically, a machine. It was, at bottom, a very sophisticated piece of neurotech. She knew these things very, very well.

That was Concord’s last day as a superhero.

That was the day Doctor Infinity was born.

Wake up–

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Jason’s nanobots were the next step. She knew that he’d been able to enter that other universe with them, via some kind of “portal” effect. But how did that work?

It wasn’t too hard to figure out. She was powered by a device called a Casimir fractal. It’s common enough super-inventor tech. Go small enough, and fundamental particles just sort of happen. Particles like electrons. Why? No one really knows. Scientists say “quantum fluctuations”. Philosophers are divided.

I know. It’s because the universe can’t help but exist. Everywhere, at every scale, potential is present.

There’s a barrier there between worlds, between the classical and the quantum. Like the fractal, the nanobots are small enough to take advantage of it - to create the necessary bridges to other realities. The Keynome just made it easier. She practiced, and trained, and built and built and built. And then she was ready.

One of Doctor Infinity’s first duties as a hero was to play traffic cop. She went back to that time, to that space between realities. She saw the Phoenix coming in. She’d try to warn the occupants. Sometimes - sometimes - it worked.

After a time, she couldn’t do it. Couldn’t stand to watch the outcome.

If only Adam hadn’t made that stupid selfish wish.

Could she change history? The math said yes. But not this history. Adam had to give her the Keynome. Otherwise there was a paradox. To give her the Keynome, Adam had to have regretted his decision to make the wish. The wish was absolute.

Was it?

I never stopped being a hero. I was trying to save lives. I was always trying to save lives!

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She’d forgotten so much of this. It’s all coming back. Her history, the time Before–

That Heart Gauge ping. It reminded me.

The name “infinity” has meaning. She’s always had names that meant something. In mathematics, there’s multiple infinities, some smaller, some larger. The set of all real numbers - 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. - is an infinity. But so is the set of all even numbers. It’s half as big as the other set, yet it’s equally endless.

The universe has infinities too.

Physicists, unlike mathematicians, hate infinities. What does it mean if a black hole has infinite density at its core - positive mass, but zero volume? So they write rules, like the event horizon, to prevent our safe finite universe from ever seeing these abominations.

Time has infinities as well. Do you order a burger with or without lettuce? Chocolate or vanilla ice cream? One interpretation of quantum mechanics says that a whole universe is spawned from every choice we make. Many physicists found this outcome repulsive enough to discard out of hand. But none of them had the math to back that up. Math remained stubbornly supportive of infinity, after all.

The solution is “temporal diffraction”. When multiple light waves interfere with each other, it creates a distinct wave pattern. You can see the effect for yourself, using a camera with a telephoto lens. Take a shot of two objects at a distance, but close together. Move the objects closer to each other, then take another shot. Keep doing this, and in your photos, the two objects start to become indistinguishable.

From outside, similar enough realities are indistinguishable from each other. You see them like a bubble of probabilities, like looking at a scene underwater or through fog. There’s distortion, but you get the general idea. The ice cream looks like ice cream, you just can’t make out its color.

I miss ice cream.

Temporal diffraction smears similar realities together, and throws sufficiently differing ones into sharper contrast. This is why there’s “parallel realities” that you can visit, where everyone is gender-swapped or whatever, but not one where Adam Amari has a little sister named Jordana. Small enough differences merge together.

Flood the universe with enough light - enough alternatives - and you can smear larger realities together. Make enough holes in things, and paradox disappears. Shake up the snowglobe hard enough, and you can control where everything eventually settles.

There was a way to save Leo. She’d just have to make some gaps, in the right places.

At first, all those other time travelers, messing with her carefully-designed pattern, were just an annoyance. At first.

The worst temporal offender was the Magus. The selfish bastard. The useless, interfering asshole!

Twist time for his own benefit? Sure. Stand aside while she tried to save the life that could make the future better for everyone? He wouldn’t think of it.

It was easy to deal with him. She was a robotic lifeform. She could clone herself mentally, dispatch copies to fight a dozen battles in a thousand timelines, then re-integrate to learn the winning strategies. The hard part was dealing with him in a way that didn’t undermine the temporal tapestry she was weaving, the pattern that would unravel and destroy the paradox when she pulled on the right thread.

I knew then, I know now, that I could have brought some kind of Leo back. The Phoenix had his connectome and genetic data. I had everything I needed. Objectively, some Leo Snow could continue to exist.

Why this? Why all the effort?

Because it was all so god damn unfair!

That wound in her own private world grew, and grew. She forced herself to grow with it, to keep expanding lest it consume her.

Pneuma! Wake UP!

So that’s what’s been happening with Doctor Infinity, aka Alternate Pneuma. She’s not active again just yet, but starting this Phase 2 experiment out with an “unthawing” story felt appropriate. And I wanted to cover how the transition happened from hero to villain, introduce some more time travel physics, and all that.


I particularly like how this turned out. You’ve really made a lot of stuff click together, not just what’s expressly mentioned here but elsewhere.

The idea of Adam changing reality having an impact on the timeline that causes “turbulence” on the return trip from the future makes so much sense. Also makes me wonder if Doctor Infinity did something to smooth things out on our version of the Menagerie’s return (i.e., Sablestar randomly appearing in the timestream on the return). Knowing what we know, some of those encounters with Infinity’s minions could have been “kid gloves” to just get the team to react a certain way.

It also makes a lot of sense why Doctor Infinity really seemed to always target Alycia in the game. Without a Summer around to accompany Jason and Ghost Girl into the Sepiaverse, Alycia might not have ever turned away from his father and joined the Menagerie, so this version of Aria may just know her as the threat to her friends.

Not saying it happened that way, but it certainly could have been possible. Summer had so many positive effects on the team that it would be hard to pick out what would and wouldn’t have happened without her around.

Definitely interested to see more Doctor Infinity in Phase 2.


Chandler’s Law says “when in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.” As a writer, I greatly enjoy knowing who sent him.

This wasn’t Infinity’s doing, and wasn’t random. More on that later.

One of my goals is to have at least one positive and one negative thing if each member of the team isn’t around. Some of that we’ve seen, some we will see


“It’s a Wonderful Life,” only with the whole cast, and sometimes things are … better?