- "Chasing down time criminals and fixing the parts of history they screwed up. Aberrations, the captain called them."
- —Mick Rory[src]
Aberrations, also known as time aberrations, temporal aberrations, or historical aberrations, are massive alterations of the existing timeline. They are generally prompted by the efforts of time criminals, disrupting the flow of time with anachronistic weaponry, meta-human abilities, and other factors that could change the course of events, which slowly cements and affects a timeline's future. According to Rip Hunter, it would take some time for the consequences of an aberration to ripple throughout time; those safe inside a temporal zone would remain unaffected by the changes.
Unusually large aberrations would also generate time quakes, emitting shockwaves in the temporal zone. An aberration could happen due to a time pirate selling futuristic weaponry to denizens of the past, or a "time criminal" willfully disrupting the timeline for one reason or another. With help from Ray and Professor Stein, Nate later built a device to track these aberrations, locating time quakes throughout history.
A person, creature, or an object located at the wrong time period would be called an anachronism threatening the flow of time. People caught up in an anachronism were known to suffer from temporal linguistic dysplasia, causing them to fluently speak the language native to their new location in time and space, even if they couldn't have known it prior to experiencing time travel.
Nate Heywood was able to calculate a pattern for anachronisms caused by the temporal disruption of the Legion of Doom's attempt to rewrite reality with the Spear of Destiny; anachronisms not part of this pattern were attributed to Mallus, such as the resurrection of Damien Darhk in the nineteenth century and the attempt on Zari Tomaz's life in 2042.
A historical aberration would not immediately substitute the reality of the future, allowing the protectors of timeline some leeway and additional attempts in preventing the aberration's effects. The aberrations were prompted by rogue time travelers, such as a time pirate or a "time nemesis", as the Waverider crew unknowingly described the Reverse-Flash. Some of the denizens of the future would notice the effects of an aberration, recognizing that the reality is not as it's supposed to be.
After the fall of the Time Masters, Rip Hunter's team, calling themselves "the Legends", decided to take it upon themselves to protect the timeline from devastation, locating temporal aberrations through Gideon and going on missions to ensure the events pass more or less as they originally did, minimizing the aberrations' effects on the timeline. The Legends tackled on a number of such aberrations, one of which was the appearance of blaster-wielding assassins in 17th century France, seeking to kill the royal family.
After the French aberration case, Rip Hunter and Gideon calculated a 96% likelihood of another aberration in Bhopal, 1912. However, before they could attend to it, the Waverider was shaken by a time quake, originating from a cataclysmic aberration in New York City, 1942. The aberration would have long-going consequences, such as an atomic bomb drop on New York, a prolonged World War II until the year 1947, with many more casualties, and historical sources telling of such a war appearing all the way to the future of 2016, while the denizens of 2016 would still recount historical events as they were originally learned, with some of them, like Nate Heywood noticing that something wrong is happening with reality itself.
The 1942 aberration, while going according to Adolf Hitler's plan, was fueled by the efforts of the near-immortal Damien Darhk and, on some level, his time-traveling meta-human partner Eobard Thawne. Darhk would provide the Nazi regime with uranium, while their plans also required the abduction of Albert Einstein and Mileva Maric, the only people capable of creating the atomic bomb by 1942. After their two time-travel attempts, the Legends both forced Darhk into wasting his nuclear missile on the Waverider, instead of the original target, New York City, and prompted Albert Einstein to reveal his ex-wife's role in scientific research to the public, making the United States government to provide security from the Germans to both Einsteins, safeguarding them. Realizing the plan's failure, Darhk and Thawne double-crossed the Nazis, as the Reverse-Flash slaughtered the U-boat's crew before greeting his partner. On their side, the Legends mused on the possibility of a rogue time traveler, a "time nemesis", helping Damien Darhk and the Nazis blow up New York City for their own amusement.
Although the aberration's effects were prevented in New York City, it continued in 1942 due to Eobard Thawne's biomolecular enhancer ending up in the hands of Baron Krieger. With the enhancer allowing Krieger to transform into a meta-human form, the lives of the Justice Society of America members were in grave danger, forcing the Legends to return to 1942 from the Temporal zone and stop Krieger. Their mission was successful, with the bimolecular enhancer ending in Ray Palmer's hands, but the Reverse-Flash ended up taking the Askaran Amulet and killing off Rex Tyler, partially erasing his timeline.
Another aberration happened back in the 19th century, the times of the Civil War in the United States. A time pirate ended up crashing with TX-90 virus onboard his timeship, causing an outbreak of the disease that turned people into a state akin to that of "zombies" from classic horror movies. The outbreak threatened to affect the course of the Civil War, allowing the Confederates to lead the Union army into a trap, ultimately winning their independence from the United States. The Legends were fast enough to destroy the source of the virus before it was too late, but the "zombified" Confederacy soldiers still ended up sacking Collins Plantation and attacking Ulysses S. Grant's forces of the United States Army, before being blown up by the efforts of Steel, ending the aberration's effects.
Eobard Thawne and Damien Darhk continued to be the source of aberrations, having H.I.V.E. members, including Darhk himself, infiltrate the White House, and somehow causing infinitesimal ripples in time that affected Martin Stein's movements. Darhk and Thawne acquired another artifact from the Soviet Union's KGB, although the plan to blow up the White House, along with Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev was all for naught. The Legends' own involvement caused a massive panic, with the sightings of the "rocket man" (Firestorm) dominating the headlines of Channel 52. Sara Lance ended up revealing Damien Darhk his ultimate fate from the timeline as she knew it, forcing him into a state of despair. Thawne suggested to save Darhk and alter his destiny, granting his partner a Time Sphere and time traveling together.
Nevertheless, Darhk and Thawne's machinations proved to be not the only cause of aberrations, when the Legends came to deal with another mishap on behalf of a time pirate, who was seeking the dwarf alloy source in 1874, only to get killed by Quentin Turnbull after revealing the location of dwarf alloy to him. Turnbull's obtaining of dwarf alloy would lead to an aberration resulting in the creation of "Turnbull Country" in place of the United States by 1876. Assisting Jonah Hex, the Legends succeeded in apprehending Turnbull and preventing the aberration timeline, with Nate Heywood stopping the train loaded with explosives that could potentially cut off the United States Army from reaching the country's western territories.
While dealing with the crisis of Dominators in 2016, Martin Stein realized that to his horror, the advice he has given to his younger self regarding Clarissa resulted in an aberration in human form: an appearance of Lily Stein, a daughter he never had, with memories of her and their life together painfully coming together to Professor Stein's head. Although he contemplated going back in time to erase his "mistake", Stein changed his mind after words of advice from Caitlin Snow and Jefferson Jackson, deciding to protect his daughter and keep her existence a secret from the rest of the Legends.
Professor Stein's secret came into light during the next aberration crisis caused by Eobard Thawne's syndicate, this one concerning the murder of Eliot Ness in 1927 resulting in Al Capone's rise to the Mayor's Office of Chicago, introducing Oktoberfest. While correcting the aberration, Stein has gotten memories of his whole life with Lily and revealed them to Sara Lance. Although initially the new leader of the Legends thought that Martin should correct this "false" reality, later on, she agreed that, ultimately, happiness and family may be worth more than the sanctity of one version of history. Which, considering the Legends' killing of Tokugawa Iemitsu, should have been clear for them a long time ago.
Continuing their hunt for the Spear of Destiny, the Legion of Doom set up another aberration to get the Legends' attention while they would hunt for the missing pieces of the spear. Aside from killing Cal DeVito, who was supposed to create a new carburetor for shovelhead motorcycles, they also attacked the filming set of Rip Hunter and George Lucas, causing the latter to decide to abandon his career as a director. The resulting anomaly robbed Ray Palmer and Nate Heywood of their powers and abilities, as the two never got interested in sciences without watching Lucas's films. The Legends managed to undo the second aberration, if not the first, but at the cost of Rip Hunter being taken prisoner.
The Legion of Doom managed to "reprogram" Rip, binding him to their will, and sending him on a successful mission to bait the Legends with an aberration while taking a piece of the Spear. The Aberration in particular being the assassination of George Washington by Rip, and the arming of the soldiers of England with advanced modern weaponry to use against the Patriots. The Legends arrived in time prior to the assassination, which Rip anticipated (despite already seemingly succeeding in killing Washington once) and ambushed them with his English troops, along with the leaders of the Patriots. While most of the Legends dealt with the crisis regarding the American Revolution, Rip himself boarded the Waverider, almost killed Sara Lance and forced Jefferson Jackson to give him the piece of the Spear of Destiny.
Another aberration was related with to the actions of heroes rather than villains: after the Justice Society of America's last mission, Stargirl was among the heroes time-scattered by Rip Hunter to guard the pieces of the Spear, never allowing its reality-warping powers to be in one person's hands. Ending up in the year 507, she settled in the middling British kingdom of Camelot and decided to turn it into the Camelot reminiscent of Arthurian legends, taking on the role of Merlin the Wizard and using advanced sorcery and tech to guide the kingdom to a level of society, culture, and technology more akin to the High/Late Medieval period than the Dark Ages it was supposed to be in after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Nate Heywood noted that both the court of Camelot and his teammates ended up dressed more like something befitting a Renaissance party than the clothes of Medieval's Dark Ages.
Later on, the Legends noticed a time aberration during the Apollo 13 mission, assuming that the Legion of Doom is involved. Indeed, the project was infiltrated by Eobard Thawne, who disguised himself as one of the astronauts. As the Legends journeyed into space to intercept Apollo 13, the Waverider suffered massive internal damage and Ray's life was left in jeopardy when he is stranded on the moon together with Thawne. Working with the villainous speedster to save both of their lives, Ray and Eobard managed to get to the Waverider and finish the Apollo 13 mission successfully thanks to the help of the "British representatives" Stein and Rory hogging the attention at NASA.
The confrontation between the Legends and the Legion of Doom during World War I, with related intertwining time aberrations, altered realities, aborted timelines, etc. ended up with the destruction of the Spear of Destiny and the demise of Eobard Thawne, along with all his time remnants and other versions of the Legends' themselves. The breaking of "fundamental rules of time travel" led to a massive time quake, resulting in a great aberration of Los Angeles, 2017. The city, along with the world itself and other time periods such as the Spanish Civil War became filled with anachronisms from different time periods, such as ancient dinosaurs.
While the rest of the Legends haven't seen him for 15 minutes or so, Rip Hunter has lived through five years of his personal timeline, assembling a corporation known as the Time Bureau to succeed the Time Masters. The organization focused on fixing the anachronisms caused by the Legends' breaking of time and tried to dissolve the team altogether. Noticing an anachronism of Julius Caesar in Aruba, the Legends took on themselves to capture him and take back to 49 BC, but not without him stealing Nate Heywood's history book "Rise of Rome", allowing Caesar to correct his mistakes and achieve total victories. This resulted in an aberration timeline, with the never-falling Roman Empire creating a colony in place of the United States called Magna Hesperia. The Bureau tried to correct the Legends' mistake but fell into Caesar's trap. The two time-travel teams had to work together to bring order back to the timeline.
Another aberration the Legends encountered was the premature death of Ray Palmer in 1988, leading to his older version's disappearance from existence. After the Legends identified the threat and set a course to 1988, Ray reappeared, seemingly coming back into existence merely due to the Legends' change of plans. The likely reason for that is that the Atom was exactly the one hero that was needed to save his younger self from being shot by NSA Agent Smith for harboring a time-displaced Dominator "Gumball". The Legends assisted Gumball and his mother in reuniting and returning to their own time period.
Following the war with the New Reich from Earth-X, the Legends faced a particularly significant anachronism when Martin Stein of 1992 with a Beebo toy ended up 1000 A.D. America during the Viking visit to the continent. The Vikings praised the Beebo toy as their new god and stayed in America rather than returning to Greenland which led to the anachronism. The anachronism was so significant that Gideon reported it was a level 12 anachronism and the team required the help of Ava Sharpe to fix the anachronism. After trying to restore to the timeline by destroying the Beebo toy, the Darhks arrived to pose as Odin and a Valkyrie which created another threat to the timeline. Despite the odds, the Legends were able to drive the Darhks away and restore the timeline.
After tracking a series of aberrations throughout history, the team determined that Mallus had been contained in a prison outside of time after a battle with the original bearers of the six totems - including those currently wielded by Amaya and Zari and that anachronisms that were being created by the Darhks so that he could escape. After acquiring the six totems themselves, but lost for better options, the team decided to trigger a final anachronism by saving Amaya's village so that they could confront Mallus themselves, but Damien Darhk - who had come to oppose Mallus's plans due to the consequences for his daughter - allowed Mallus to escape and achieve full power. After Rip Hunter sacrificed himself to delay Mallus, the Legends were able to bring the totems together after retreating to the Old West to regroup, allowing them to vanquish Mallus for good, although ally John Constantine warned them that other demons were unleashed along with Mallus.
DC's Legends of Tomorrow
- The general existence of Lily Stein is considered an aberration unlike John Diggle, Jr. who replaced Sara Diggle (his counterpart from a pre-existing timeline), as the Steins were a childless couple during the original timeline.
- For unknown reasons, the Legends were not made aware at first that Barry Allen changed the timeline and created Flashpoint. Even more so, the Legends did not consider the changes afterward (Dante Ramon's death and Sara Diggle being erased from the timeline) aberrations that needed to be fixed.
- For unknown reasons, the Time Masters were not made aware that Eobard Thawne created a time aberration by killing Harrison Wells and Tess Morgan before they could found S.T.A.R. Labs and create the particle accelerator.
- Thawne created another time aberration by killing Nora Allen and making Barry Allen The Flash years before he became The Flash in the original timeline.
Behind the scenes
- In DC Comics, Aberration appears as an entity with reality-altering powers, rather than as a reality-altering event.
- Although the Legends didn't seem to notice, their own killing of Tokugawa Iemitsu ten years before his actual death in history would also radically alter the timeline, as the Tokugawa dynasty continued from Iemitsu's second son, who wasn't born yet in 1641. It's unknown why the team disregarded that, or how did they fix the aberration if they even tried to.