LNH/ACRA/TEB: Net.heroes on Parade TEB Vol. # 5: Chatillon, part two

Tom Russell milos_parker at yahoo.com
Tue Jul 4 17:36:04 PDT 2006

Chatillon, Part Two

   Experiments, by their very nature, always carry the
risk of failure; when one is working in a serial
format, that risk runs double.  Cannier artists than I
find ways to minimize the potential damage of an
experiment gone awry.  They certainly don't make the
experiment the climactic chapter of a story arc that
is, itself, carrying the burden of all the story arcs
that came before it.
   Whatever one can say about NET.HEROES ON PARADE no.
21, they have to admit that I was either (a) endowed
with large testicles, or (b) very stupid when I
decided to climax the Chatillon arc in rhyming
   I don't think it works-- the rhymes themselves are
from the Ogden Nash School of Poetry, and the whole
thing is full of reminders-- like the footnote in the
first canto, or the switch to prose-- of the formal
conceit itself.
   All through out these TEB editions, I've been
rewriting, rearranging, and tightening up the story. 
And part of me wants to do that here, but there are
three very good reasons why I'm presenting # 21
(mostly) intact.
   (1) Transforming it into workable (i.e.,
non-rhyming) prose would take up a huge block of time,
and all I'd be left with is just another action story.
   (2) Rewriting within the format of rhyming tercets
with twelve-syllable lines would have likely resulted
in an aneurysm.
   (3) It may have been a bad choice, but in the end,
it was my choice, and I made it.  And so, in this
case, I'm standing by it.
   Of the five cantos in the original, I have cut one:
the recap canto, which would not only be superfluous
to the scope of these TEB editions, but also would
have been factually incorrect; the events of # 17-20,
as summarized in the original # 21, unfolded
differently than the events in the canonical TEB



The walls were fleshy, moving, pulsating with life.
Each living wall's colour was sickly, nasal green
And from wounds inflicted by some unholy knife

There dripped blood of the same hue.  I have never
Lily Paschall's delicate face twisted in such shock
And knowing that explaining what these horrors mean

Would, as truth often does, make them simpler to block
>From her mind, I spoke to her: "This tunnel we walk
Is a living thing, though natural life it does mock.

Human flesh lines the ghastly walls that repulse you;
Men who practice the darkest arts are here reborn
When mortal life flees them.  Hell is thwarted, `tis

But those here reclaimed envy the damned.  Do not
For their suffering.  I say reclaimed because it is
It began, where allegiance to evil was sworn.

The dripping blood gave them power.  They did not fear
Then their fate; the cycle of evil is once more
Begun.  Their blood now gives power to those that

Their actions and will join them here at evil's core."
In theory knowledge should have steadied her; in fact
It only increased her fear.  Having no words for

Comfort, I urged her to press on.  The evil act
Might soon be done and we had still further to go.
Her focus shifted from her fears to the thing that

Mattered: her dear friend.  That was all she had to
Further on and deeper still, we made our descent
Into the beastly belly where we'd find both foe

And friend, both with clenched fists: one pair
clenched in lament
And pleading fear; the other twisted `round a knife
In malice.  Pressing on, her footsteps did not dent

Or leave any trace on that hellflesh walkway (rife
With dark and empty gloom).  Monotony, complete
And unyielding, made the terrors plain, until life

Was spied in the distance: a man taking a seat
At the tunnel's end, resting not on his laurels
But his damned dead fellows.  With a wood rod he beat

A rhythm unheard of before on all the worlds
Mortal eyes have seen.  Louder was the nervous noise
As we neared its source.  The white, sullen face and

Of brown were familiar to us.  "The sound annoys,
I know." He paused, then said: "Come you to see the
You've not dabbled in magicks and treated as toys

The snarling demons that so haunt my soulless nights.
You've never been tempted by dark or things darker
Than dark.  Lily Paschall sleeps not with out the

To comfort her rest or the Legion to hark her
Pleas for help.  This is no place for things right and
Only the wretched belong with Dennis Marker."

"I did not know you had passed," said she.  He: "Nor
You; I have not.  But my soul was by evil claimed
And ripped from my body when that same body could

No longer be mine, but a bull's."  His head hanged
And drooped in memory of things described before. [*]
"But answer my question, oh hero great and famed."

[*--See Net.heroes on Parade episode four.]
She began a brief account of recent events
And when she was half-way through he nodded.  "The

Who birthed Chatillon," he said, vehement and tense,
"Should have never let him take in one single gasp
Of clean air into his putrid lungs.  So immense

Are his sins, so powerful his hate, that all clasp
Their hands over their eyes; his offense is so great.
Even the damned fear him, the snarling snake, the asp,

The boa, the python.  Even the hopeless hate
Him.  Neither simile nor metaphor are apt
To explain his stink.  No hyperbole is great

Enough to measure with his wretchedness.  He's tapped
Into ghastly fountains that the ghastly refuse.
His evil is bold, his thirst unquenchable.  Wrapped

In red fabric, fed by red blood, he brings dread news
With each quaking step.  He is a foul thing denounced
By even the foulest fowl.  No poison or noose

Can end his life.  But hark: the tiger has not pounced
On your Mimi simply for spite--least not for her--
But out of an ages-old hatred on par, ounce

For each ounce, with his own iniquity.  Be sure
Of this if anything:  he hates not the lunchbox
Owner, but those that forged it in darkness so pure

That it frightens even Chatillon.  Crafty fox
Though he is, he's no match for the Terrible Ones,
Unless he can turn their tool against them.  The locks

Of time are no match for it.  All of the world's guns
And weapons are toys compared to the magick
Duclos wields so frivolously.  The devil's sons

Who made it can be unmade just by it.  Tragic
Irony, the fathers slain by their own issue.
Her foes are foes to one another.  The gadget

Would tear my former masters like cheapest tissue.
But Chatillon must tear from her body her soul
Before the box would be his.  And though I wish you

Good luck I fear you'd be no match even at full
Power against what waits you.  But listen."  The wood
Stick in his hand stopped singing out its sickly toll.

"Yet the rhythm persists." He shook just as one would
At the coming of a tank.  "He knows you are here
And he sends a malicious minion.  You should

Flee, and quickly.  Flee from this place, even if dear
Mimi must rot and die."  And Lily Paschall spat
On Dennis Marker as the words came to her ear.

"I used to pity you.  It's clear now you're a rat.
Pathetic and filthy."  She pressed on towards the
"I warned you, Lily," the cad called from where he

The words fell on deaf ears, for she refused to hark.
Soon he was a dot behind her, small as the sound
Ahead was huge.  Thunder-feet were by ugly bark

Now accompanied, with the same harmony found
If one joined a tuba with a violin.  It
Did not seem to shake our Lily Paschall, so bound

And determined was she.  Then the tunnel was lit,
The dark eradicated by burning green eyes.
That shook her.  The eyes grew larger.  She uttered,

She continued forward, though she knew it not wise,
Though every instinct bade her to run.  She did not.
She could not bring herself to stand still as the size

Of the beast seemed to grow as it grew closer.  Caught
In the tunnel's tight confines, she rushed towards
For she'd sooner die than say that  "Mimi must rot

And die."  So she ran towards the ever nearer boom
Of the beast's bellowing cry, till her clumsy toes
Brought her sprawling to the ground.  She saw then to

She had the honour of running to.  As she rose
(Or tried to) to her knees, she saw the horrid thing,
No longer running at her but standing.  Her foe's

Legs were many, and it had two pairs of black wings
So matted with fur she mistook them first for arms,
Of which it had not one.  Its beard was like a king's,

Long and bulbous, smeared with blood.  It spat at her:
You, we will.  Pains we will cause you."  Its green
eyes flicked
With the hunger of a clichéd fox in a farm's

Chicken-coop, gallivanting about as it licked
Its lips.  The green eyes shone like a dying light
Iridescent, then dark, light again, as the clock

Away its final moments.  It spoke again: "Called
Are we Revelation.  By Chatillon.  Clever
Thinks he it is.  Cute is biblical reference.  Bald,

Wingless thing, chews you we will."  The beast's
Was to be carried out when a great spear of light,
Fast like lightning, struck its forehead.  It did

One eye from its face.  Our hero turned to her right
Just as Dennis William Marker lunged one more spear
Into the Revelation.  "Flee, while it lacks sight."

She could see another eye begun to grow where
The first spear struck.  Lily Paschall thanked him and
Past the thing with great speed.  Once past it, and
past fear

She heard him start to scream.  The beast, having been
And provoked, was attacking Dennis Marker,
Like a bull grown tired of the sword and scarf.  She

One of the spears that had fallen and grown darker
As its magick waned.  But its point was sharp enough,
And though her chances were slim and the tale starker

Than any she had told, though the monster was tough,
Though it stunk like a dog unwashed for many years,
Though the one she sought to save might deserve so

A fate, the hero in Lily Paschall put fears
And doubts aside as she drove the spear, quick and
Into the Revelation's underbelly.  Tears

Flung from newborn eyes as Chatillon's snarling guard
Shrieked, and crumpled, and fell, and died.  A smile
Over her moon-shaped face as she surveyed the lard

That once was the Revelation.  And then she wept
At her handiwork, not because of shock but bliss.
Not grief or self-hatred, but t'was relief that swept

Over her.  Though she had always pressed on in this
Matter, she had until now had her doubts about
Her competency.  By giving the spear's cold kiss

To its sweaty flesh, she had destroyed both her doubt
And the Revelation.  Perhaps with quick thought
Like this she might also win the upcoming bout

With Chatillon.  Dennis Marker saw what she wrought,
Thanked her and congratulated her.  She did not
Respond to the one who had at soul's cost been bought.
She turned towards the dark, and the battle to be


We traveled in total dark and total silence
For the span of a quarter-hour.  Chatillon then
Could be heard suddenly chanting: "Lyance

Moktu bois ffen lyance moktu vue bois ffen." Ten
Times he spoke his dread litany, our bones did chill
With every chorus of "Lyance moktu bois ffen

Lyance moktu vue bois ffen."  The echoes did fill
The tunnel way, and then he and they again were
Silent.  With renewed speed due to the steadfast will

Of Lily Paschall, we continued towards the cur
That chanted dead words with a living tongue, had took
Captive Michette Duclos, and had sent forth a fur-

Soaked beast to end us.  As pages turn in a book
And come close to the finish, we came closer and
Closer still till Lily Paschall cried softly: "Look!

That must be his den." I, her invisible friend
Had no eyes to look with but knew it to be true.
We had at last reached our perilous journey's end,

Though our hardship had not yet begun.  And so, due
To a need for secrecy, she crept up, wrapt up
In shade, to the devil's door.  Said she: "He shall

This day if he hurts her." She saw he held a cup
Raised high above an old table.  Upon it lay
Michette Duclos, a little lamb offered as sup

For a hungry god.  She was bound in such a way
That she herself could not be her own savior.  Fists
And feet were bound by separate coils made one: they

Were joined by a rope underneath the table.  Lists
Of ancient words were sprawled over her belly, which
Was bare, like the rest of her.  A number of cysts

Had formed on her arms, where he had cut her.  A
Had developed all o'er her body from the cold
Winds that blew in the room o'er her naked flesh.

Warlock, Warlord, god, goddess, dagger," beseeched
Chatillon, "guide my knife's stroke, make it true and
He aimed for the heart.  We did not need to be told

That now was the time to act.  As the knife did drift
And sway like a snake preparing to strike, so did 
Lily Paschall prepare her attack.  But a gift

Was made to us by providence; we would be hid
>From our foe's eyes.  For his back was to his door
We snuck inside.  He turned, not to us, but a lid

On a bin that needed opening.  From his bin
He produced a slimy, malformed scorpion.  But
By the time he returned to completing his sin

Lily Paschall was under the table.  With what
Delicacy she proceeded I cannot say;
I cannot convey the dread she felt in her gut.

Poetry and prose are inadequate.  No way
Or form exists that can make you feel the sweat drip
Down your knuckles like it did hers.  Perhaps one day

There will be words to describe the way that each hip,
Leg, arm and finger twitched as she worked to untie
The bonds without a single hint or sight or tip

As to whether Chatillon could see her.  For I
Can attest she could not see him.  "Suspense" and
Do not pretend to measure up.  No breath or sigh

Came as she tasted a drop of sweat or a tear--
She couldn't tell which.  She undid a knot--the feet
Now free, wrists too.  Any more rope, she knew not

Michette Duclos was free.  But how was she to cheat
Him of his captive?  How to alert her dearest
Friend?  What would she do now?  It would be no small

For her to best him.  This moment, she had feared its
Truth.  I advised her on the battle to be fought,
"Strike his weakness."  She replied, a bit embarrassed

At not knowing the weakness.  "Every man's weak spot,"
I explained.  She took a deep breath and then reached
>From the table, grabbed his scrotum, and twisted.

Unawares, he doubled over and back, a shout
Of centuries-old obscenities filling up
The room.  "Lily!" Michette Duclos cried.  "Well, it's

Time."  She smirked.  Her savior smiled like a pup
At its new master.  But the happiness was quick.
Chatillon was on his feet, clutching his old cup

In his angry fingers.  Anger, congealed and thick
Like blood, thinned out as he smiled, more thinly.
Oppose me?  Lily Paschall, short burns the wick

Of your life's candle.  And you knowing as you do
That your earthly days are numbered, you seek to make
Them shorter still by a stupid, violent act?  True,

You do love Michette dearly.  But your fate you take
In your own palms.  Your moments are dwindling like
I thought you smarter.  I beseech, for your own

"What is he talking about?" The voice was not mine,
For I knew the answer.  Lily Paschall replied:
"My powers are tearing me apart.  I'm dying."

"It's true," said Chatillon coldly.  "She has not
Stomper has only given her a year.  If that."
"Lily, I don't know what I'd do if you had died."

"I was going to tell you.  Don't know how this rat
Found out, though," answered Lily Paschall.  The "rat"
And replied, "You told me.  And that is a fact."

She scoffed at that; colder suddenly grew the wind.
"When?  I've never seen you before."  He shook his
"But you did.  Months ago.  It was then that you

Against that pretty head you fight to protect.  Bed-
Ridden, you were.  And sick.  Sick with pain and with
Secret love, that's the worst kind of love.  But

Of acting with your time so short, with the dread dove
Of death flying over you, chose you instead the route
Of unrequited yearning.  I appeared above

Your bed, and offered to destroy that damning doubt
That made you a pathetic schoolgirl.  Your crush would
Fall for you as you fell, completely and without

Restraint; but first you had to fall from grace.  You
Have your heart's desire, living your last days so
Intensely that when the grisly reaper's black hood

And scythe came, you would have surely made up
A life of mediocre moments.  For all this
All you had to do was abandon her."  Their foe

Pointed deftly at Michette Beatrice Duclos.  "Bliss
Could have been yours, but you went back on our
"It's a lie," she cried.  Fear roughly began to kiss

Lily Paschall's brow.  "It is no lie, but cold fact.
You lie yourself only to yourself.  Wench, move. 
"You believe me, don't you?"  By the small, simple act

Of nodding, Michette Duclos steadied her friend.
Hissed Chatillon.  "I will tolerate no delay."
Said Lily Paschall, "I will not move.  I won't bow

To you or any of your threats.  And what I say,
I mean.  I will not move."  In a rage, he did fling
His cup, blood spilling out and burning the floor.

I tell you something?  I can make the damn-ed sing.
I can make the gods weep and beg.  You know not my
Power or its extent.  Now that you know something,

As I said I would tell, I warn you: leave or I
Will take your life and very soul."  Standing fast,
Clenched her fists and made her same and simple reply:

"I will not move."  Green thunder flew from his fist.
Bolt struck Lily Paschall and she fell to the ground.
She rose--"I will not move", now staccato--Lily

Paschall's flesh burned, hurt.  "I am not playing
With you.  In seconds, a god will arrive to dine
On her soul.  If it's not ready, his cry will sound

And shatter your skulls.  You will hold your ears and
As the blood seeps out.  If I have her soul, she'll
Live and you shall, too.  Stand aside.  There's no
more time."

Lily Paschall stood there defiantly.  "I will
Not move."  The walls of flesh boiled and blood did
Red anew instead of green.  "He will surely kill

You all, my god will," said Chatillon.  Light like sun
Rays filled the den as the "ceiling" ripped and the
Began his descent.  But then:  "Don't hog all the fun,
Let me at him."  The speaker was Speed Richardson.


To explain, oh best beloved, we overlap
Our narrative.  And though the chances are remote
That you will be lost, still I warn you.  From a nap

Maggie Bernard stirred; attentive readers will note
That she had been hurt grievously (your faithful
Narrator, you'll recall, in the first canto wrote

Of her injury).  As weak but not as playful
As a kitten was she as she woke, looked about,
And she went to see Speed Richardson, his face full

Of regrets and his thin lips drawn tightly in doubt
Beneath the plastic sheen of his containment suit.
She saw this and in a conversational bout

Too lengthy to here relate she managed to root
Out the problem, and with precise logic and sound
Arguments that played like a melodious lute

(Appealing not to his selfish heart for she found
In his soul a more willing ear) she did convince
Speed Richardson to right his wrong.  And like a hound

Given the scent, he gave chase, for at last his sense
Of duty triumphed o'er his ugly weakness.  Feet
Flying down city blocks, he searched quickly (since

He knew Michette Duclos's time was short), one street
After another `til the luckless hours and lack
Of help from a plucky guide bade him take a seat

On the curb and mourn, soap-opera style, fate.  His
Was turned to the approach, thus unseen, of two guys
Known to him: his fellow Legionnaires.  The attack

Was quick; he did not fight.  Said Onion Lad: "Not
Traitor.  Ultimate Ninja told you not to leave."
Added Cannon Fodder, the man who often dies:

"Let's take him to headquarters."  By his metal sleeve
Cannon Fodder got a hold of him; Onion Lad
Did the same.  Speed Richardson started to grieve

As he was walked through the slick, dead streets,
through the bad
Part of town, through the night, until they reached
the cold
Comfort of home.  He was shoved roughly inside. "Cad!"

Spat Onion Lad.  Cannon Fodder snickered.  "How old
Are you, OL?  Eighty?  No one says `cad', you fool."
They bickered for some time, as the one that had sold

Out Michette Duclos listened to their petty duel,
All at once hearing and not hearing, so absorbed
Was he inside himself.  If he knew where that ghoul

Chatillon had taken her, then he'd... what?  The chord
The question struck was an ill one.  What could he do
Against such power?  Even Errol Flynn had a sword.

He had nothing.  That was the first point.  And point
Even if he knew where she was and could rescue
Her, if he won, it didn't mean that he won too

Her heart.  She would hate all the more.  And it was
And just, that hatred.  He was a miserable wretch.
Why be worse off?  Why try and set straight the askew

State of things?  But don't you let Maggie Bernard
You saying that.  You're a hero, and they do good
Not for themselves, but for others.  Why do dogs fetch

Things?  Because they do.  And it's the same, or it
Be, when it comes to heroes.  They were not the same
Words she had spoken; they were the things that she

Have said in that moment.  The epiphany came
At the right time, for just as he thanked her spirit
For steadying his resolve, that hero of fame,

Golden Man, entered with one dressed like a carrot.
The orange-arrayed Master Blaster threatened, "I'll
The first that laughs.  I'll pull out your heart and
tear it

Like White House documents.  I will shove my right
So far up--" "We get the point," Cannon Fodder said.
"No luck, I take it?"  "None at all," said the old

"We had caught up with Groundswell over at that red
Warehouse, and put a bio-signature trace on
Her, but Golden Man lost her.  I wish that instead

Of him I was paired up with one that doesn't don
His cape after he takes his Metamucil.  Geez."
"I did not lose her and the signal is not gone;

The reader's broken.  If you continue to tease
Me and act like a darn cad--" CF smirked.  "What's
"The reader's broke?" ignored OL.  "What, did it

Up or something?" Golden Man shook his head.  "No, no.
It's just broke.  Look at it."  To Onion Lad he passed
The reader.  "It says that the signal is below

Us.  That can't be right."  And as logical and fast
As clockwork, Shrink-Wrap Man spoke.  "The
sub-basements!  Down
There there's got to be hundreds."  All at once, our

Nodded, smiles of hope overtaking the frown
They had shared.  "The traitor's right," said OL. 
"Let's all
Go down there and let's all look, huh?  I mean, we're

To find her if we're all searching."  "Of course, but
Of us?" snorted CF, glaring at Shrink-Wrap Man.
Everyone in turn stared at him.  Perhaps his fall

>From grace was too great for redemption.  "Sure he
Said Golden Man.  "If he'll be a hero.  Will you?"
"I will," said Shrink-Wrap Man, who meant it.  Just
like Han

Solo, out to rescue Carrie Fischer.  Our few
And proud heroes started on their descent, taking
An ancient, rickety elevator into

The building's bowels.  "I know that you're only
Said Onion Lad to Shrink-Wrap Man,  "so that when we
Succeed and we find this guy and we start making

Him sorry he was born, and Lunchbox Lass is free
And time comes to deal with traitors, you'll be able
To say you had redeemed yourself.  But I know the

Actual story.  You think you've got a stable
Footing with the Legion?  You're wrong, buddy.  Dead
Wrong, dead as the horse in this story-book fable

You like to pretend you're in.  Screwed up in the
That's what you are, Richardson, not some shiny
Golden Man cautioned him with open palms.  "You've

Enough.  Now leave the boy be.  We've no time to
Solemn silence followed, unviolated save
For the lift's hum or the frightening screech of white

Oozelfinches.  And then, Golden Man, with a wave
Of his hand, motioned for them to stop.  "Signal's
Here.  Let's act like teammates, shall we?  That means

All of you."  The doors parted with a creak; the song
Of the Oozelfinch drowned out by the gears that pried
The door open like vaginal lips.  Before long,

The elevator had birthed our five.  It had died
During the process, leaving them orphaned.  They went
On their way without mourning, for Golden Man spied

A faint green glow in the darkness.  He smiled.  This
That here in the sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-
Sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-sub basement

They had found their first clue, which I shall hereby
As the Green Portal.  Our intrepid lads hurried.
Master Blaster, who carried his gun like a club

O'er his carrot-topped shoulder, said, "Are you
About what's up ahead, Golden Man?"  The reply:
"No.  Whatever's there is there whether I'm worried

Or not.  So there's no point in it.  And also, I
Know if there's anything suspect, we can just make
Cannon Fodder go first."  The man who often died

(As he has now been twice referred) started to take
Offense but then thought better of it, for he knew
They meant none.  With a sigh and a "for goodness

He nodded and approached the portal.  "Jump right
They said.  Said he: "Give me a minute."  He took deep
Breaths to steady himself.  "Here we go.  Time to do

This thing, get it o'er and done with."  "Are you
Or something, Cannon Fodder?  Hurry it up.  We
Don't have all day."  "Just don't rush me.  Why do you

Rushing me?" He craned his neck back pitifully.
He didn't want to die.  But did they understand?
Just one did not tap his toes like the other three:

Golden Man (he was floating).  The impatient band
Did not know his pain.  Just because he always met
His maker with a smile on his face, grinning and

Bearing it, didn't mean he didn't cry big wet
Sticky tears on the inside.  But did they care?  "Now
What are you doing, Cannon Fodder?  Time to get

On with it.  What are you doing?"  "Don't have a cow.
I just need some time."  Time to do what?"  "To do my
Kegels.  Yeah.  Those muscles are real sore today..."

You're not a..."  "It was sarcasm," he said with a
"You should leave that to Sarcastic Lad," said Master
Blaster.  "It's what he does.  What do you do?"  "I

Cannon Fodder said morbidly.  Master Blaster
Said, "So jump in there already.  Think: what's the
That can happen?  Now get it over with.  Faster!"

Cannon Fodder grumbled and leapt.  He mouthed a curse
As his flesh was by green flame engulfed: thus he
No sadder eulogy exists in prose or verse:

"I knew it.  You owe me five bucks, Onion Lad!" cried
Master Blaster in anguish.  Said Onion Lad: "So
How do we get through?" He looked to the corpse and

"That's strange," said Shrink-Wrap Man.  "Burned from
tip to toe
Like he is, and his clothes intact.  I wonder if..."
He passed his hand over Cannon Fodder, and lo,

The corpse was shrink-wrapped.  He grabbed and started
to lift
Him up, and then Golden Man said: "Have some respect
For the dead, lad!" But Shrink-Wrap Man just heaved
the stiff

Towards the light.  It went in halfway.  "I did
As much.  See?  No flames.  They only react to flesh."
Speed Richardson was armored, and it would protect
Him.  And so a course of action he did select.


Without incident Speed Richardson found his way
To Chatillon's lair, where he now stood, the ideal
Armored knight, fists clenched, mouth taut.  He did
not betray

The gripping fear that made him sweat; he did not feel
It trickling beneath his containment suit.  Or more
Precisely, if he felt it, it did not seem real.

His focus was on the task at hand.  Any sore
Muscles or shaking bones belonged to another
That he was merely observing.  But at the core

Of his soul he felt nothing.  Fear thought to smother
His resolve but he would not let it.  He could not
Fail Michette Duclos even against that mother

Fucker of motherfuckers: Chatillon's god, Rott.
It was twice as tall as Shrink-Wrap Man and his waist
Was thrice its height.  It had sixteen eyes, each a

Of black in an albino face.  It did not taste
Wine with its gaping mouth; blood sat in sack-like
And though it reeked of death, of destruction, and

It had no nose in its melon-shaped head: it reeks
But does not know it, just as Shrink-Wrap Man fears
Does not feel.  And now the gentle reader that seeks

Action will be sated.  Chatillon laughed:  "Now what
Can you hope to do against Rott, hero?  No steel
Forged by mortal hands can pierce its tough hide. This

Is not worth dying for, Speed.  Your wounds will not
But worsen till you die, unloved.  But leave now,
And Mimi will be yours, as promised." "Save the spiel.

I'm done listening to your lies." "Logic, then!  Heed
This: better to live for love than die for a cause,
An abstract.  Well?  Choose.  Pass the cup or drink
the mead."

Speed Richardson flung himself forward towards the
Of a hungry god, unleashing a hearty cry
That was designed to silence Chatillon's guffaws

As he raised up in the direction of the sky
His two glowing fists.  He brought them down and he
The first blow, encasing in shrink-wrap one right eye.

He landed on his feet, unscathed by god and luck,
And thrust his hands before him.  Light shimmered from
Palm, and as natural as a babe starting to suck

Milk, so did he, far away from the monster's reach,
Cast forth a net of power from his fingertips.
And he smiled, for he knew, and often he gave speech

To the fact, that once he covered from feet to hips
To shoulders to head in shrink-wrap, the victim would
Be deprived of air for thirty seconds; their lips

Would gasp for air but not a single atom could
Get through that air-tight layer of shrink-wrap.  And
It would be with the god.  The clever reader should

Know what happens next.  The power stops, and the glow
Fades, and Shrink-Wrap Man, expecting a sleeping god
Is surprised to find it still on its feet.  The flow

Of power increased, but not quick enough.  A nod
Of Chatillon's head sent the god leaping, teeth bared
Towards the now-fading glow.  He stood still as a rod

In a lightning storm: he could admit he was scared
Now.  The god should be a docile kitten, asleep
While Chatillon cowered as the hero just stared

At him and said there's no use running.  But don't
Wondering what's wrong, you idiot!  Go, man, go!
It's coming at you.  If the girls cry, let them weep

Because they're glad that you're safe, not because
they know
You died like a deer in headlights.  Move!  There you
He found himself at its side, and began to throw

His fists against its hide.  It was not up to par;
The god swung a hip and struck him, sending him right
Into the warm, fleshy wall.  He was not thrown far

But the blow throbbed in the back of his head like
Bolts being twisted tighter.  He was dizzy.  Speed
Richardson started to stand up when he caught sight

Of Rott charging again.  He heard but could not heed
The two girls' cries; there was not enough time to
His limbs flailed briefly like a man thrown from a

As the god's face rammed him against the wall.  His
Bent the wrong way and snapped; he cried out in great
It kept him pressed `gainst the wall, grinding.  And
though he

Fought, he could not budge.  Its ugly teeth sought to
A chunk of his broken leg, but the armor saw
To it that its attempts to dine were made in vain.

And then the armor cracked in the god's beastly jaw,
And light spilled out the crack like water from a dam,
And the god scurried back.  Observing Newton's Law

Of Gravity, Shrink-Wrap Man fell, no longer lamb
In the lion's jaw, but something more than lion.
Could not have explained the terrific sounding WHAM

That was heard as the armor dissolved, light shootin'
Out from Speed Richardson's glowing body.  The light
Faded, though he still glowed, naked with might.

Would have been blinded, just as Rott had.  But the
Was not o'er.  The two leapt towards another again,
Fists and teeth bared, power flaring wildly.  The

Of it was astonishing.  Neither one would bend
To the other; Shrink-Wrap Man was holding his own
With a god!  But he had now managed to regain

His focus, and so he was not giddy.  Alone
With the god, he did not notice anything save
It.  He walked, ran, and fought despite his broken

He did not see or hear the girls shouting; that slave
Of evil, Chatillon, was invisible.  Rott
And only Rott was before him.  He felt a wave

Of something building in his body, and he thought
Perhaps that he might explode.  The monster lunged
Him and Speed Richardson found that he had been caught

In its jaws.  He felt no pain as a thousand swords
Tore into his glowing body.  And then he felt
Nothing at all, and the room filled with light.  Then

>From a hundred arias played at once.  He knelt
To the ground and held his head, for now both the
And the light were gone.  And the wounds the god had

Him were gone, and as they faded the music ceased.
"Rott is dead; so is your power," said Chatillon.
"I'll avenge him and on your tawny flesh will feast."
Now I rise to protect, like the sun does from the

Dropping counted syllables, rhyming-tercets woes,
And first-person for fine, simple, and easy prose.

   "You will not."
   "Tyler!" Lily cried.
   "That's impossible," said Chatillon.  For once the
confidence in the bastard's voice cracked.  And Tyler
knew that.
   Tyler Bridge, the ghost.  Tyler Bridge, the specter
that had been sent to the depths of oblivion by
Chatillon's hand.  Tyler Bridge, who now stood,
impossibly, over the remains of the god.  Tyler
Bridge, your faithful narrator: back and better than
ever before.
   "I returned once before," he said.
   "But I destroyed you!  I utterly vanquished you!"
   "And I came back," said Tyler with a shrug.  "Deal
with it."
   "It's impossible...!"
   Tyler smiled casually as he walked boldly and
confidently towards Chatillon.  The villain started to
back away.  "St... stay back..."
   "You overplayed your hand," intuited Tyler. 
"Calling forth that god took a lot out of you.  Weak
as a kitten now, I suspect."  He reached towards
   Chatillon scuttled backwards.
   "People don't come back as ghosts because they have
unfinished business," Tyler explained.  "No one dies
with everything settled.  No, it's simply a question
of will power.  The first time I died, I had the will
to continue existing and so I did.
   "I was not popular then.  My life was not a happy
one.  I had few friends.  And yet, with all that
misery, I had the will to come back.
   "And now?  Now, I have friends.  People I care for.
 I'm happy.  When my life was miserable, I chose to
come back; do you honestly think I would choose to
give up now, now that I have so much to lose?
   "Did you honestly think I would let you harm these
who mean so much to me?  You underestimated me,
Chatillon.  And that makes me angry.
   "Because you thought so little of me, because you
exploited the weakness of Speed Richardson, because
you tried to hurt my friends, and because you have the
utter unoriginality to actually say it's impossible
when you see me before you in the flesh, or rather the
vapor: because of all these things I find that my
usual calm demeanor is unbefitting the occasion.
   "Or, to put it more succinctly, as they say in
single syllables: I am pissed off, and your ass is
   Chatillon reached into his robe, and dust filled
the room.  When it cleared, he was gone.
   "I guess there's a time for talk, and a time for
action," said Tyler sheepishly.
   "We're safe," said Lily, hugging Michette close. 
"And that's what counts."


   Alicia looked to Gary.  "It must be over by now,
don't you think?  It's coming close to dawn."
   "Must be over now," he agreed.  "Guess we should
head back."
   "What should we tell them?" said Alicia.  "What's
our alibi?"
   "They won't ask," said Gary dourly.  "I'm the LNH's
screw-up, remember?  And you?  You were with me. 
Alibi by osmosis."
   They took to the air.

   Speed wheezed as the diagnostics machine powered
down.  Dr. Wharton helped him down from the machine,
and Speed pulled on the generic spandex LNH uniform
the Ninja had brought with him.  "Well?" said Speed. 
"What's the verdict?"
   "Your powers are gone, Speed," said Wharton.
   "What, do you mean gone-gone or just sorta-gone?"
   "There's some latent shrink-wrapping energy in your
bloodstream," said Wharton, "but it's dead."
   "But I can tap into it later," said Speed.
   "I don't think so," said Wharton.  "Remember, you
weren't born with your powers, but rather you got them
in an accident.  The molecules of the experimental
shrink-wrap ray fused with your molecules, a
billion-to-one chance.  And so you became a walking,
talking shrink-wrap ray.
   [*-- see JOURNEY INTO IRRELEVANCY # 10 for Speed's
origin story.]
   "And now they've been popped out of synch.  The
chances of it happening again-- even in a universe
like ours-- are astronomically low."
   "But... but I want to be a net.hero," said Speed.
   Wharton looked to the Ultimate Ninja.  Speed had
forgotten he was in the room.  The Ninja crossed his
arms tightly.
   "What?" said Speed.
   "Don't what me," said the Ninja.  "You know what
you've done."
   "But I made up for it!  I saved the day!"
   "And that's the only reason I'm not holding your
heart in my fist.  The only reason."
   "So, what is it?" said Speed.  "What, are you
kicking me out?"
   "You could resign," said the Ninja.  "Resign with a
scrap of dignity, or be put on trial.  It's your
   Speed snorted.  "Then put me on trial."

   "Knock, knock."
   "... Tyler...?"
   Tyler entered the infirmary.  "The one and only. 
How're you doing, Maggie Bernard?"
   "You're back," said Maggie.  She started to sit up,
but a sharp pain in her back caused her to lie back
   "Take it easy, kiddo," said Tyler.  "After all
this, I'd hate to have anything happen to you on my
   He touched her shoulder.  "I was talking with
Frederick Wharton.  He's not sure exactly what
Chatillon did to you, Maggie, but he thinks you'll be
alright, you'll be on your feet again in a couple of
   "You're not Tyler," said Maggie.  "Tyler's dead."
   "Um, well, I'm back..."
   "And Tyler would never call me by my first name
   "Did I?" said Tyler.  "I suppose I did.  I hadn't
   "The real Tyler Bridge would never..."
   "The real Tyler Bridge isn't scared anymore," he
said.  "This time, when I came back, I came back for
my friends.  For you.  My dear Maggie Bernard--
Maggie.  Why on earth would I continue to be scared of
my friends?"
   "Why were you scared in the first place?"
   "Same bat time, same bat channel."
   "... what?"
   "A story for another time," said Tyler.  He sat
down besides her, squeezing her hand.
   "Are you going to stay?" said Maggie.
   "At least until my stories come on," said Tyler.
   "Your... stories...?"
   "General Hospice," said Tyler.  "The continuing
saga of forbidden love and tragic destiny among the
doddering and incontinent."
   "I didn't know you liked soaps," said Maggie.
   "... we've spent a lot of time apart lately,
haven't we...?  With you hanging out with Arlie... and
I've been..."
   "... busy annoying Lily?" smirked Maggie.  "I'm
surprised you aren't bugging her now."
   "You need me, Maggie," said Tyler.  "Besides.  I've
decided to give Lily Paschall a reprieve."
   "What, you've got your eye on someone else?"
   "No.  She does.  While my spiritual essence was
trapped inside her head, I was briefly omniscient and
all-knowing.  That's how I was able to lead her to
Chatillon in the first place."
   "Okay."  She did a double-take.  "Wait.  What...?"
   "Same bat time," said Tyler.
   "Same bat channel.  Okay."

   Lily entered Michette's room with some toast and
   "You should get some rest," said Michette.
   "No.  I'm fine."
   Michette turned pale.  "You're dying."
   "So maybe I'm not so fine," said Lily with a shrug.
   "Why didn't you tell me?"
   "Never found the time to."  Lily frowned.  "Well,
that isn't true.  I had some opportune moments, but I
chickened out.  I figured it would upset you."
   "Well, what is it, exactly?"
   "Some of the rock-cells in my body are replicating
unchecked, growing wrong," said Lily.
   "... cancer."
   "Yeah, you could call it that," said Lily.
   "Oh, Lily," said Michette.  She put her hand on
Lily's shoulder.
   "I'm sorry I didn't tell you, Mimi..." Lily stared
into her lap.
   "What is it?" said Michette.
   "I'm so ashamed of myself.  I let you down.  Sold
you out for Chatillon."
   "You were unconscious," said Michette.  "I'd hardly
call that betrayal."
   "I made a deal with the devil," said Lily.  "He
promised me life and he promised me love... and I was
stupid enough to listen.  To trade my happiness
against you."
   "Yes, but you reneged.  You came to get me."
   There was an amiable pause as the crisp golden
morning sunlight, distilled by the squeaky-clean
windows, bathed their faces.  Then Michette turned
suddenly to Lily, swallowing her bite of toast in one
hard gulp.
   "Who was it?"
   Lily's eyes boggled quizzically.
   "The love Chatillon promised you," said Michette.
   "Oh.  It doesn't... it doesn't really matter."
   "Yes it does," said Michette.  "Especially with the
cancer.  You can't waste any more time pussyfooting
   "When the time is right, I'm tell them."
   "A person likes to know their worth," said
Michette.  "You gave them up for me.  You went back on
your word to Chatillon for my sake."
   "You're my friend, Mimi.  My best friend."
   "And best friends tell each other everything," said
Michette. "Especially girls."
   "Especially girls?"
   "Yes, we have slumber parties and pillow fights and
practice kissing and tell..." She stopped for a
moment.  Lily looked embarrassed.  Michette continued.
 "We tell each other secrets.  I'll tell you what. 
I'll tell you my secret crush, if you tell me yours."
   Lily shrugged.  "Okay."
   "Actually, guess."
   "I'm not going to guess."
   "Why not?"
   "I thought you were going to tell me," said Lily.
   "I'm a little embarrassed," said Michette.  "I'll
tell you, after you guess."
   "I dunno," said Lily.  "Uh.  Pants Rabbit Lad?"
   "You're not even trying," said Michette urgently.
   "I don't know, Mimi," said Lily.  "I don't even
know how to start.  I have no idea what you find
attractive in men."
   Michette swallowed and withdrew her hand, averting
her eyes from Lily's gaze.  Slowly, she brought her
eyes back to meet Lily's, and she kept them there,
huge and wet and searching.  "The more... the more I
look back on my life, Lily... I don't think... I find
men... attractive."
   Lily's mouth fell open, her thin and pale lips
quivering and dry.  A tear shot forth from either eye,
rolling down her high cheeks.  "Oh, Mimi..."
   Michette shuddered, now crying freely, as the words
exploded quietly from her lips.  "I love you, Lily."
   "I love you, too, Mimi," said Lily.  "I've always
loved you.  That... Oh, come here, you."
   Lily reached for Michette with her long arms and
brought her close.  "That's why I felt so rotten,"
said Lily.  "Because if I had gone through with it,
and Chatillon let me live with you, I couldn't live
with myself.  I don't want love that way.  I want it
to be real and I want it to be with you and I don't
want anybody else, I don't, I don't.  Oh, God, I'm not
making sense..."
   "I love you, Lily," said Michette.  "I just didn't
know if you loved me back, and I was afraid you'd push
me away and, and, and..."
   "Ssh.  Don't cry, Mimi.  I'm here.  I'm going to
take care of you, okay?"
   "No," said Michette, breaking the embrace and
wiping her eyes.  "I'm going to take care of you,
Lily.  Together, you and me, we're going to beat this
thing.  You're going to get better, and you're going
to live a long and happy life with me, and you know
   "No, why?"
   "Because you're mine now, damn it, and I'm never
going to let you go...!"
   "Oh, Mimi..."  She pulled her close again.
   "Lily?  Could... could you kiss me now...?"
   Lily put her hands in Michette's stringy hair,
feeling the shape of her best friend's skull, feeling
its weight and its sturdiness.  With her other hand,
she traced along the soft and slightly chubby cheeks
that rounded out her moon-shaped face.  She leaned in,
pressing her forehead against Mimi's, and touching
Mimi's soft little button of a nose with her long and
angular one.
   Michette's quivering hand found its way to Lily's
face, and she gently felt the strange shape and
texture of the sharp and flinty stones that were on
her forehead.
   Lily whispered, tears and mucous in her voice: "I
love you..."
   She pressed her lips against Mimi's, and Mimi
pressed back with everything she was and would ever


   "You've heard the evidence against you, Speed
Richardson," said the Ultimate Ninja.  "Do you have
anything to say in your defense?"
   "Yes, I do."
   The Ninja stepped towards Speed, lowering his
voice.  "You can still resign.  Save yourself and us
the humiliation."
   "I will not resign," said Speed, loud enough so
that the others could here.
   The Ninja made no pretense of hiding his anger. 
"Then speak," he said, stepping back to the others, to
the six people that served as both his accusers and
his jury.  According to LNH protocol, a sub-group
could pass judgment on another of its members; the six
had formed a sub-group amongst themselves, with Speed
shoehorned in as a member after the fact, so that
they, as the wronged party, might decide his fate.
   That act in and of itself made it seem like they
had already made up their minds; the six of them would
be hard to convince.  But you don't need to convince
all six, he reminded himself.  This isn't a standard
courtroom: an unanimous vote is not required, and in
the event of a tie, he would be acquitted.  The odds
were really in his favour after all.
   He looked at the six of them with searching,
imploring eyes.  He was still adjusting to seeing
things without a veil of glossy shrink-wrap.
   Maggie couldn't vote against him.  If anyone was a
true friend, it was her.  She was the one that had
spurned him on, helped him to make the right decision.
   Gary had screwed up so many times before; the thing
that was most important to him was redemption.  He
would understand Speed and his quest.
   He had saved Michette and Lily from Chatillon,
risking his life against a god for their sakes.  They
had seen how he had set things right.
   Tyler understood people, that was what he did. 
Surely he'd understand Speed now and, understanding,
   Which left Alicia.  But, with five votes for him,
she was hardly enough to convict him.
   Finally, he spoke.
   "Okay, in my defense... okay.  I've heard the
evidence, and yeah, it's pretty bad.  I mean, yeah,
Chatillon came to me and offered me you, Mimi, who I
loved so dearly... even though I know it's not
   "And that hurts, that gnaws at me, but it's not an
excuse.  I'm not trying to play the blame the victim
game, I'm not, I'm just saying that I had this
yearning for you, and that it caused me pain.  And
Chatillon offered me relief.  And I said yes.
   "I admit that freely and if that's the end of the
story then, yeah, rule against me.  I'm a traitor.  If
that's that, then that's that.  But that's not that,
it's not the end of the story.  You were there,
Michette, and Lily, and Tyler.  You saw me.
   "I did the right thing.  I set it right.  Yeah, I
had a moment of weakness, but I overcame that.  Thanks
to Maggie.
   "Please.  Don't do this thing to me just because I
made a mistake, a mistake that I rendered irrelevant
anyway.  I mean, no one was hurt, right?  Except for
me.  I lost my fucking powers, you know.  Isn't that
punishment enough?"
   He fell silent.
   "Are you finished?" said the Ninja.
   Speed nodded.
   "Okay," said the Ninja.  "It's time for the vote,
then.  I'll recess these proceedings for a period of
an hour..."
   "All the same, I'd like the verdict now," said
   "Don't you want to give them some time to think it
   Speed shook his head.  He wanted them to vote while
his excellent argument was fresh in their minds. 
"There's nothing to think over," he said.  "I redeemed
myself, and at great personal sacrafice.  I have no
doubt that I will be vindicated."
   "Then we'll start the proceedings.  Tyler?"
   "Some things can never be forgiven," said Tyler. 
"I'm sorry, Speed Richardson.  You did the right thing
in the end, but you should have done the right thing
in the first place.  Dismissal."
   Her eyes flashed green. "It was a pretty speech,
kid, but it was also pretty arrogant.  In theory,
people make these pleas for understanding and mercy,
and yes, it makes a difference-- when it's sincere.  I
can tell when people don't mean it, Speed.  I'm an
   "I vote for his dismissal."  Speed wasn't
surprised; she was the only one he wasn't sure about.
   "Gary," said the Ninja.
   Gary blinked at hearing his name and muttered a
   "You have to speak up," said the Ninja.
   "Dismissal," Gary squeaked.  He did not look at
   "Margaret?" said the Ninja.
   "I vote for acquittal," said Maggie.  "Speed is
right, and I for one think he was sincere.  He might
have come across a bit arrogant, but that's Speed.  I
don't think we're trying him for his character flaws.
   "Sure, he has them, but he has a good heart.  He's
a brave man.  He might not be perfect.  He might not
be a new man, but he's getting there, slowly, like all
of us.
   "I believe in Speed Richardson.  And I think he
deserves a second chance."
   "Thank you, Maggie," said Speed.
   "The accused will be silent," said the Ninja. 
   It can still be a tie, thought Speed.  Michette and
Lily will understand.
   "I'm with Tyler," said Lily.  "I can never forgive
you for what almost happened to Mimi."
   "You're a hypocrite," said Speed. "Chatillon came
to you, too!"
   "She was unconscious," said Michette.  "She would
have fought Chatillon if she could."
   "Lily's not on trial here, Speed Richardson," said
   The Ninja flung his katana blade into the ground. 
Silence pervaded.  "We will abide by the rules of this
   "Kangaroo court, more like it," said Speed.
   "That is enough!" said the Ninja.  "Lily.  Your
   "No," said Maggie.
   "Bullshit!" shouted Speed.  "This is bullshit!"
   "The accused will be silent until the final vote
has been cast," said the Ninja.
   "What's the point, anyway?" said Speed.  "Whatever
she says, I'm guilty."
   "Last warning," said the Ninja.  "Michette?"
   "I'd love to forgive you, Speed," said Michette. 
"To see the best in you, like Maggie does.  But your
behaviour in this court-martial is the same,
pound-for-pound, as your behaviour outside it. 
Childish.  And, yes, arrogant.  And selfish.
   "It was an act of selfishness on your part that
allowed me to be kidnapped.  And it was an act of
selfishness, I think, that prompted your change of
heart.  You saw the kind of trouble you were in, and
so you did the right thing to try and get out of it."
   "That's not true," said Maggie.
   "You've had your say," said the Ninja.
   "That's not what being a hero is about," continued
Michette.  "It's about doing the right thing, even if
you end up in some kind of trouble for it.  Maggie was
injured by Chatillon, Tyler was killed.  I thank God
that Lily was asleep, because she would have fought
valiantly, and she would have died protecting me.  She
certainly risked more, searching for me with her
injuries and hopped up on pain-killers, then you did
by letting him escape.
   "Maybe he would have gotten me anyway.  I don't
spend my time playing what if..., or maybe...?  Maybe
Maggie's right, maybe you will be a better person one
day.  But all I've got to go on is here and now.  And,
here and now?
   "You're a traitor.  And I hate you with all my
heart.  Dismissal."
   "That's five to one," said the Ninja.  "By the
majority ruling of your sub-group, you have been found
guilty for your act of treason.  And so, you are
hereby now and forevermore dismissed from the ranks of
the Legion of Net.Heroes.
   "Your name will be stricken from our ranks.  You
will never set foot on this property again.  You have
no friends here.
   "You will find that your bags and personal
possessions have been already packed up for you.  They
have been cast outside our gate.  I suggest you leave
and retrieve them before someone else does."
   The Ninja made his exit.
   Maggie broke the silence.  "Speed..."
   Speed walked out of the room.
   "Speed!  Wait, Speed..." Maggie started to rush
after him.
   Tyler stopped her.  "Just let him go, Maggie..."
   "He's our friend," said Maggie.
   "He's a traitor," said Lily.
   "So when your trial?" Maggie shot back.  "When are
we going to court-martial you, Lily?"
   "Do you really want to do that?" said Lily.
   "No," said Maggie.  "But don't you see?  This isn't
right!  This isn't fair!"
   "Life isn't fair, kid," said Alicia.
   "People who screw up have a tendency to keep
screwing up," said Gary.  "I know that all too well. 
Actions... actions have to have consequences.  You
can't always forgive."
   "It's over, Maggie," said Tyler.  "There's no point
in continuing this.  The decision's already been
   "Oh, fuck you," said Maggie.  "Fuck all of you, and
especially you, Tyler.  I never thought I'd see the
day when you just went along and agreed with the rest
of the crowd."
   "Technically, I voted first.  If anything, they're
the crowd and they're just going along with me."
   "I'm in no mood," snapped Maggie.  "God.  What is
wrong with you, Tyler?  Why is everything a joke?  You
just want to make everyone else feel stupid."  She
threw up her hands and stormed out.
   Tyler stood there and blinked.

   Maggie found Speed at the bus stop just as the sun
was setting.  "So.  You going to stay in Net.ropolis,
or what?"
   "What for?" said Speed.
   "There are other hero groups.  Or you could go
   "Nah," said Speed.  "I'll just go home to Kansas,
maybe, see my folks.  Find a girl and a shitty job,
marry her, get promoted, have kids, retire, die, et
cetera, ad nausea."
   "I'd really hate to see you give up heroing, Speed.
 It's always been so important to you..."
   "There's nothing here for me, Maggie."
   "There's me."
   "I said, there's me.  You've got me.  If... if you
want me."
   "Ain't love if it ain't returned," said Speed. 
"You said yourself it was just a crush."
   The bus pulled up.
   "I didn't think you were going to leave, though.  I
don't want you to go, Speed.  Please.  I'll send you
some of my stipend until you can get on your feet..."
   "Good-bye, Maggie."
   Please stay, she tried to tell him telepathically. 
Please don't go.  Please.  Please.  Please.
   The bus pulled away.  Speed was on it.
   Please come back.  Get off the bus and run back,
like in a movie.  Please.  Please.
   The bus disappeared with its sacrificial lamb,
leaving Maggie alone with the dusk and her pain and
her anger.

                      THE END?

Well... not quite.
   This does mark the end of the series, NET.HEROES ON
PARADE.  During its original publication, there were
three additional issues (24, 25, and 26) which I've
decided to disregard completely, for a number of
   (1) They were not nearly as good as their
   (2) I had no idea what I was doing.
   (3) I killed off Arlie Fertulus.
   All of these were bad, bad, bad decisions, and so
they've been retconned completely.  They never, ever,
ever happened.  Ever.  It is for this reason that I've
asked Eagle to remove them from the archives. 
Interested parties can still find them, of course, on
   The archives still hold the twenty-three remaining
issues of NET.HEROES ON PARADE; the events of those
issues still, for the most part, took place: it's just
that they no longer take place _quite_ the same way as
originally depicted.
   For example, in the original NET.HEROES ON PARADE #
22, Michette murders Chatillon, stabbing him in the
back.  At the end of this final TEB, however,
Chatillon escaped and Michette never picked up his
dagger in vengeance.  I think this is another example
of the most obvious change between the 2002 and 2006
editions of NET.HEROES ON PARADE and its author: I've
gotten tired of grim 'n' gritty hypocritical heroes
who kill.  Heroes never kill.
   Heroes can be morally gray, but they should never,
ever kill.  That's the line.

   The saga of the mystic lunchbox and the six heroes
who protect it will continue in the new
acronym-entitled series, NHOP.  What can you expect
from NHOP?
   Well, you can expect a certain degree of melodrama
and action.  You can also expect more comedy in the
classic LNH style; one of my big problems with the
original series is how much it exists in its own
vacuum, inoculated from the rest of the Looniverse. 
Hopefully I'll strike a better balance between that
comedy and the more serious thematic elements.
   I also hope to foreground certain character
relationships that were poorly executed in the
original run and culled from the TEB to keep the plot
moving; conversely, I hope to keep my plotting tighter
and more satisfying.  I hope to use thematic focus to
determine the content of an issue, rather than how
long that issue is running: I want each episode to
provide satisfaction on its lonesome, as well as part
of the coherent whole.
   Since I've come back to RACC, my more complex work
has been very focused, following only one or two main
lines of action; I will try to marry this approach, as
best as I can, to what is an ensemble series.
   I promise that the new NHOP will be lighter, if not
in tone, than in intention: it is a story about love,
sacrafice, and what it truly means to be a hero.

   And, I promise, above all, that I won't need to
re-edit this NHOP when it's done.

   Hopefully, your interest is piqued...


Unless otherwise noted, all characters created by Tom

Master Blaster, Deja Dude: Martin Phipps.
Golden Man: Chris Hare.
Onion Lad: Tom Russell & Dane Martin.
Ultimate Ninja, Adamant Authority-on-Everything,
Cannon Fodder, Hooded Ho`'od Win, wReamHack: wReam.
Bad Timing Boy: Vernon H. Harmon.
Bandwagon Chick: Sue Clark.
Bizarre Boy: Roger Domenick.
Captain Clean-Up: "Storm".
Catalyst Lass: Elisabeth Riba.
Innovative Offense Boy: uplink.
Irony Man: Doug Moran.
Old Comics Man: Creator Unknown; if you know who his
creator was, please let us know.  It is my goal that
no creator should remain unknown.
Super Apathy Lad: Jacob Lesgold.
Miss Translation: Jamie Rosen.
Time-Waster Lad: Ray Rich.
Forgetting One: Joel Finkle.
Procrastination Boy: Jason Kanner.
Multi-Tasking Man: Jeff Coleburn.

Special thanks to Martin Phipps, Mike McKellan, Mike
Friedman, and Brian Perler.

(C) 2003, 2006 TOM RUSSELL.


Tom Russell
Limited autographed dvds now on sale, directly from the filmmaker

"In the beginning, Milos seems to have no clue how to relate
 to anyone.  He is quizzical, leaving the viewer questioning
 and wondering..." 
  -- Ryan M. Niemiec, co-author of MOVIES AND MENTAL ILLNESS

   Movies, comics, prose, and all things Russell


"If a comic book, book, movie or novel is not somebody's fantasy 
then who wrote it and to whom does it appeal to?  In order for a 
shared universe to have a widespread appeal, it has to appeal on 
a primal level.  If somebody says superhero comics are just 'wish 
fulfillment' then he needs to explain what is entertainment that 
doesn't satisfy our wishes and what satisfaction at all you can get 
from it." -- Dr. Martin Phipps

Do You Yahoo!?
Tired of spam?  Yahoo! Mail has the best spam protection around 

More information about the racc mailing list