ASH: Time Capsules #9 - Development Cycle

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at
Tue Apr 3 07:46:20 PDT 2007

     The cover shows a patriotically-themed superheroine bound up in chains,
hanging over a pit full of alligators with laser eyes, while various missiles
streak past her on all sides and the fuse on a nearby bomb burns down.  "In
the clutches of the devious Doctor Developer!"

    //||  //^^\\  ||   ||   .|.   COHERENT COMICS UNINCORPORATED PRESENTS
   // ||  \\      ||   ||  --X---------------------------------------------
 //   ||      \\  ||   ||                    Development Cycle
//    ||  \\__//  ||   ||             Copyright 2007 by Andrew Burton

     "You might find this one...interesting...Mr. Spinoza," Professor
M'Cormack grinned in that way that Kaoru had learned to dread.  She handed
him a silvery disk in a plastic case.  "It's a DVD, pressed some time around
2007, with a collection of transferred videotapes from the 1990s.  A piece of
obscure 'fanwork' by someone interested in one of the lesser known figures of
the Third Heroic Age."
     "Hero or villain?"
     "That's something you're going to have to figure out," she smiled again,
before leaving the room.
     Kaoru looked at the amateurisly printed label on the disc, "Doctor
Developer's Greatest Hits, volume 1: 1993-1997," it read.  With great
trepidation, he loaded the DVD into his computer's adaptor and waited while
it spun up....


     "My name's Doctor Developer," the super-villain said into the camera.
"I guess you know that, though.  I mean, if you're watching this video it's
probably because you've been following me for a while."  He shifted in his
chair for a bit, then coughed into his hand.
     "I'm not all-knowing or all-seeing," he explained.  He let out a small
sigh.  "That would be nice.  I've tried a few experiments with it, you know,
but there's only so much you can do with today's computers.  Video arrays are
fine, but the software's just not ready for true optical recognition.  Maybe
in a few years.
     "It probably wouldn't be a problem if I had any kind of Tesla rating,
but I'm one of the very, very rare cases...head cases, heh...of people who
works in this business without a magene."  He scratched the back of his head.
"But I'm rambling.  Sorry.  Anyway....
     "You know who I am, but I didn't know who you were going to be when I
recorded this, as I tend to prepare these things well in advance.  I have a
short list, but since this is a one way feed I'm going to assume you're not
one of the engineering types who come after me.  No offense, but I have a
tendency to rattle on, and since I want this to be completely fair, I don't
want to use any verbage that a lay person wouldn't understand.
     "This tape is tied to a motion sensor, so the fact that it's playing
means that you're awake enough to trigger it.  Hopefully my talking has given
you enough time to wake up fully."  He paused for a moment, then nodded.
"Okay?  Let's begin."
     Lady Lawful sighed and strained against the manacles that were holding
her down to the floor of the warehouse.  The whole deathtrap thing wasn't as
much a bother as Doctor Developer's running documentary on how he was going
to kill her.
     "First off, those shackles that are holding you down are made of a
rather dense alloy.  I'd imagine that if you were one of the 'bricks' on my
short list and had a day or so to work on them, you'd probably be able to
ratchet one of the stakes out of the ground or exploit some flaw in the
material.  However, when this message runs out, and the VCR detects blank
tape, you'll only have about fifteen minutes."
     Lady Lawful shifted again, trying to get a better view of the shackles.
The light in the warehouse wasn't the greatest, but she didn't see any cracks
in the cement or metal.  If Deedee...she decided that would be how she
greeted him to his face if they ever met...was serious about a day's work,
maybe there was some flaw he was trying to hide.  She continued to examine
the chains as well as she could.
     "I say fifteen minutes, because that's how long I figure it'll take for
the water in the warehouse to fill up so that you'll drown.  There is one
person on my short list who wouldn't be inconvenienced by that, but I
wouldn't put her here anyway.  But I digress.  You can't see it, but just
outside of this warehouse, there are several thousands of gallons of water in
a water tank.  When this tape goes blank, valves will start to pour water in pumps, just good old gravity doing what it does best."
     "Two trophies for swimming," Lady Lawful thought, "and I'm going to
drown.  Oh, Deedee, you certainly have a timely flair for the ironic."  He
had planned this well.  The position of her arms and legs alone made it
difficult to sit up, and the collar around her neck made it impossible.  He
wouldn't have to dump too much water to submerge her face.
     "It's not one of my most elaborate traps, but I suppose it'll suffice,"
Doctor Developer continued.  "So, for now, I bid you adieu.  I would wish you
luck, but that might conflict with my own interests.  Good bye."
     After a moment Doctor Developer's face vanished from the screen.  A
moment later, the screen flipped to blue.  Lady Lawful closed her eyes, and
listened.  True to his word, she could hear a slightly metallic scraping
noise soon followed by the sound of pouring water.
     Lady Lawful growled and shook her head.  "You are so dead when I get out
of here, Deedee."

               *              *              *              *

     Doctor Developer grinned as he watched the water flowing into the
warehouse floor, pooling up around the captive Lady Lawful.  She was
struggling quite erratically, pulling at the chains that held her down.  If
her blond hair hadn't been soaked by the water filling the floor, he imagined
that it would have been much more lustrous as she struggled to free herself.
     "So, boss," one of his lackeys asked, "you think you'll get 'er this
time?"  Neither of them looked away from the monitor, but Doctor Developer
could almost hear the concern in his lackey's voice.
     This was, he counted, the fourth time they'd trapped Lady Lawful.  Every
time before, she either managed to get out at the last moment or the death
trap would suddenly break down, hence going with this older but more reliable
set piece.  The minions had gotten a bit antsy this time around, wanting to
simply dispose of the heroine.
     Doctor Developer shrugged.  Why not.  He turned his command chair
around, away from the display, so he could look at his lackeys.
     "You all agree, I pay well, correct?" Doctor Developer asked.  The
lackeys nodded, looking between each other.  "You've never been convicted of
a crime while working for me.  Never had to pay lawyer fees.  My heists are
good business for you all, wouldn't you agree?"  Again the lackeys nodded.
"I hope you will remember that when I say what I'm about to say.
     "She's going to escape."  The lackeys gasped and murmured between
themselves.  Disbelief was quite apparent in the tones of their voices.
Doctor Developer continued, "I'm not a murderer, guys.  Thief, sure.
Scientist, yes.  Murderer, no.  I wouldn't want to kill Lady Lawful or any
hero, so long as I don't have to do it."
     One of the lackeys raised his hand and asked, "Then what's with the
death traps?"  
     Doctor Developer blushed slightly.  "Well," he hemmed, "I rather like
deathtraps.  They're a classical methodology within our line of work.  It
lends an air of authenticity to a job when we get to use one on a hero.
Makes a statement."
     "Plus," he didn't say aloud, "Lady Lawful looks really cute thrashing
around in a wet costume."  He smiled to himself.  "Not that the goons need to
know that."


     "Would you please be quiet?" Doctor Developer asked, causing the sound
of rattling chains to momentarily cease.  He was trying to be polite, but
there was undertone of irritation in his voice.
     "No, I won't," Lady Lawful replied.  She shifted around, making her
bonds clank and rattle.  "I'm just going to talk, talk, talk, talk.  Blah,
blah, blah.  Yak, yak, yak.  Rattle, clank, rattle.  As long as it bothers
you then I'm going to talk, and rattle these chains, and...."
     "I will knock you out again," Doctor Developer warned, sounding tired
and fully irritated.
     Lady Lawful let out an exasperated sigh.  "Fine, whatever," she said.
She relaxed and leaned up against the support column where Deedee had chained
her after his booby trap knocked her out earlier.  The chains holding her
weren't that strong, but Deedee had taken the precaution of removing her
Enhancement Belt.  Without it, even with the extra strength she normally had,
the chains were too strong to break.
     There wasn't much to do but wait for Deedee to make his next move.  She
figured his next move would come pretty soon.  Typically when he broke into a
research the one to which Lady Lawful had tracked
was for a specific purpose or to grab some new scientific toy.  Waking up
chained to something while a miniature camera watched wasn't uncommon when
dealing with Deedee; waking up and seeing him still at work was a different
sight to behold.  There was still a camera, though.
     She watched Deedee silently for several minutes.
     He was hunched over a computer terminal, typing furiously at the
keyboard.  Every once in a while, he would grunt or curse at the computer.
It was quite apparent that whatever he was doing was frustrating him.  Lady
Lawful couldn't remember any time before when his nerved appeared as
frayed...even when she'd captured him in times past, he treated the arrest
more like a lost game than anything else.
     "Hey, Deedee?" Lady Lawful asked, "You okay?"
     His typing crawled to a stop.  "Excuse me?"
     Lady Lawful shrugged.  "You seem kind of, I don't know, upset...more
unhinged than usual, I everything okay?"  (She'd seen villains
irritated before, mostly when she'd just foiled their crimes, which explained
their demeanor.)
     After a moment, Deedee turned around in chair.  He watched Lady Lawful
for a moment, no doubt trying to decide whether she was serious or trying to
taunt him.  After a moment, he shrugged to himself and began talking, "Do you
know what VLSIS means?"
     Lady Lawful shook her head.
     "It stands for Very Large Scale Installation of Supertechnology," Deedee
explained, "It's a computational model that incorporates conventional network
computing designs with Violation Physics technologies.  In this case, we're
talking about several hundred VP-based computers on a network being used for
data entry by supernormals.  Their presence and active use of the supertech
computers in parallel, in effect, create a functional supercomputer that
processes beyond the limits of normal physics.
     "It's a computer that not only exceeds the projected abilities of every
conventional computer and some hypothetical quantum computers but also
operates like a conventional computer network.  The supernormal users use
standard operating systems on supertech machines; that means if I could just
get past their security...."  He sighed deeply.
     "Why do you want to use it?" Lady Lawful asked.  "I'm guessing it's not
so you can launch nuclear missiles, like in the movies."
     "Never," Deedee replied.  "I've written a genetic algorithm should
evolve into a fully operational algorithm for a bipedal robot, but my
projections show that using it on a conventional system would require several
years before it turned into anything useful.  On a VLSIS network, that would
be shaved down to a couple of hours."
     "Did you submit it to them officially?" Lady Lawful asked.
     "Yes.  Several times, through various false identities without criminal
records," he answered.  "Every time they turned me down.  'Bipedal robots are
something easily accomplished through Violation Physics technologies.  It
would be a waste of resources to run your algorithm,'" he said, obviously
quoting a form letter.  "I think Doc Droid might be blackballing me."
     Lady Lawful was quiet for a moment.  After a moment of thought, she
asked, "Why can't you 'hack' past their security?  You're usually pretty good
at that sort of thing."
     Deedee turned back and thumped the monitor.  "They've setup some kind of
VP detector.  I suspect it's designed to detect some kind of malformed
packets, to make sure whoever's entering their password is Tesla-ranked."  He
fumbled through his pockets.  "What a week to have my quantum randomizer
broken by some Anchor," he sighed.
     Lady Lawful bit her lower lip.  Deedee wasn't like any other super-
villain she'd ever met.  He didn't do what he did to cause problems or hurt
people.  In fact, from everything she heard, he was credited for several
advancements in sciences that didn't rely on Violation Physics.
     "So, all you need to get in is someone with an active Magene?" she
asked.  Deedee, who was back to staring at the terminal, grunted an
affirmation.  "Fine.  Untie me."  Deedee spun around, looking more than a bit
confused.  Lady Lawful let out a loud sigh.  "There's only one of us here
with a Magene, right?"
     "Yes," Deedee answered.  He stood up from his chair and walked closer to
Lady Lawful.  "But, you're not supposed to help the bad guys."
     "I'm not helping you," she insisted, "You forced me to do it."  She
glared at Deedee, who had stopped moving as he parsed her words.  "Got it?"
she asked.
     After a second, Deedee nodded again, smiling widely.  "Yes," he
answered, "forced you.  Because that's what we super-villains do!"


     "Hold it right there, puss pocket!" a familiar voice cried out.  He'd
never met the owner in person, but certainly had it on tape.
     "Uh-oh," Doctor Developer groaned.  He quickly pocketed the blocky
processing unit he was working with, and reached for his laser rifle.  Once
again, he inwardly groused over his bad luck; if he'd been born with the
Magene, his basic laser rifle could have been something more.  As it was,
using some rather sophisticated parts he'd acquired from Khadam, it wasn't
more than a peashooter compared to what low end, Tesla-ranking minions could
     He was about to turn and fire his rifle in the direction of the yell,
when a hand gripped the end of the barrel.  The hand yanked the rifle free of
his grip, sending it skittering across the room.
     "If that's broken, you're going to owe me..." he trailed off as the hand
wrapped around his throat.  "Hurk!"
     "You," the voice seethed.  "You left me tied up to a nuclear bomb."  The
hand tightened.  "I should squeeze the life out of you like a bug, you rotten
piece of slime."
     "It wouldn't have...Hurk!"
     The bomb wouldn't have gone off, Doctor Developer tried to explain.
He'd removed the explosive materials from within the bomb, ensuring it would
never have gone supercritical, even if the fissiles would have tripped any
radiation detectors pointed at it.  It was bait to draw in and distract an
unwitting hero, not made to hurt anyone.  Explaining it out loud was going to
be problematic, though, without a functional larynx.
     "Put Deedee down, Depot," another voice, both familiar and welcomed,
said.  Doctor Developer recognized Depot now that he had a name to go with
the mask.  (In fairness to his memory, he had left three heroes chained to
the faux bomb, giving him two possibilities for an unfamiliar face.)  He
hadn't realized the technology hero could move so fast, but suspected it was
just another weapon stored within the hero's namesake.
     "Not this time, Lady," Depot said.  He looked away from Doctor
Developer, back toward the shadows.  "He's gotten away with this enough.  It
ends here and now."  A gloved hand grabbed the arm Depot was using to choke
Doctor Developer.  The sound of tearing metal quickly followed the placement
of the hand, and shortly thereafter, the hand released Doctor Developer.
     "In case you forgot, Depot," Lady Lawful said as she pushed the armored,
so-called hero away from Doctor Developer, who was kneeling on the ground
gasping for air, "we're the good guys.  We don't 'end' things like that."
She jammed a finger into his metallic chest.  "Jack said you were likely to
do this, but I stuck up for you.
     "I told him you were one of us, the Third Strike.  I said there was no
way Depot would go off the farm and try to track Deedee down.  I guess I was
wrong.  I don't like being wrong, Depot."
     "I don't like almost being killed by a piece of trash," Depot said.  He
stood up a bit taller, trying to be as intimidating as one person can be to
another, at least when that other has just torn a chunk of their armor off
with their bare hand.  "You of all people should..."
     "Should know that Deedee's traps are rigged not to work," Lady Lawful
spat back.  "If you'd waited for the results of Jack's investigation, you'd
have known the bomb wouldn't have gone off."  Depot's posture relaxed,
causing him to lose about three inches.  "Get out of here, go back to base,
and you either tell Jack what happened or I will.  We clear?"
     After a minute, Depot nodded.  "As snow," he said.  Without another
word, Depot turned around and stopped back out the way he came in the first
     For a moment, the room was quiet, until Doctor Developer spoke.  "Snow
isn't clear," he said.  His voice was a bit raspy, but worked well enough.
     "Don't you start!" Lady Lawful snapped.  She turned around and offered
the villain a hand up.  After accepting her hand, Doctor Developer was
standing next to his arch-nemesis.  "Hand it over.  Give me the processor
     Doctor Developer sighed, and pulled the block out of his pocket.  "So,
now what?" he asked, "I go to jail?"
     "You should," Lady Lawful grumbled, "but I'm going to give you a
choice."  She set the processor block down on a table.  "Deedee, you can go
to jail if you want, I'll take you myself.  That's once option."
     "What's the other?"
     "You can come work with Jack and myself, be our Third Strike," Lady
Lawful explained.  "Depot's out after this stunt, he probably should have
been out a while back."  She sighed.  "Frankly, Deedee, if you keep pulling
these non-lethal deathtrap stunts, you're going to piss off another Depot,
and I probably won't be around next time.
     "With Depot out, we'll need another tech-guy on the team, someone who
knows real science and applied Violation Physics...I know you don't have the
Magene, but I've seen you work with people who have it before."
     Doctor Developer tried to look as self-important as he could.  After a
second, he let out a small sigh.  "Why me?  I mean," he fumbled, "after all
I've put you through.  I'm a villain."
     "You're no 'villain,'" Lady Lawful said in a tone somewhere between
dismissive and almost motherly.  "I don't think you've ever hurt anyone,
aside from bruising a few egos.  If you wanted me...or any hero...dead, you
wouldn't go through the trouble of the traps.  You'd just shoot us.
     "The choice is yours, though.  I can take you to the police, or I can
take you back to H.Q."
     Doctor Developer rubbed his chin for a moment.  "If I work with you," he
asked, "does that mean no more deathtraps?"  There was an almost hopeful
glint in his eyes.
     "Don't press your luck, buddy," Lady Lawful said with a wry grin, "Jack
has very strict policies about deathtraps in the work place."


     "I don't trust you," Lady Lawful said firmly.  "You're a super-villain,
and super-villains aren't to be trusted."  There was a slightly impish tone
to her voice for the second sentence.
     "I promise," Deedee said.  He made a cross over his heart.  "I think
you'll like this.  Just sit in the chair."  He pointed to a wooden stool.  It
was one of the stools in his machine shop laboratory.  There weren't many
places in the piles of junk where a person could sit; the stool was one of
maybe two of them.  It was, of course, covered by one of the many cameras in
the room.
     "Reluctantly," Lady Lawful said.  She hopped onto the stool.  "Now
     Deedee smiled.  "Watch."
     He clapped his hands together...
     ...which activated a sun lamp...
     ...which shone on a bed of mutated plant seeds...
     ...which started to grow, shooting off tendrils and vines to the side.
     "Superbiotech is really clever," he said proudly.  "I'm told that
because it has its own spirit, it can maintain a Violation Effect itself, so
long as an Anchor isn't nearby.  This could open up a whole new area for me,
I'm surprised it hasn't caught on more widely."
     After a minute the rapidly growing vines began to weigh down a scale...
     ...which caused the needle to slowly inch over from zero pounds on the
left to a greater weight on the right...
     ...which slowly grew taut and eventually had enough pull to flip on an
old fan.
     It took a minute, but the fan's blowing eventually started to move a
small model of a sail car...
     ...which moved across a relatively clean workbench top, until it bumped
into VCR tape...
     ...which fell forward, starting a chain reaction of tapes across another
work bench.  
     As Lady Lawful watched the tapes, she realized they were actually
climbing up an impromptu staircase made of books.  At the top of the stairs,
the last tape fell forward and off the stack.  As it fell, the tape landed on
a toy crossbow sitting on the edge of the table.  The VCR tape hit the
crossbow trigger, firing the suction cup-tipped arrow across the room,
between Lady Lawful and Deedee.
     Attached to the arrow was a string, which was pulled across the room
with the arrow.  As the suction cup slammed itself into the far wall and
stuck, it drew the string out so that a small, shining ring was held aloft
right in front of Lady Lawful.
     She looked down at the ring.  "Is this...?"
     "Jennifer, I know you probably deserve someone who was never a
criminal," Deedee said, trying to look her in the eye, "but we've really made
a pretty good pair the last few months.  Had some fun.  Done a lot of good
with Jack's team.  It's been one of the best times of my life.
     "If you say 'No,' I won't blame you.  There's probably a dozen really
good guys out there who..."
     "Yes!" Lady Lawful said.  She slid her finger through the ring, and
snapped it free from the string.  Once it was unanchored, she slid off her
stool, and embraced Deedee, planting a kiss squarely on his mouth.  "The
answer is *yes*."  Once more the pair shared a kiss, which lasted long enough
for Lady Lawful to realize something.
     "Just one thing, Deedee," she said.
     She looked around the laboratory for a moment.  "Where did those mutated
plants go?" she asked.  "I don't see them."
     "Hm," he looked around.  "Maybe that's why they never caught on.  Too
*much* spirit."


     Kaoru blinked.
     After a long moment, he gingerly took the disc out of the reader, placed
it in its sleeve, and firmly put it away.
     "Deathtraps as courtship.  Right.  I don't think I wanna see volume


Author's Notes:

     I...Andy, aka Jarod, aka Utilitarian, aka a long time
fan of Dvandom's work, both fiction ("Tales of the Intermezzo" to name a
favorite) and factual (his Beast Wars site was an invaluable tool for
collecting Maximals).  When he invited me to write an ASH story, I wish I
could say I leaped at the chance, but that would be giving my ability to
write too much credit.  Suffice to say I thought long hard about it, and
eventually came up with a character to let me combine my take on superheroes
(which is too heavily influenced by Adam Warren, Joe Kelly, Joe Casey, Rick
Cook, and Vernor Vinge...the last two technically aren't even a superhero
writers) with the ASH-verse.  Unfortunately, Deedee isn't even that
character, but I hope you like him all the same.
     Also, in defense of Lady Lawful's
( virtue, lest anyone think
she's smitten to easily, "Development Cycle" takes place over a couple of
years.  There's an entire relationship there, this is supposed to just hit
the high points.

Editor's Notes:

     Here's Deedee:

     I first "met" Andrew via LiveJournal, where he often posts fanfic
vignettes (such as his ongoing series featuring Stargirl and his "Gary Stu"
Thanagarian, Connel Hol), and after reading a few I invited him to write for
ASH.  This Time Capsules issue is a way for him to get his feet wet before
committing to a more structured plotline, and provides some background to
characters he plans to use.
     One thing about his writing is that he likes to push systems as far as
he can get them to go (i.e. "What could Connel do with a Green Lantern ring,
and how annoyed would the Oans be?"), which has meant I've had to think about
some aspects of the ASH setting I hadn't really nailed down...and think fast,
to keep up with him.  :)  Now, I had given thought to some of this stuff
before, such as how much supertech a normal could use (for a while there was
discussion among the ASH writers of someone doing a series set in 1999-2003
involving normals using supertech to try to keep a lid on things), but there
was no guarantee I remembered all of my original answers....
     Note that this is a bit longer than the usual Time Capsules issue, but I
decided it wasn't quite enough to merit breaking into two.  And it's still
shorter than most ASH issues.


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