[LNH] LNH Comics Presents #56: Infinite Leadership Cry.sig Ep.21

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at hotmail.com
Fri Apr 20 17:26:14 PDT 2007

[LNH] LNH Comics Presents #56: Infinite Leadership Cry.sig Ep.21

LNH Comics Presents #56
Infinite Leadership Cry.sig: Episode 21

"Occultism Kid"
by Saxon Brenton

       Dedication: Parts of this story are pastiched from the Dr Who
       novel _Quantum Archangel_ by Craig Hinton (1964-2006) - The man
       who created the word 'fanwank' and wasn't afraid to use it to
       describe his own work.

21st April 2007

     It was the end of the third week of the Legion's so-called
'Infinite Leadership Crisis', and Occultism Kid had decided to change
tack and try an oblique approach to solving the problem. His reasoning
ran like this:
     1) Ever since Ultimate Ninja had gone on vacation, those people
who had come to occupy the position of interim LNH leader had vanished
without trace at midnight. Understandably enough this had caused
considerable concern among the remaining Legionnaires, and they had
attempted to discover what was happening. So far they had failed.
     2) That failure was, quite simply, astonishing. You did not get
a series of over a dozen parallel investigations, some of them being
carried out by quite powerful net.ahumans, all turning up blank. The
sheer range of abilities and methodologies involved - from mundane
forensics and data analysis, through science, super-science and weird
science, magic, mysticism, psionics, reality manipulation and even
metatextual investigation - meant that *something* should have been
     3) The only thing that could have blocked so many different types
of skills and abilities was a plot device. And the only thing that could
have blocked so many different types of often quite potent skills and
abilities was a quite powerful plot device.
     4) Therefore if Occultism Kid wanted to solve the mystery, then
he would need to counter it with an even more powerful plot device of
his own.
     This was the working hypothesis anyway.
     So now he was sitting in his room, leafing through various books
and scrolls and composing a list of possible plot devices that he could
make use of. Around him were the half cleared away attempts of several
weeks worth of failed divinations.
     Some of those divination attempts had been more spectacular failures
than others. At one point, working on the ancient Greek principle that
the mere act of dying and passing into the afterlife could make any old
schlub a font of knowledge, and further extrapolating that a dead LNH
team leader or subteam leader might have particular insight into the
subject, Occultism Kid had tried to consult the shade of Sig.Lad.
     Unfortunately even the 'real' Sig.Lad had been only one of dozens
of .gif copies spread across local space-time by a file indexing error.
Occultism Kid had tried to compensate by fishing for the 'strongest'
representative aura, which you would have thought would have belonged to
the longest lasting example. It did not. Instead Occultism Kid called
forth a compound ghost that combined the astral remains of all the most
unstable and short-lived Sig.Lad copies. This near mindless entity had
then escaped out into the LNH-HQ, gibbering and dripping ectoplasm on
the carpets before Occultism Kid had managed to dispel it back from
whence it came.
     It had been at that moment - standing in the beslimed hallway, with
the other Legionnaires staring at him but not willing to ask what was
going on because he might give them answers - that Occultism Kid had
first begun to suspect interference from a plot device. He decided
against trying to talk with any other deceased team leaders (the next
on his list had been Kid Mysticism of the now defunct Net.Titans) and
began to approach the problem from another angle.
     That had been several days ago. Now Occultism Kid stood up and
stretched, and decided to wander downstairs and get some breakfast
and perhaps have a gawk at what had become the daily ritual of the
appointment of a new LNH leader. At the end of his list - after quite
a number of other entires that included the Ring of Retcon, the Cosmic
Plot Device, the Rung of Revamp, the Penguin of Goon, and the Dvandom
Stranger's Editorial Staff - he wrote 'Insanity Gems'. He frowned
thoughtfully at the list. There were so many possibilities, and it was
taking an awful lot of time to properly assess the relative properties
of each one for which of them would be best for his purposes. He shook
his head and decided to make a final decision after breakfast, then
stuffed the notepad and pen into a pocket in his trenchcoat and locked
his room behind him.
     On the way he met the Hooded Ho`'odwin, who was looking somewhat
out of sorts. "Hi, Hood," he said to the Maid of Matchups. "How are
things going?"
     <(Not well, I am afraid.)> said the Ho`'odwin. <(I have been
continuing my attempts to call back the missing leaders for my contests,
but nothing appears to be working. I am now in a rut of trying new
combinations of people rather than new ideas. Allow me to demonstrate.)>
The Hooded Ho`'odwin's cape billowed dramatically and she said, <(She
Who Must Know demands... Who`'d Win in contest between Sister-State-The-
Obvious and Limp-Asparagus Lad on the best explanation of the current
location of the missing LNH leaders!)>
     Nothing happened.
     <(And so it goes,)> the Ho`'odwin said.
     Occultism Kid said, "Pretty much the same story all over, I guess.
Just keep trying your best. I've got another idea of my own that I want
to try out. Sooner or later *someone* will crack it."
     The Hooded Ho`'odwin nodded. <(Indeed,)> she agreed.
     Over a breakfast which did not in any way consist of cheesecake
Occultism Kid took out the notepad, frowned at the listing for the
Insanity Gems, and because he had a vague recollection that there were
more than six these days, added 'how many?'. Occultism Kid was still
listing the ones he could remember when Pulls-Paper-Out-Of-Hats Lad
said something, and OK realised that he'd missed the naming of today's
leader. Oh well.
     Then he realised that everyone was staring at him. "What?"
     "You're today's leader," said List Lad, duly annotating his own
running tally of LNH leaders.
     The mage frowned. "No. I've got too much to do at the moment to
worry about Ultimate Ninja's paperwork." He recalled how Doctor Stomper
had been made leader and vanished before he could crack the mystery,
leaving behind a robot duplicate of himself which was, in Occultism
Kid's opinion, a poor substitute for the original [_LNH Comics Presents_
#47 - Footnote Girl]  Appointing the Legion's researchers as leaders
really was a stupid waste of resources.
     "What, feeling a bit cluck cluck, are we?" smirked Sarcastic Lad.
     "Shut up, Sarc," said Occultism Kid, rounding on him with an intense
look on his face and causing Sarcastic Lad to take a step backwards.
"Okay, fine. You want me to be LNH leader? You got it. But I'm serious
about having more important things to do. *You* handle the paperwork,
Sarc. Just try not to piss off too many people while you're doing it."
     "What's that supposed to mean? Pissing off people is my schitck.
Hey! Don't turn your back on me!" shouted Sarcastic Lad as Occultism
Kid turned and stalked towards the door. Occultism Kid's only response
was to turn towards another of the LNHers and order, "wReamHack, you're
with me."


     "Right then," said wReamHack as he wheeled a trolley loaded with
pellets of plot devicium out of the LNH armoury. "I remember you coming
up with the theory that all of our efforts are being blocked by a plot
device." He looked dubiously at the iridescent metal on the near over-
flowing trolley. "But is this going to be enough plot devicium get
around that?"
     "The plot devicium isn't to overcome the hypothetical plot device,"
said Occultism Kid as he locked the door to the armoury and started
helping his compatriot manoeuvre the trolley towards his room. "We need
to build up dramatic momentum for this story, building story element
upon story element until we reach our goal, rather than trying to skip
to the conclusion. Fortunately three weeks worth of failed attempts to
find the answer to the mystery of why the LNH leaders are going missing
is a good starting point. The next step is to use half of these plot
devicium slugs as the second plot element and boost my TANDI [Time And
Net.Dimensional Interface - Footnote Girl] and visit Freon in his pocket
     "Freon. That's the cosmic entity that founded the C.H.E.E.E.Z.E
Corps [Cheeezy Heroes Eradicating Every Evil Zealously - Footnote Girl],
right?" said wReamHack, who'd read the files.
     "The same," said Occultism Kid. They wheeled the trolley into
Occultism Kid's room and up to a church confessional that was sitting
incongruously up against one wall. Occultism Kid opened the confessional,
and together they took the trolley into the larger-on-the-inside-than-
on-the-outside space-time travel machine. "Once we meet with Freon,
I'll ask him for a small sample of the Power Gruenwald, of which Freon
is the keeper.
     "The Power Gruenwald will be our third plot element," continued
Occultism Kid as he installed some of the plot devicium into the console
of the TANDI. "With that I plan to breach the barriers that surround
Gallimaufry and use the remaining plot devicium to reinforce some tricks
I've got in mind to keep our arrival undetected. That will enable us
to reach our final plot element and gain the information that we're
looking for."
     "Okay, I know about the Power Gruenwald being able to get through
any dimensional barrier into any universe, but I haven't heard of
Gallimaufry," said wReamHack.
     "Gallimaufry is the home planet of the Time Barons," said Occultism
Kid as he finished programming the console. "They harnessed the power
of a nucleus of a black hole, twisted the worldline of their planet's
history, then withdrew the whole kit-and-kaboodle from this plane of
reality and into a state of being called Inner Time. It's almost
impossible to get to unless you have permission.
     "But as you say, the Power Gruenwald can get into or out of
literally anywhere," reiterated Occultism Kid. "Even places like the
Hemi-demi-semi-plane of Dovecote. The only reason it isn't used to go to
places like the ASH universe or Crossroads is because those are reserved
intellectual properties and the Writers usually respect the 'closed
universe' status that their creators have placed on them. It isn't even
a matter of power or wherewithal... Ah, there we go. All set."
     "So, once we get to the Freonverse you think Freon will give you
some of the Power Gruenwald."
     Occultism Kid grinned at him. "Nope."


     "Who enters the demesne of Freon?"
     "It is I, Occultism Kid, o Freon, and a companion. I have come to
ask a boon."
     "A boon? If it is within my power and the rules, certainly."
     "I am seeking the answer to a mystery which is plaguing the Legion
of Net.Heroes. I need a sample of the Power Gruenwald to gain access to
the Mat.rec.x of Time on Gallimaufry."
     "The Power Gruenwald? I'm afraid that I cannot grant your request,
Occultism Kid. I am bound only to pass on the Power Gruenwald to my
chosen champions in the C.H.E.E.E.Z.E Corps."
     Occultism Kid looked disappointed. "Freon, this is an emergency.
Can you see your way clear to bend that rule just this once?"
     "No. Cosmic entities are bound by rules and strictures that are
all too often incomprehensible to mortals. In certain specialised ways
we do not even have free will. This is one of those cases where I have
no choice in the matter."
     Occultism Kid nodded. "I understand. Very well, thank you for your
time. Come on, wReamHack." The two of them stepped back into the TANDI.
     Occultism Kid activated the controls of the TANDI, causing it to
dematerialise away from the Freonverse. Then he turned to wReamHack.
"So, how'd it go?"
     wReamHack held out his fists, opening them both to reveal that
he was holding a lump of the iridescent plot devicium in each hand.
Occultism Kid took one of the lumps and placed it in a jury-rigged
scanner on the TANDI console. "Great!" enthused Occultism Kid. "Those
two pieces of specially prepared plot devicium have successfully
absorbed some of the Power Gruenwald while we were in Freon's presence."
     wReamHack looked droll and folded his arms. "As I recall from when
you were building the TANDI in the first place, you've never been above
a bit of strategic theft." [_Occultism Kid Year One: All Things Dark And
Scary #2_ - Footnote Girl]
     Once again Occultism Kid just grinned at him.


     The TANDI materialised in a large, dusty, and poorly lit chamber.
"Wonderful," said wReamHack with a lack of enthusiasm as he turned on a
hand torch and shone the beam about the place. "So this is Gallimaufry?"
     Occultism Kid gazed around at the ancient masonry of the vaulted
chamber. "Uh-huh. The earliest and deepest foundations of their Capitol
city, if I got it right. The Time Barons will be in the upper levels more
than half a mile above us. We're not likely to meet anyone down here."
     wReamHack looked at him curiously. "Then why did you cast that
Someone Else's Problem Field spell on us before we arrived? What's the
point of making us effectively invisible if there's no one here that we
have to hide from?"
     "That's for anyone we meet within the Mat.rec.x," Occultism Kid
said as he searched the room for something in the gloom. "Here's a
computer terminal."
     "And are we likely to meet anyone in this all-knowing supercomputer
of theirs?" asked wReamHack as he examined the terminal, wiping away
billennia of dust and grime, and then activating it. "Hey, nifty
technology here to still be working after all this time," he marvelled.
     "We might meet people in there," said Occultism Kid. "The Mat.rec.x
not only stores the information that the Time Barons collect from across
space-time with their scanners in the Panopti.com, but also a copy of
the mind of almost every Time Baron who ever was. The excitonic pathways
of the Mat.rec.x are guarded by the minds of the dead, and it's even said
to be overseen by the awareness of old wRassilon the Lawgiver himself."
     "Huh. Sounds like this break and enter might be a tougher nut to
crack than it first seemed."
     "Well, yeah. But that's why I needed your Mad H4ck0r Skillz," smiled
Occultism Kid.
     "I am l33t, man," agreed wReamHack with good humour and set to work.


     Soon wReamHack said, "Okay, I'm in."
     "With all the speed that I'd expect," Occultism Kid said.
     wReamHack just nodded, neither boastfully or unduly modest. He did
not so much have advanced skills in hacking, or even superskill: hacking,
but rather a full on superpower of hacking that had been granted to him
by the Rung of Revamp, so the outcome had never really been in doubt.
Indeed, it had only taken him as long as three full minutes because of
the non-Terrestrial operating language involved. "It's full immersion
technology," he told Occultism Kid. "We put our hands on that touchplate
beside the terminal, and I'll activate the telepathic circuits."
     They both did so. Immediately their perceptions of the world were
dominated by the mindscape generated by the Mat.rec.x, with only a vague,
lingering awareness of their material presences back in the crypt.
     "Huh. Looks like the old _Tron_ movie," said wReamHack.
     Occultism Kid looked around, nonplussed. "Uh, no. It looks more
like a graveyard on Halloween. Or maybe like a graveyard in Mexi.com on
the Day of the Dead."
     wReamHack glanced around the dark void with pulsing datapaths
etched in silver-blue circuitry patterns stretching to the horizon.
"The shape of what we perceive is probably being dictated by our
personalities and expectations," he speculated. "I've encountered a few
virtual reality systems like that in the past."
     This drew a rueful nod from Occultism Kid. It suddenly occurred
to him that if this ever got out to the members of the Net.Trechcoat
Brigade they'd consider him a laughing stock. He'd probably never hear
the end of it. Their idea of occult investigations involved treachery
and horror that drove its practitioners to insanity or cynical
alcoholism. The mere fact that this setting wasn't littered with
decaying bodies and the stench of death in general would seem to them
like some Disneyfied treacle-trick form of horror.
     "So where do we go?" asked wReamHack, oblivious to Occultism Kid's
     "Mmm?" said Occultism Kid. "Oh. Hmm." He glanced around the
graveyard, lit by an insanely huge harvest moon plus the flickering
candles of all the jack o'lanterns. "Each tombstone, memorial or cenotaph
represents an archival file. I'm not sure how that would translate into
the worldview that you're getting, but ultimately it's a moot point.
There's no way we can search for these visually. Try using a search
program to find the information on the Legion for the past month or so,
and we'll narrow things down from there."
     wReamHack did so, then pointed. "This way," he said and led the
way. "Somewhere around here, I think," he said when they arrived.
Occultism Kid looked at the tombstones, then refined the search further
with a spell of divination to find information on the missing LNH leaders
that used himself as the element of the Law of Similarity. Once he'd
found the one he wanted he hunkered down beside it and touched his hand
to the cold stone.
     wReamHack glanced around, keeping watch. Something seemed to be
wrong. "OK," he said. "There's a wind coming up."
     Occultism Kid nodded. "Probably just a night breeze," he said.
     wReamHack glared at him. "No. A night breeze is a plausible
explanation in a graveyard, but it isn't in an abstract VR space!"
     Occultism Kid blinked. Damn! He was right. "Just a few more
seconds. I've almost got it!"
     "Too late! It's the fuzz!" exclaimed wReamHack. From where he was
the superhacker could see a huge disembodied head, wreathed in energy
and its features a shifting montage with no fixed appearance. "You Have
Trespassed Into The Domain Of The Barons Of Time!" came an echoing voice
like a thunderstorm. "Surrender, Or You Will Be Destroyed!" The thing
was advancing along the datapaths towards them, causing those paths to
be torn up and flung away like ears of corn being ripped up and chaffed
aside by an approaching tornado. It was a creepy effect, but in trying
to scare wReamHack with it the entity had overplayed its hand. He was
a computer administrator. He knew full well if an archive was worth
defending it wasn't worth being torn apart in the course of a search-
and-destroy mission against invaders.
     wReamHack spared barely an instant to wonder ruefully at how
powerful the Mat.rec.x's security systems must be. Occultism Kid had
used up a hefty chunk of the remaining plot devicium on the Somebody
Else's Problem Field, but it looked like it had all been for nothing.
But he had no time to dwell on that. He held up one hand and used his
uberhacking powers to wrest control of the machine code of the operating
system and twist the perceived space between them, straining to keep
the distance the guardian had to cross the same no matter how fast it
advanced on them. It worked - briefly. "OK!" he yelled frantically to
Occultism Kid as the thing overrode his command of the machine code,
broke free and zoomed forward, faster than before.
     Occultism Kid straightened in surprise as he uncovered the identity
of the one behind the disappearing LNH leaders. "Him!?" Then the hard
actinic light of the guardian blazing over the top of the tombstone
caught his attention and then they were totally out of time. Something
that felt like a killer migraine hit him from behind his eyes, and all
he knew was pain.
     wReamHack had been expecting the attack and was therefore better
prepared for the psychic shock of being brutally forced out of the
Mat.rec.x. He staggered to his feet from where his physical body had
collapsed in the crypt, grabbed the stunned Occultism Kid and hauled him
back into the TANDI. Behind them the computer terminal was lighting up
with energy that looked disturbingly to wReamHack like the stuff that
the guardian had been glowing with, and he didn't want to be around if
some defence system opened up with laser fire or, worse, the guardian
was able to manifest physically with something like hard light hologram
technology. wReamHack dropped Occultism Kid unceremoniously on the floor
of the TANDI before hastily closing the door and hitting the emergency
recall control.
     The departing TANDI lurched violently as it was swatted by now
alerted defences of the Time Barons. Occultism Kid slid across the floor
of the control room during the wild bucking. wReamHack was standing up
and had further to fall, and was knocked unconscious.
     There was a painful groaning and wheezing sound from the space-time
machine as it returned to Occultism Kid's room in the LNH-HQ. Occultism
Kid painfully crawled to his knees and blearily looked around.
"Net.ternity's Lights, what an overreaction that was." He looked around.
"Hey, wReamHack, you okay?" He scrabbled over and examined the
unconscious LNHer. It looked like he'd live.
     Then the clock began to chime the hour, and a sudden panicked sense
of urgency came over Occultism Kid. It was midnight.
      Now, Occultism Kid was a mage and worked with symbols rather than
scientifically quantifiable phenomena, so he knew he had until the final
stroke of twelve before he would vanish. But even so he had only seconds
left to tell someone - anyone! - about the missing leaders.
     Leaving the unconscious wReamHack, Occultism Kid raced out of the
TANDI, into his room and then out into the hall of the LNH-HQ. "Hey!
Everybody! Where are you!?" Occultism Kid yelled. He ran down the hall
towards the cafeteria. Half way there he collided with Bad-Timing Boy
and careened headlong into a wall.
     "Hey! Be careful, willya!?" demanded Bad-Timing Boy.
     "SHUT UP!" shouted Occultism Kid.
     "There's no need to be rude," said Bad-Timing Boy huffily.
     "Listen! It's..."
     And then midnight was gone, and so was Occultism Kid.

Character credits:
   Bad-Timing Boy created by Vernon Harmon, and not reserved.
   Freon, the C.H.E.E.E.Z.E Corps, and the Power Gruenwald created by
Kyle Lucke, and cameod without permission.
   Hooded Ho`'odwin and wReamHack created by wReam (Ray Bingham), and
not reserved.
   List Lad created by Scavenger (Todd Kogutt), and not reserved.
   Occultism Kid created by Josh Guerink, and not reserved.
   Pulls-Paper-Out-Of-Hats Lad created by Arthur Spitzer, and not reserved.
   The Time Barons were mentioned in passing as part of the back-history
of the Consultant in _spaceQuest: Raven_ #4 by Kevin Wilcox, and have
been fleshed out without permission.

Saxon Brenton     University of Technology, city library, Sydney Australia
     saxon.brenton at uts.edu.au     saxonbrenton at hotmail.com
The Librarian "liked people who loved and respected books. And the best
way to do that, in the Librarian's opinion, was to leave them on the
shelves where Nature intended them to be." Terry Pratchett, _Men At Arms_

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