[ASH] LL&DD #4 - First To The Future

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at haven.eyrie.org
Wed Aug 15 11:32:18 PDT 2007

     The cover shows Lady Lawful straddling a room divided in two.  On the
left, a distracted Doctor Developer is hunched over a work bench, a
half-eaten sandwich at his side.  On the right, a significnatly older Doctor
Developer stares longingly at Lady Lawful.  She appears frozen in between the
two, uncertain which way to turn.

 Coherent                                                      LL&DD #4
 Comics          | ADY | AWFUL    __        __          "First To The Future"
 Presents an     |__   |__     &  | \ OCTOR | \ EVELOPER    copyright 2007
 ASHistory Tale:                  |_/       |_/            by Andrew Burton

[Friday, September 11, 1996, 3:05pm]

     Fridays were always slow days for Jennifer.  That went doubly so for
Friday afternoons.  By the time three o'clock rolled around, everything had
been researched, written up, and filed for the week.  It was really just a
matter of waiting for the metaphorical whistle to blow.
     "So, Jen, any plans for the weekend?" Diane, a fellow researcher in the
Super-Tech department of the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, asked as
she stuck her head into Jennifer's office.  Diane was one of the lower
Tesla-rated employees, she had just enough of a magene to operate some of the
mysterious artifacts the museum collected.  "Just enough to be dangerous,"
was the running joke.
     Jennifer propped her elbows on her desk, then proper her chin on her
crossed hands.  "Nothing planned," she answered, "how about you?"
     "Oh, same old same old," Diane sighed.  Jennifer knew from past
conversations that meant Diane and her husband would be at home doing
whatever it was they did.  For all she knew, they might very well be fellow
masked fight crime-fighters, but somehow Jennifer doubted it.  Diane waved
her hand at Jennifer.
     "You can't be serious," Diane groused, "you must have something cooked
up for the weekend."  Diane's grinned turned into something quite fox-like.
"Maybe something with that mysterious fiancee of yours."
     Jennifer playfully rolled her eyes at the innuendo.  Truthfully, she had
been trying to think of something for her and Cameron to do together.  The
past week, Cameron had sequestered himself away in his lab on some project.
There had been a couple nights when he hadn't even come home.
     This weekend would actually be a good time to catch up with each other,
now that she thought about it.  "You know, now that you mention it," Jennifer
said wistfully, "I think I just might have something in mind."

               *              *              *              *

[Friday, September 11, 1996, 3:06pm]

     Cameron reared his head back away from the metallic cylinder he was
working on as if he'd been shocked.  His reaction was so sudden that
Prototype, his lab assistant robot, warbled and trained its sights on its
master.  Hearing the noise, Cameron turned around to look at the robot,
looking a bit ashamed.
     "Ever have the feeling that someone has just walked across your grave?"
he asked the robot, mostly rhetorically.  Prototype warbled back.  "Right,
you don't have a grave.  Neither do I, technically."  He rubbed the back of
his head, shivering just to get the nervousness out of his system.

               *              *              *              *

[Friday, September 11, 1996, 5:37pm]

     There were many times Cameron wished he had been born with the Magene.
The ability to seemingly will a machine to work instead of having to
understand every intricacy and law of physics behind seemed like a blessing
those born with it could never truly appreciate.  The times his lack of the
Magene most stung were when he reached a wall in one of his own projects.
Going down one dead-end alley of theory would mean he would have to backtrack
and find another path that would work, instead of just "cheating" his way
past the blockage.
     Cameron let out a disgruntled sigh as he leaned back from his terminal.
"It's not like I have anything better to do," he mused to himself.  This was
at least true on a professional level; barring any major emergency, Jack gave
his latest project top priority.  It was the first time since coming over to
work with the Four Strikes that he'd been given free reign to work on a
project.  Not that his teammates had ever been overtly distrustful about
having an ex-supervillain as their chief technologist, but there had always
been the sidelong glances or spot inspections to make sure he wasn't building
some kind of deathtrap.
     Despite the frustrating setback, it felt good to be allowed to work in a
well stocked, modern labratory, free of interruptions.
     "Hey, Deedee!"
     Almost free.
     Cameron didn't move for a minute, keeping his eyes firmly focused on his
terminal, hoping he would radiate an air of busy that would speak more firmly
yet softly than anything he could verbally.
     After a moment of standing in the doorway, Jennifer spoke again, "Earth
to Deedee," she called.  "I know you're not dead, I can see you breathing."
She stepped into his labratory, arms laden with what looked like grocery
bags.  "Lend me a hand here," she eventually chided him, "I may be strong,
but my arms are getting tired."
     Cameron stood up from his chair and shuffled closer to Jennifer,
reaching out to take a couple of bags out of her arms.  He took two bags in
his arms, which made Jennifer and her load small enough to navigate toward
the mini-fridge Cameron kept tucked away in his lab.  When she was close to
the fridge, Jennifer set her bags down on the floor and began unpacking them.
     "What are you doing?" Cameron finally asked.
     "Restocking your fridge," Jennifer answered nonchalantly.  "And by the
way, 'It sure is nice to see you, Jenny.'"
     Cameron blushed slightly.  "It is nice to see you," he fumbled.  After a
second, he asked, "Did Jack send you?"
     Jennifer turned to look up at Cameron.  "Why would Jack need to send
me?"  she asked, arching an eyebrow.  Her tone wasn't the vapid innocent tone
Cameron expected.
     "Because he thinks I'm working on a deathtrap or something," Cameron
     Jennifer snickered and shook her head.  "No, you dork," she told him.
"I came here because I missed you this week.  You've been working so hard in
here, I thought you might be getting lonely.  That's why I'm here.  I brought
a couple of sandwiches from the deli.  We can have dinner, and then I can
keep you company while you work."
               *              *              *              *

[Friday, September 11, 1996, 8:45pm]

     Cameron smiled to himself as he tapped on the keyboard.  The dead-end
theory he'd been wrestling with only a couple of hours before had given way.
Now it looked like, barring a few minor tests to make sure all the bugs were
shaken out, he'd be ready to show his project off to Jack come Monday.
     He picked up the last bite of his sandwich up from beside his keyboard
and pushed it into his mouth.  Maybe Jenny had been on to something about
having dinner.  He was going to have to thank her for dinner.  He was about
to turn around and go thank her when Jack Striker's head appeared in his
     "Cam," Jack called, "we've got a crisis downtown.  Chro-Know's up to
something.  Will's on the way, but I can't find Jennifer."
     Cameron nodded and pointed over his shoulder toward the back of his lab.
"She's in here with me," he replied.
     Jack's face looked a bit puzzled for a moment, but it didn't last long.
"Tell her to get ready, we're leaving in ten."  Without waiting for a reply,
Jack disappeared from the door, leaving Cameron to alert Jennifer.
     "Looks like tonight's not going to be as quiet as I thought," he said.
Cameron hopped out of his chair, and walked toward the back of his lab where
he previously pointed.  Along the way, he picked up a plastic mister that was
sitting on one of his counter tops.  As he rounded the corner, just past his
mini-fridge, Cameron extended his arm out and began misting the floor in
front of him.
     As soon as the liquid cloud touched the luscious green vines that
cocooned Jennifer from head-to-toe, they began to wither and yellow.  After a
moment, the yellowed vines began to bulge, and ultimately ripped apart to
reveal a very irate Jennifer Blair.
     "You son of a bitch!" she roared.
     "I know, I'm sorry, but Jack said we've got a mission..."
     Once Jennifer was on her feet, she grabbed Cameron's arm and twisted it
behind him.  "You could have just told me you were busy or wanted to be
     "Ow!  I didn't want to be...ow...rude."
     "You...didn't..." she stopped mid-sentence and pushed Cameron forward.
"I can't even talk to you now," she seethed as she walked toward the door.
"Cameron McKay, of all the crazy, stupid crap you've pulled this...this
is...this...."  She stopped and spun around, pointing a finger at him.  "When
this mission is over, you better be sorry.  You better know exactly what to
say, or so help me...."  Turning around again, Jennifer let out a small
shriek, then stormed out of Cameron's lab.
     After a moment, Cameron called out, "Thank you for dinner!"
     Given a bit of thought, he doubted that was what she wanted hear.

               *              *              *              *

[The Future.  Time unknown.]

     The first thing Jennifer saw when she started to regain consciousness
was Cameron's face.  As her eyes adjusted, her vision sharpened, and she
realized that it couldn't be Cameron.  The face before her was older,
wrinkled, and topped off with greying hair.  It was much, much too old to be
her Cameron.
     "Jennifer, how do you feel?" he asked.
     It was his voice.  A bit older and weaker than she remembered, but it
was definitely his voice.  They were his eyes too.  Looking deeper at him,
Jennifer realized without a doubt that she was looking at the same man she
was engaged to marry, despite being impossibly older.
     "How long have I been out?" she asked.  By the time she managed to ask
that, her mind was awake enough to begin processing more than just Cameron.
     She was still in her Lady Lawful costume, though she could tell her mask
had been pulled down.  She was lying in a rather spartan bed in an equally
spartan room.  There was another bed beside her, and next to it a bank of
monitoring equipment.  The room was definitely some kind of medical bay,
which meant whatever happened to her was enough for her to end up in a
medical bay.
     "Just a couple of hours," Cameron said.  His face grew into a wide smile
as he spoke.  It was apparent that he was relieved she was awake, but there
was something more to his smile, aside from about thirty years.  Jennifer
couldn't place it, though.  "What's the last thing you remember?" he asked.
     Jennifer furrowed her brow.  "We had a fight," she said.
     "In case I never said it," Cameron said, "Sorry about that."
     "Then the alarms.  We went to stop..." she paused.  "We went up against
Chro-Know.  Did we stop him?"  Jennifer slowly sat up, despite Cameron's odd,
half-attempted pantomimes for her to stay lying down.  "I grabbed him, and he
used his powers.  That means I'm either in the future or the past."
     "The future," Cameron told her.
     Jennifer smiled.  "I figured as much," she told him, "but since when can
Chro-Know jump more than a year either way?"
     Cameron hesitated for an instant before answering.  "We think it was
your belt," he explained.  "Crazy as it sounds, we think that it augmented
his powers and pushed him more than a year forward."
     "Deedee," Jennifer asked, trying to mix the seriousness of her question
with an inflection of trust, "How far forward did we go?"  Cameron flinched
slightly at her using his pet name.
     "If memory serves, it was ninety-six when it happened," he said, "so
just under thirty years."
     Thirty years explained Cameron's age.  If it was twenty-twenty-six, he
would be just shy of sixty.  She would either be just shy of or exactly
fifty-two, depending on the month.  A thought occured to her.
     "Where am I?" she asked, "I mean the other me.  Did I get back?  Do I
exist here?"  Cameron's face tightened up for a second, and whatever smile
he's had before vanished.  It was enough to make Jennifer's stomach lurch.
"You mean...."
     Cameron shook his head.  "I'm sorry," he said, a sad smile forming on
his lips.  "You've been gone a while, but not like you think" he explained.
"You, Jack, and a few others left on a mission to space a few months back.
Tracking down some organleggers.  I haven't seen you for a...a while.  It
feels like years."
     Jennifer twisted in her bed so that her legs were hanging off the edge.
She reached out to Cameron and hugged him close.  He returned the embrace
with more force than she expected, like he was clinging on to her for dear
     "I've missed you so much," he whispered.
     "It's kind of funny to hear you say that," Jennifer replied, slowly
disentangling herself from Cameron.  "That fight we had, do you remember it?"
Cameron heaved a ragged sigh and nodded.
     "I was an idiot back then."
     "I'm going to tell you that...you...said that," Jennifer told him.
     He snickered.  "I remember that you did...you will anyway, when you go
back.  Don't spare the tongue lashings."  Jennifer laughed.  "I've missed
     "Your laugh," Cameron answered.  Jennifer laughed again.  "Remind me,
when you get back, just how wonderful your laugh is."
     "When can I go back?" Jennifer asked.
     The sad look on Cameron's face retured.  "Is there any rush?" he asked.
     Jennifer paused for a moment to consider his question.  Time travel was
a relative thing.  If done right, she could spend a week or a month in this
time and go back a mere second after she left.  Her only real rush to get
back was to see Cameron and her friends, but at least one part of that rush
was sitting right in front of her.
     "Actually," a new voice interrupted, "there is a rush."
     The speaker was a lanky man in his twenties.  His skin was a light
brown, about the color of her teammate Will.  After a moment, Jennifer
realized there might be a very good reason for that.  She was about to ask
when the speaker introduced himself.
     "I'm Sam Zimmerman," he said, offering Jennifer his hand.  "You knew my
     "Will and Moira," Jennifer grinned, "Is it okay if I tell them?"
     Sam shook his head.  "The less you say when you go back, the better."
     Jennifer understood.  "Which is why I need to go back," she said.  Her
gaze shifted away from Sam and fell onto Cameron.  There was a pained
expression on his face, but any reason for it was lost on her.  She reached
out and patted his shoulder.  "I...she...I'll be back, Deedee.  If you're
here, nothing could keep me away."
     Cameron closed his eyes and nodded.
     "I'm sorry, you two," Sam interrupted, "but if we don't hurry, you," he
nodded at Jennifer, "are going to be stuck here."
     Jennifer stood up from the bed, and was soon followed by Camerom rising
from his chair.  As soon as they were both up, Jennifer slipped her arm
around Cameron's waist, and he followed suit.  For a moment neither moved,
but after a second, Jennifer leaned up to kiss Cameron, brushing her lips
against his.
     "When you get back," Cameron whispered, pausing after the four words,
"tell my younger self," he paused again, "Tell him I said he is an idiot."

               *              *              *              *

     Jennifer stood exactly where Sam had led her.  "I've programmed my spell
to create the rift around you," Sam explained, "If you just stand there...."
He trailed off when he realized Jennifer was trying to stifle a laugh.  "Um,
are you okay?"
     "Programmed your spell," she repeated, "I can't even imagine what Will
and Moira would say if I told them that their son is going to grow up
programming magic."  She let out a last snicker before adding, "But I won't
tell them.  I promise."
     "Uh," Sam hemmed, "thanks.  Don't worry, though," he added, "remember,
they were there."
     "Good point."
     "Anyway, you stand right where you are," Sam instructed her, "you'll be
able to see me right through there."  He pointed to a window that led to an
adjoining room, a room where Cameron was staring intently at an old, banged
laptop.  "Just so you know," Sam added, "speaking as someone with, I guess
you could say, perspective...he does love you.  I know how he can be a...
     Jennifer grinned.  "I know," she said, interrupting Sam's apology by
     Sam nodded.  "Okay, then."
     Without another word Sam spun around, and sprinted toward the door to
the adjoining room.  Jennifer watched as he entered, the noise catching
Cameron's attention.  There was a short, heated discussion between the two,
which ended when Sam shook his head.  Cameron stood up from where he was
sitting and walked toward the window, watching Jennifer.
     He put his hand against the window and mouthed, "I love you," to her.
     In reply, Jennifer crossed her arms over her breasts and mouthed back,
"I love you back."
     The next sensation she was aware of was a roaring noise and blinding
light.  It lasted all of two seconds before overwhelming her.  Jennifer felt
her legs give out from below her, and it felt like she was falling through

               *              *              *              *

     "Don't do this, Spaz," Cameron said as the young mage walked into the
observation-cum-control room.  "Just give me a day with her, please."  The
plead fell on deaf ears.
     "No, Cam," Sam replied, "If I give you a day, you'll want a week, then a
month, and then who knows.  I shouldn't have let you talk to her this much."
     "But you did, and nothing happened," Cameron replied, "What's a little
more time?"
     Sam shook his head and moved to sit down behind his laptop.  Cameron
stood up from his seat, walking toward the window.  "You're not the only one
who lost someone back then.  At least you know who you're missing."
     Cameron didn't reply to his friend's works, he simply reached out and
placed his hand against the window, adding, "I love you," as slowly and
clearly as he could.  Tears stung his eyes as he saw Jennifer crossing her
arms and replying.
     "Here goes," Sam said, following his statement with a clatter of keys.
     In a moments time, Jennifer was enveloped by a bright, white light that
lasted for an instant.  When it dimmed to nothing, Cameron found himself
staring out into an empty room.  For the third time in his life, his beloved
Jennifer vanished right in front of his eyes.  For the second time, she
wouldn't be coming back.
     "Cam, I'm..."
     "If you say you're sorry," Cameron growled, "I will kill you myself."
     Sam nodded without another word.  After a moment, he folded up his
laptop and turned to leave the room, pausing only once at the door.  A second
thought restarted him walking, leaving Cameron McKay to mourn.
     As he stepped out into the hallway, Sam stopped as he nearly tripped
over a pair of legs stretched out in the hallway.  "Hey, Rachel," Sam said
with a nod.  The legs tucked themselves up and soon rose to a standing
     Rachel Torres was roughly the same height as Sam, despite being barely
out of puberty.  Her skin was a few shades darker than his own, but her eyes
were much brighter and green, where his were brown.  She wasn't wearing her
costume at the moment, but if she had, she would have cut her usual, striking
     "Is he...okay?" she asked, inclining her head toward the room Sam had
just left.  Sam shook his head.  That was all the answer Rachel needed, she
reached for the door knob.
     "Rachel," Sam said both tenderly and firmly, "He needs time alone.  Talk
to him later, but right now...the last thing he needs is to see another Lady


Next Issue:

     Now that Lady Lawful's back home, it's time to visit Doctor Developer's
old haunts.  Next time the domesic duo learns, unfortunately, "You Can Go


Author's Notes:

     Spoiler alert!  Spoiler alert!  Yes, that's Rachel, one of the three
kids that Deedee picked up in "The Reverse Engineers" #0 a while back.  She's
the third Lady Lawful, something that will be better explained in the
upcoming #1 issue of TRE.


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