[ASH] Time Capsules #10 - Mayflies
Dave Van Domelen
dvandom at haven.eyrie.org
Thu Jul 19 12:23:58 PDT 2007
Cover shows Kaoru Spinoza sitting back and reading an aged and yellowing
diary. Half-strength in the background are images of Dragonfly and Ladyhawke
taken from Coherent Super Stories #1-4.
//|| //^^\\ || || .|. COHERENT COMICS UNINCORPORATED PRESENTS
// || \\ || || --X---------------------------------------------
//====TIME=CAPSULES====== '|` ASH UNIVERSE: TIME CAPSULES #10
// || \\ || || "Mayflies"
// || \\__// || || Copyright 2007 by Dave Van Domelen
[June 23, 2136 - East Lansing Archaeological Dig, Earth]
"Ready, Mr. Spinoza?" Doctor Smith asked.
"Never readier," Kaoru replied, finger poised over the touchscreen.
Kaoru knew, intellectually, that archaeology was about the little
things, and building up the big picture from them, but that didn't make the
occasional "vid moment" less exciting. After weeks of careful sifting on his
first significant dig, of using imaging technology to peer through dirt and
metal at each step, of carefully recording every little detail no matter how
inconsequential it might seem...they were about to open the vault.
The entire dig had been encased in a bubble before he'd even arrived for
the season, of course. He, Doctor Smith and the other grad students all wore
skintight cleansuits and breathing apparatuses in the xenon atmosphere
maintained inside the bubble. That way, when the vault was opened, there'd
be no contamination. Pressure in the dome matched that inside the vault as
closely as their readings could gauge it, so nothing would blow in or out. A
small eddy was inevitable from the opening itself, but even that would be
kept to a minimum.
In other words, every precaution had been taken to suck as much drama
out of the moment as possible.
It was still dramatic as hell, as far as Kaoru was concerned.
"Go," Doctor Smith nodded, and Kaoru tapped the screen. The automatic
systems slowly turned the dial on the combination lock to the numbers
indicated by scans of the interior. Slowly and gingerly, in case any
corrosion had slipped past the mechanical eyes of their scanners. The vault
itself was a historical artifact, as much as its contents were, after all.
Breaking it in a rush to get at the contents would just be bad science.
As the dial clicked around, Kaoru reflected on what they already knew.
The property had belonged to Robert and Amy Baines in the 1970s, a duo
that history now knew to be leading superheroes of the Second Heroic Age,
Dragonfly and Ladyhawke. Shortly after Robert's death in 1979, Amy had moved
to Chicago, leasing the house to a series of tenants but never selling it...
and never returning either, apparently, for scans showed it still contained a
wealth of artifacts. Several Dragonfly and Ladyhawke costumes, assorted
peripheral gear, and a number of books.
It was the books that he most looked forward to seeing with his own
eyes. Scans had already told them most of what could be gleaned from the
technology inside the vault, but they couldn't read pages on paper (yet,
anyway...every so often someone claimed to have devised a scanner that could,
but it never worked out well enough for field work).
Despite his lack of seniority at the dig, Kaoru's extensive experience
studying the era in general and superhumans in specific had quickly made him
Dr. Smith's right hand man.
There was a final click, and the door slowly eased open. Kaoru resisted
the urge to try to bait Dr. Smith into the hoary old Tutankhamun exchange
about "wonderful things".
Besides, he could see inside clearly enough himself. And on top of the
stack of books was exactly what scan refinement had suggested would be there,
a wondrous thing in its own right, more so than any glittering gold.
* * * *
[June 29, 2136]
Carefully, with mechanical precision, the robot hand turned another page
of the aged journal inside the xenon-filled box. Kaoru's computer screen
showed the pages, automatically applying rough first-pass filters to correct
for fading ink and discolored pages.
It was a sad story, really, at least in this volume. The journal had
taken up five books, but while the first four were stacked first to fourth in
order, the last one had been set askew atop the stack, as if the first
volumes had been loaded into the vault before the final was complete.
Most of what he'd read so far was either a matter of existing public
record, or minutae of Robert Baines's personal life that he'd leave to those
more interested in studying the man in depth. Frankly, Kaoru was more
interested in the big secrets right now. And he thought he might be hitting
another one now....
* * * *
[May 25, 1976]
Nothing special happened today, but I couldn't shake the feeling that
something SHOULD have happened. All day long, I kept looking at the phone,
or checking the radio, I even went into the basement and checked the Z-tector
a half dozen times! But nothing happened.
Amy joked that I need to make a flying wheelchair and get back into
action, that I was going stir-crazy. Actually, I have made a hovering
wheelchair, but the chemotherapy has been making me too susceptible to nausea
to actually fly. A short hop up the stairs and I'm starting to go a little
green around the gills. At least Amy got over HER morning sickness. And it
was only in the morning.
Flower Power offered to send me an "herbal" remedy for that, which I
suspect involves THC. Still, I may take her up on the offer, especially
since it looks like I'm not getting a replacement DSHA liaison, so there
won't be any governmental types snooping around.
* * * *
[June 29, 2136]
The next several entries were pretty normal, at least for a retired
superhero with cancer. Notes on his wife's pregnancy, references to
technical papers (also found in the vault), some musing about the
inevitability of bowing out of the superheroic life for good.
The entry for July 1, 1976 was just a clipping from the local newspaper,
Lansing's "State Journal". The robot arm carefully unfolded it, revealing a
grainy grayscale photo of Dragonfly and Ladyhawke under the headline,
"DETROIT DUO RETIRES!" A short piece was printed below the photo.
"Citing lingering injuries resulting from the Dimension Z invasion of
last year, Dragonfly and Ladyhawke sent local and national media a letter
explaining their decision to retire from heroics (for full text, see page
A2). The governor is expected to comment on this tomorrow, but has released
a preliminary statement expressing gratitude for their years of selfless
service to humanity. (See A8 for the SJ's farewell to the duo.)"
Oddly, Baines had written no comment that day, or for several days
afterward. Nor was there a clipping of the governor's promised statement,
although Kaoru made a note to check the State Journal's archives later to see
what he could turn up.
When entries did start up again, they were fairly terse, as if Baines
was reluctant to even talk about matters to himself. But then Kaoru found an
* * * *
[July 26, 1976]
Found something odd in the yard today. A sinkhole, maybe six or seven
feet deep and almost as wide. My best guess is that it formed overnight, and
was the real reason I woke up in the middle of the night, but I was too
groggy to go check once it became clear there wasn't anything attacking or on
It's about ten feet from the edge of the secret part of the basement,
Amy thinks maybe it was the result of our having disturbed something when we
built the addition a few years ago, and it just now collapsed after years of
slow erosion or something. Thing is, it's a dry hole, so it's not like I'd
dug too close to the water table, or broken a pipe somewhere.
On a hunch, I pulled out the Z-tector, and did get some really faint
pings, but it's hard to be sure if the hole was really the cause, given how
much weird stuff has come and gone through our basement over the years. I
might even have triggered random dimensional pockmarking with my gravity
Oh, I can just see ever trying to sell this house. "Anything else we
should know?" the realtor would ask. "Well," I'd reply, "there's a
persistent knock in the water pipes in the winter...oh, and you might
occasionally have a dimensional inversion happen and take a few cubic yards
of reality away. Nothing to worry about, though, I'm pretty sure it'll take
all of a person, not just half."
Anyway, as long as we have a brand new hole without the need for any
digging, I'm thinking of putting in a vault. Hide some of the more sensitive
stuff from the lab, maybe let me turn the basement into a rec room or
something. Hey, the little one's going to grow up eventually, and might
appreciate having a basement bedroom away from the parents. And away from
the other children, if we're lucky. Waste not, want not.
* * * *
[June 29, 2136]
Another newspaper clipping, this one small enough it didn't need to be
unfolded, although care had to be taken turning its page, since the adhesive
strips used to secure it had long since decayed. It was a birth notice, for
one Rodney Casey Baines, born August 4, 1976 with a birth weight of 8 pounds,
13 ounces. Kaoru started to convert that to kilograms, but rolled his eyes.
"Like I know what a reasonable birth weight is in the first place," he
smirked to himself.
Rodney, at least, had grown up healthy. History knew him as Rad, the
infamous radiation-wielding member of the original Academy of Super-Heroes
during the Third Heroic Age. Also, perhaps unjustly, notorious for being
knocked unconscious more frequently than almost any other hero of his age.
But what did people expect? The kid fired beams of hard radiation that could
melt through heavy armor! Of course the badguys are going to concentrate on
dropping him as quickly as possible!
And, of course, he vanished with the rest of the paranormals in 1998.
Entries were sparse for a while after the birth, no doubt because Robert
had his hands full helping with the baby. At least Rodney didn't become
radioactive until his teen years....
* * * *
[May 11, 1977]
I've asked for, and gotten permission to take, an extended sick leave.
The doctor was right, the cancer metasatized (or however that's spelled?)
and spread before they took off my leg. The chemo's been keeping it in check
to some extent, but even going in to work at the office twice a week is too
much. What little energy I have is spent helping Amy with little Roddy.
At least I've found some interesting theoretical problems to chew on, so
I can keep doing research from home. There's not as much grant money in
theory as there is in experiment, but the NSF just established a fund for
Violation Physics and they're tossing money to just about anyone with a shred
of a reputation to work on anything related to VP, so I should be able to
keep the Dean happy as long as I still have the energy to read and write.
Wilson's been sending me preprints of his work, and Chuck's been letting me
know about his exploits in the field using the gear I made him, so I've got
some data to work with.
The suits and spares went in the vault yesterday, along with my older
private diaries. Basically, anything that couldn't be explained by my
professional interest in superhero stuff went in, just in case. Especially
since I might need to hire a nurse to come in and check on me, if I want to
put off living in a hospital.
We ended up doing some digging after all, so we could access the vault
from the basement, but Chuck helped on the gruntwork. And we're concealing
the opening really well, so if Roddy does end up with it as a bedroom, he
shouldn't stumble on the opening.
Yeah, that's gonna work. Right.
* * * *
[June 29, 2136]
Not a lot of entries of any kind after that, mostly short notes on trips
taken (or cancelled) and papers written. Kaoru expected there'd be more of
use in the technical journals for this time period. "Chuck" was Chuck Morse,
the non-powered superhero known as Weapons Master, most likely. And "Wilson"
had to be Wilson Blair, a fellow Violation Physics researcher, and husband of
the first Lady Lawful.
Ominously, the final entry in Robert's hand was followed by another
newspaper clipping, this one held in by a metal clip, from the April 2, 1979
edition of the State Journal.
"BAINES, DR. ROBERT 'BOBBY' - Born September 22, 1946, died April 1,
1979 after a long struggle with bone cancer. The son of Sgt James Baines and
wife Corazon, Robert was a professor at Michigan State University from 1971
until his death. He was made an honorary full professor in 1978. His
research specialty was the new field of Violation Physics, the study of the
ways in which superhumans can do the amazing things they're capable of.
Diagnosed with cancer in 1976, he managed to stay active in his field until a
few months before his death. He is survived by his parents, his wife Amy
Corrigan Baines, and son Rodney Casey Baines. A memorial service is planned
for April 4."
It was strange. With only a few exceptions, everyone who had been alive
back then was long dead and gone...but it felt like Baines had just died.
Maybe spending several days with the man's private memories brought him back
to life, in a way, if only for a while.
There were only two more entries after the obit, neither in Robert
Baines's handwriting, unsurprisingly. The first was dated, and while not
signed it was almost definitely written by Amy Baines, his widow. He had to
chuckle a little at the gallows humor of the opening sentence....
* * * *
[September 12, 1979]
If you're reading this, hopefully it's either because I finally felt it
was safe enough to reveal Bobby's and my secret lives, or you're an
archaeologist far enough in the future that it won't matter anymore.
I'm putting my husband's last diary and the rest of our
"paraprofessional" mementos into this vault and sealing it, then collapsing
the tunnel that leads to the vault. I can always tell Rodney about all of
this when he's old enough to understand, but -
There's too many memories here. In this vault, in this house, in this
STATE. I thought I could handle it. It's not like his death was a surprise,
in battle or hit by a car or whatever. I had plenty of time to prepare, but
I guess you can never really prepare for this kind of thing.
So I'm moving to Chicago, at least for now. Maybe I'll head out farther
west, put even more distance between me and this place. I'm going to rent
the house out, I've already found a junior faculty who's getting married and
needs to get out of campus-owned housing, so I'll have that income to add to
savings while I get on my feet. Thank God for medical insurance! The lease
includes strict terms about not doing any remodeling without getting my
permission, so the vault should be safe from discovery.
I can't think of anything else I want to write. Or maybe I can't narrow
it down. Too much to say is about the same as nothing, isn't it? I can't
fit it out through the pen.
* * * *
[June 29, 2136]
"Guess it never was safe," Kaoru muttered to the empty air. He knew
that the secret behind Ladyhawke and Dragonfly did get out in the mid 1990s,
but by then it may have been too hectic to go back and retrieve the vault.
Or maybe Amy just wanted to let it stay buried instead of picking at old
wounds. Or she planned to let Rodney open it when he got old enough...and he
didn't live to see his 21st birthday.
The final entry had no date, and was simply, "I'm sorry I couldn't save
"Let's see if I can get a time on this," he said to no one in
particular. Chemical analysis of the air inside the vault was still being
narrowed down, but he could check the ink right now.
Non-destructive spectroscopy results scrolled onto the screen, quickly
vanishing and being replaced by a list of possible ink manufacturers from the
central database. It wasn't a very precise means of dating, but it did tell
him something very important.
None of the inks on the list were manufactured prior to 2010.
After reading comments about Coherent Super Stories #4, and thinking
about the matter, I decided that the readers deserved a fuller explanation of
what happened in the "Mainline" ASH continuity after the divergence point in
1976. Unfortunately, I decided this as I was trying to get to sleep on a
Sunday night, and didn't manage to actually GET to sleep until I'd roughed
out pretty much the entire thing in my head an hour or so later. The next
day was a tad bleary, needless to say. Initially the idea was to tack a
couple scenes onto CSS #6 as a backup, since that issue looked like it might
be a little slender, but it quickly grew out of control and ate my brain.
The Lansing State Journal was still called just the State Journal in the
1970s, changing its name to the LSJ in 1980. Thank you, Wikipedia. :)
The title of this issue was actually one of the abandoned issue titles
for Dragonfly's arc in CSS. Waste not, want not! ;)
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