EDMLite robrogers72 at gmail.com
Tue Jun 5 22:57:02 PDT 2007

LNH Comics Presents #98:

Cynical Lass

"The Time-Traveler's Girlfriend"

By Rob Rogers

8:30 a.m., Saturday, April 63

    On the morning that would have been her birthday
under anything that resembled normal circumstances,
Cynical Lass awoke with a dry mouth, a pounding head
and an urgent need for a cigarette.

    She rolled over, crushing the cover of the book
she'd fallen asleep reading last night, and lifted
the edge of the blinds that covered her window.  The
sky was a pale greyish-white, as though someone had
forgotten to color it in.  The rooftops and billboards
and the whole crazy mess of Net.ropolis was still there,
though it was too early for Cynical Lass to decide
whether that was reassuring or not.

    Coffee would help.

    She pulled herself into the grey shapeless
sweatshirt and black jeans that she'd flung on to
her desk chair last night and hunted around for a
cigarette.  Nothing.  She tugged on the cord at the
edge of the blinds, raised them just enough to see
it had begun spitting rain, and let it go.

    "Damn," she muttered.  "If I wanted to spend my
birthday feeling lousy in an overpriced city with
miserable weather, I could've stayed in London.net."

    Actually, she thought, that wasn't a bad idea.
She was due to go home, of course, when her internship
ended at the end of May.  But for reasons that no one
she knew had been able to explain -- and since she'd
joined the Legion of Net.Heroes, Cynical Lass had found
herself surrounded by people who loved to explain things
-- April had lasted 63 days so far, and showed
no sign of stopping at any time in the near future.
Surely the Legion wouldn't mind if she spent a few days
at home?  For all she knew, she'd make it back before the
month was half over.

    She resolved to ask whomever the leader of the
day was for permission, as soon as she'd ingested
enough coffee to allow civilized conversation with
another human being to become possible.  Unfortunately,
Kid Recap found her first.

    "Oh man," said the Sultan of Summaries, unshaven and
bedraggled-looking as he stumbled down the hall.  From
the rumpled state of his cape and tights Cynical Lass
concluded that he had slept in his costume.

    "What a night," Kid Recap said.  "That Forgetting
One may not have been much of a leader, but he sure
threw one hell of a going-away party for himself."

    "I see what you mean," Cynical Lass said,
stepping over Narcoleptic Lad, who'd fallen asleep

with a party streamer in his mouth.  The little paper
tube curled and uncurled with a wheeze as he slept.
"I almost wish I'd been to the party.  It's always
nice to have a legitimate reason to feel like ass
in the morning."

    The two heroes pushed their way through the
double doors of the cafeteria, where they found Pulls
Paper-Out-of-Hats Lad, Innovative-Offense Boy and the
Dismal-Hope Kid standing around the coffee maker.
A woman with a lampshade over her head had fallen
asleep in one of the plastic chairs beside them.

    "I feel *@#$%^& terrible about it," Innovative-
Offense Boy was saying.  "And I'm sure I'd feel even
worse if I could remember what the *@#$%^ we did with

    "It was the kiwi conga line that finally did me
in," the Dismal-Hope Kid admitted.  "I kept thinking
those little green birds had to wear out sooner or
later.  I completely forgot they're nocturnal."

    "Morning, guys," Cynical Lass said, pouring
herself a sludgy black cup of inspiration.

    "Not so loud," the Dismal-Hope Kid said,
pointing to the woman with the lampshade.  "Fourth
Wall Lass had kind of a rough night."

    Fourth Wall Lass giggled, the sound echoing
beneath the shade.

    "Does Retcon Lad know what condition she's in?"
Cynical Lass whispered.  "Or her writer, for that

    "Those writers," Fourth Wall Lass mumbled.
"Could tell you a thing or two about those writers."

    "Anyway," Cynical Lass said.  "If you guys
wouldn't mind pointing me in the direction of
today's leader, I'll be on my way."

    "I knew there was something I was supposed to
do this morning," said Pulls-Paper-Out-Of-Hats Lad,
smacking himself in the forehead.  "Hang on.
I'll have the name of the new leader for you, as
soon as this cafeteria stops spinning.

    "Is anybody here up to reading this?" he
said a moment later, drawing a brittle blue slip
of paper from his hat.

    "Let's see," Kid Recap said, taking the paper.
"Well, Cynical Lass, congratulations.  According to
the tradition we established way back on April 4,
after Ultimate Ninja and most of the senior staff
disappeared, you're the new leader of the Legion
of Net.Heroes."

    Cynical Lass said something unprintable, causing
three of the heroes to jump and Innovative-Offense Boy
to nod with respect.

    "I can't be leader," she said.  "I'm an intern,
for chrissake."

    "We've had sidekicks, part-time members, a
receptionist, several birds, a demon and Super
Apathy Lad," Pulls-Paper-Out-Of-Hats Lad said,
ticking off the points on each of the six fingers
on his right hand.  "You couldn't possibly do any

    "Thanks for the vote of confidence," Cynical Lass

    The other Legionnaires looked at the floor.

    "Hey," the Dismal-Hope Kid said, after a few
minutes had passed.  "It's entirely possible you'll
discover the reason why all of the other leaders
disappeared before you yourself vanish at midnight."

    "That's right," Innovative-Offense Boy said.
"Just because Dr. Stomper couldn't @#$%^& figure
it out..."

    "...or Adamant-Authority-On-Everything, or
Occultism Kid, or Kid Kirby, or Limp-Asparagus
Lad..." Kid Recap added.

    "Limp-Asparagus Lad," Fourth Wall Lass
giggled.  "I could tell you some stories about
Limp-Asparagus Lad..."

    "Look," Cynical Lass said, stabbing a finger
into Innovative-Offense Boy's chest.  "You're
supposed to be brilliant at this sort of thing.
Aren't there any possible suspects, however
remote, whom you haven't yet ruled out completely?"

    "Huh," Innovative-Offense Boy said, rubbing
his chin.  "I suppose making all of the members of
the LNH into leaders, thus raising their value, and
then collecting them does fit the *@#$%^&ing M.O.
of the Fan.Dom of the Alt.Ra."

    "We just never investigated him, because it
seemed so unlikely that Scav would let anyone use the
character," Kid Recap explained.

    "Scav," Fourth Wall Lass said.  "I could tell
you some stories about..."

    "And you," Cynical Lass said, removing the
lampshade from the heroine's head.  "You have
the power to read ahead, to discover what happens in
a storyline long before the rest of us do.  Has the
last chapter of this particular crisis been written?
Have you read it?"

    "'Course I read it," Fourth Wall Lass said,
her eyes still closed.

    The assembled Legionnaires held their breath.

    "And?" Cynical Lass asked.

    "I remember it being somewhat anticlimactic."

    "What else?" Cynical Lass demanded, shaking her.
"Who is responsible for stealing our leaders?"

     "Take it easy," the Dismal-Hope Kid said,
placing a hand on Cynical Lass' arm.  "She really
has been through a lot.  I get the feeling that
whatever she saw on her last trip through the Fourth
Wall shook her up a bit."

    "Okay," said Cynical Lass, pulling a cigarette
out from behind her ear and lighting it.  "First rule
of the day: smoking is now allowed in the cafeteria.
Next.  Innovative-Offense Boy, you and Kid Recap
track down the latest whereabouts of the Fan.Dom."

    "Anything that'll help me find Jean," said
Innovative-Offense Boy, whose wife, Ordinary Lady,
had served as leader before disappearing weeks before.

    "And you," Cynical Lass said, pointing to
Pulls-Paper-Out-Of-Hats Lad.  "Take Fourth Wall Lass
to the medilab and ask them to do whatever it takes
to help restore her memory.  Then find WikiBoy."

    "Pardon me," said Punctuality Lad, stepping
through the cafeteria doors and looking much more
awake and refreshed than the other heroes.  "I'm
looking for today's leader."

    Cynical Lass raised her cigarette.

    "Very good," Punctuality Lad said.  "There's an
incident you may want to attend to on the McCoskey
Bridge.  Someone who's planning to jump."

    "Not to be blunt, but this doesn't sound like
the sort of thing we usually look into," Cynical
Lass said.  "Is it Plummet?"

    "Actually, no," Punctuality Lad said.  "It's
the Time Crapper."

        *               *               *

    wReamHack awoke on the couch in Ultimate Ninja's
office with a sharp pain in his temple and an even
greater one in the small of his back.  With some
difficulty he arose and staggered toward the
doorway, which he found Kid Shakespeare using to
support himself.

    "Lord, what tools these portals be," Kid
Shakespeare said.

    "Kid Shakespeare!  Oh, God... I woke up in
Ultimate Ninja's office... and I have no idea how I
got there.  I'm not the leader of the team, am I?"

    "You cram these words into mine ears against the
stomach of my sense," Kid Shakespeare said, his
pale and somewhat green face showing concern.
"Hereafter, in some better world than this, I shall
desire more knowledge of you.  For now, mayhap,
an Excedrin would suffice."

    "There's no time for that now," wReamHack said,
holding up a plastic Ziploc bag with an unusually-
shaped object inside.  "Look!  I found this on the
couch.  Apparently I'd been sleeping on top of it."

    "Your face is a book," Kid Shakespeare said,
"and yet I understand not the strange matter that I
read there."

    "It's the Rung of Revamp," wReamHack said.
"Yesterday, while I was in God-knows-what condition,
I must have flown to Jungle Island, found it, and
brought it back here.  And that means somebody --
you, me, or the entire rest of the Legion -- could
be walking around with all-new superpowers and
not even know it!"

    "Alas," Kid Shakespeare agreed.  "We know what
we are, but we know not what we might be."

        *               *               *

    "Are we sure that's the Time Crapper?" Cynical
Lass said, the wind scattering her hair into a
thousand directions as she approached the edge of the
bridge.  Then the breeze shifted, and she wrinkled her
nose.  "Never mind," she said.  "That's him, all right."

    "Anal-Retentive Archive Kid told me that somebody
jumps off the bridge about once every two weeks," the
Dismal-Hope Kid said.  "The city used to keep track of
the number, but stopped releasing the data when the
aldermen realized people were competing to be the

    "And I thought I had morbid conversations," Cynical
Lass said.  "Okay, Crapper.  What's your story?  Are you
the one responsible for parking the calendar in April?"

    The Time Crapper never took his eyes from the waters
of Net.ropolis Bay.  "Her name is Tamela," he said.

    Cynical Lass sighed.  "Is this going to be one of those
moments where you pour your heart out to me talking about
some lost love of your life?" she asked.  "Because if it
is, I'm going to need another pack of cigarettes, and
probably a drink.  I'm really not in the mood for this
right now."

    "We met in Hartford," the Crapper said, kicking a
pebble toward the open water.  "At a Ronald Mallett
lecture.  She was wearing a tan cashmere sweater and
hot pink fishnet stockings.  And glasses.  She had these
old lady librarian glasses that would have looked dowdy
on anybody but her and Lisa Loeb.  And she was even more
beautiful than Lisa Loeb."

    "You had me at 'fishnets,' " the Dismal-Hope Kid

    "Yada, yada, yada," Cynical Lass said, making
circling motions with her cigarette.  "Are you jumping,
or not jumping?  Because I could really stand to go for..."

    "IT WAS SUPPOSED TO WORK!" the Time Crapper shouted,
startling Cynical Lass so much that she dropped her
cigarette.  "I did everything the book said!  Everything!
And she still won't talk to me."

    "You do know that you smell like a wet cesspool,"
Cynical Lass said.  "That's the sort of thing you
really might want to think about when trying to win
back the girl of your dreams.  Women notice these
things, you know."

    "What book?" the Dismal-Hope Kid asked.

    "This," the Time Crapper said, holding up a dog-
eared copy of 'The Surprise,' a best-selling self-help
book whose author had been a frequent guest on the
'McLaughlin Man' talk show.

    "I've heard of that book," the Dismal-Hope Kid
said.  "Isn't that the one that says if you know
exactly what you want, and you believe in it hard
enough, and ask for it clearly, that it will come to

    The Time Crapper nodded.

    "Wow," Cynical Lass said.  "Being steeped in
excrement for all of these years must have destroyed
your capacity to know bulls@#t when you see it."

    "I asked for Tamela to forgive me," the Crapper
said, taking a step towards the edge of the bridge.
"I wanted her to come back to me.  For things to be
just like the way they used to be."

    "Maybe that was the problem," the Dismal-Hope Kid

    "What do you mean?" the Time Crapper asked.

    "You asked for her to come back to you, and for
things to be exactly the way they were," the Kid said.
"But people change, especially after a breakup.  If
you want her to be a part of your life again, you
need to accept the fact that she may be a different
person now."

    The Time Crapper raised his head.

    "Of course," he said.  "How could I be so blind?

Thank you..."

    A brilliant light washed over the bridge, and he
was gone.

    "There goes the dream of every man who was ever
dumped," the Dismal-Hope Kid said.

    "To be an emotionally unstable time-traveling stalker
covered in @#$%^&?" Cynical Lass asked.

    "To have the ability to go back in time and sort out
the problems with his relationship," the Kid said.

    "Whatever," Cynical Lass said, turning away from the
water.  "Let's get back to headquarters.  I'm never going
to get the smell out of this sweatshirt."

        *               *               *

    "Doctor Bad-Bedside Manner," Pulls-Paper-Out-of-Hats
Lad said, leading Fourth Wall Lass into the medical center.
"Thank God you're here.  She really needs your..."

    "Strip," the doctor said, without looking up from
his Sudoku.

    "What?" Pulls-Paper-Out-of-Hats Lad said.  "But I'm
not here about me.  It's about..."

    "I said STRIP!" Doctor Bad-Bedside-Manner shouted,
slamming his pen and clipboard into the stainless steel
counter.  "Are YOU the doctor here?  Is YOUR name
Paper-That-Are-Of-No-Use-To-Anyone?  Did YOU spend
twelve years of your life in medical correspondence

    "N...no," said Pulls-Paper-Out-Of-Hats-Lad, who
sighed, helped Fourth Wall Lass to a chair, and began
removing his clothes.

    "Much better," the doctor said. He picked up a
rubber mallet from the counter, then put it down again
and took up a larger, cast-iron mallet with spikes
protruding from it.

    "Now then," he said, circling the shivering
Pulls-Paper-Out-of-Hats Lad, "what seems to be the

    "Well, actually..." Pulls-Paper-Out-of-Hats Lad

    "I WASN'T ASKING YOU, IDIOT!  I was asking 'Mr.
Pokey' here," the doctor said, holding up his hammer
for inspection.  "What's that, Mr. Pokey?  You think we
need to test this so-called hero's reflexes?  Well,
that sounds like a fine idea, Mr. Pokey."

    "He wants you to help restore my memory," Fourth
Wall Lass said.  "I think I may know who's behind the
disappearance of our leaders, but I can't seem to
remember.  Everything that happened yesterday seems
so foggy..."

    "Oh," Doctor Bad-Bedside-Manner said, tossing
the iron mallet over his shoulder.  There was a crash,
and the sound of a cat meowing angrily.  "In that case,
let's have a look at you."

    He turned to Pulls-Paper-Out-of-Hats Lad with
disgust.  "And put some clothes on, would you?  There's
a lady in the room."

        *               *               *

    "Listen, before you sign this," Kyoko Ishikawa
said, placing one red fingernail on the document in
front of her, "there's something you really need to

    "I'm all ears," said the colorfully-dressed man
standing at the Legion of Net.Heroes' reception desk.

    "Okay," said the receptionist, still exhausted from
the previous evening's party, and unsure whether the
constantly-changing edicts of the Legion's carousel of
leaders even allowed her to accept new members.  "I'm not
supposed to tell anyone this, but... we're in the middle
of what you might call a leadership crisis.  It's entirely
possible that if you join us, you could be called upon to
serve as leader as early as tomorrow, and then disappear
without a trace at midnight."


    "I'm afraid so."

    "THAT'S FANTASTIC!" said the man, signing his name
across the bottom of the Legion application form.  "Just
yesterday, I wasn't a hero at all.  Today I'm a member
of the Legion of Net.Heroes.  And tomorrow... I could
be leader!"

    Kyoko buried her head in her hands as Cynical Lass
and the Dismal-Hope Kid entered the lobby.

    "Who's this?" Cynical Lass asked, taking in the

    The receptionist looked up.  "That's our newest
member, the Incredibly Stupid Man."

    Cynical Lass looked him up and down.

    "Figures," she said, ignoring his offer of a
handshake.  "Any messages?"

    "The Time Crapper is getting ready to jump..."

    "We've already done that one," Cynical Lass said.

    "I'm sorry, but this time, he's getting ready to
jump from the clock tower in Four Color Square,"
Ishikawa said.  "If you'd prefer, I could ask one of
the other members to look into it."

    "I could look into it!" said the Incredibly Stupid

    "Who else is available?" Cynical Lass asked.

    "Well, there's Narcoleptic Lad... oh, no, he's
down again," Kyoko said, checking the roster.  "Time
Waster Lad is still around, and there are a few

    "Are any of them good at grief counseling?"

    Kyoko perused the list.  "Well, actually..."

        *               *               *

    "Kiwi.  Kiwi kiwi kiwi kiwi kiwi kiwi kiwi kiwi
kiwi.  Kiwi?  Kiwi," the kiwi counselor concluded,
placing one fuzzy green wing on the Time Crapper's

    "I appreciate what you're saying," the Crapper
said, his feet dangling over the ledge of the
twelve-story tower.  "But the fact is, I did change.
I traveled back to the beginning of my relationship,
killed my younger self, and became a new man.  Someone
who listened to Tamela.  Someone who was aware of
and attentive to her needs.  Someone who was prepared
to accept her for who she was, rather than the woman
I wanted her to be."


    "She broke up with me four months earlier," the
Time Crapper said, clenching his fist.  "Said I
needed to be more assertive.  That I was stifling her.
That she needed more space.  I told her I didn't do,
space, that I was all about time, and then she said,
'Fine.  I need time to myself.'  So I sent her back
to the Bronze Age."

    The kiwi clucked with disapproval.

    "Still think this is romantic?" Cynical Lass
asked the Dismal-Hope Kid, as they waited a few steps
away among the gears and pendulums of the clock tower.

    "So he's a psychopath," the Dismal-Hope Kid said.
"And yes, he's probably meddling with the fabric of
history.  On the other hand... can you imagine what
it would be like to love someone so much that you'd
be willing to kill yourself -- repeatedly -- in order
to get them back."

    "It's easy to die for someone else," Cynical Lass
said, watching as the kiwi sketched out a complicated-
looking diagram with its claws.  "People do it all
the time.  It's living with them that's difficult."

    "What did you say?" the Time Crapper said, turning
around.  The kiwi counselor looked perturbed.

    "I... uh," Cynical Lass stammered.

    "Of course!  Of course!  I've seen our relationship
as something I could do _for_ Tamela.  But it's
something I need to do with her.  As an equal partner.
Thank you..." the Time Crapper said, and disappeared.

    "Kiwi!" the kiwi muttered, a few moments later.

    "You're not kidding," Cynical Lass said, still
blinking from the flash of the villain's disappearance.

    "It's always possible it might work out this time,"
the Dismal-Hope Kid said.

    The communication.thingee on Cynical Lass' wrist

    "Cynical Lass?" Punctuality Lad said.  "It's the
Time Crapper again.  This time he's planning on hurling
himself into the cooling towers at the Brenton Island
Power Plant."

    "You have to give him points for originality,"
Cynical Lass aid, as the kiwi shook his head and
covered his eyes with his wings.

        *               *               *

    "You have to stop him!"  Mother Time shouted,
pounding on the thick glass walls of her cell as
Doctor Bad-Bedside-Manner, Fourth Wall Lass and Pulls-
Paper-Out-of-Hats Lad passed by.  "He keeps going
back and rewriting our history together, and it's
driving me crazy!"

    "Isn't that the woman who used to be the Time
Crapper's girlfriend?" Fourth Wall Lass asked.  "The
one who used a magic scythe and hourglass to change
everyone's ages around until the LNH stopped her?"

    "Yeah, yeah, yeah," Doctor Bad-Bedside-Manner
said, knocking on the door to her cell with his fist.
"Knock it off in there!  We're busy with our own

    "Are you sure this is a good idea?" Pulls-Paper
Out-of-Hats Lad said, staring as they passed Doctor
Glockenspiel's cell and the enormous tank used to hold
Carassion, the giant radioactive goldfish, who looked
back at him with huge, unmoving eyes.

    "Of course it's a good idea," Doctor Bad-Bedside
Manner said, leading the other two heroes through the
maze of holding cells.  "Nothing I can do can restore
Fourth Wall Lass' memory.  Doctor Stomper has
disappeared, Organic Lass has retired and Cynical
Lass took the one @#$%^& kiwi with any medical training
to counsel the Time Crapper.  But there's one man
in this building who might be able to help."

    He paused in front of a large cell labeled "PENCIL
RAIN."  Behind the glass wall, Doctor Bad-Bedside Manner
saw a large, heavily-muscled man, a furry, sasquatch-like
creature, a man-sized mass of incandescent gas, a
beautiful woman, and a short, nervous-looking man.

    The doctor stared at the little man.

    "Is it true you can hypnotize anyone?" he

    "Not... not anyone," the Hypnotist admitted.
"But I've always had a way... with the ladies.

        *               *               *

    "Where did I go wrong?  I've lost a friend.
Somewhere among the bitterness," said the Dismal-Hope
Kid, singing along with the flight.thingee's radio.
"And I would have stayed up with you all night.
Had I known how to save a..."

    Cynical Lass reached over and switched off
the radio, leaving only the sound of the windshield
wipers and the thrum of the flight.thingee's engines
echoing within the cockpit of the craft.

    The Dismal-Hope Kid sighed.

    "Don't you ever get sick of it?" he asked.

    "Sick of spending what could be the last day of
my life flying from one place to the other to convince
the same idiot not to off himself or create a time
paradox that unravels all of reality?" Cynical Lass
asked.  "How could I possibly get sick of that?"

    "That's not what I mean," the Kid said.  "Don't
you get sick of acting all... you know... all the

    "Like what?"

    "You know," the Dismal-Hope Kid said, placing one
hand on either side of his face and wiggling his
fingers.  "All... gloomy and upset and acting like
you're mad about something even when there's no
one around to be mad at."

    "I suppose I could change my name to 'Hugs and
Kittens and Rainbows Lass,' " Cynical Lass said,
steering the craft around one of the bridge towers.
"But that might strike some people as false

    "It's just with this whole Time Crapper thing,"
the Dismal-Hope Kid said.  "I feel like he really does
love her, and if he figures things out there's some
teeny tiny chance the two of them could be happy

    The rain fell in thick plashes against the windshield.

    "Have you ever been in a relationship?" Cynical Lass

    The Dismal-Hope Kid folded his arms and stared out
the window.

    "It's okay if you haven't," Cynical Lass said, her voice
a little softer.

    "Okay," she said, when a minute had passed without a
response from the Dismal-Hope Kid.  "How about this.
What do you know about forest fires?"

    "Generally they're a bad thing," the Kid said, still
looking out the window.  "Especially if you happen to live
in a forest."

    "You would think so," Cynical Lass said.  "But there's
this process called forest succession... it's complicated,
and I slept through most of it when we talked about it at
school... but the upshot of it is that the forest needs to
get totally burned out from time to time in order for things
to start growing again.  Otherwise, it just stagnates."

    "Okaaay," the Dismal-Hope Kid said.  "But what does
this have to do with the Time Crapper?"

    "When you try to bring something back from the dead,
whether it's a forest, a relationship or your pet goldfish,
you don't get a happy ending," Cynical Lass said, switching
on the flight.thingee's bow thrusters in preparation for
landing.  "You get Frankenstein."

        *               *               *

    "Man, you look like forty miles of bad road," said
Pulls Paper-Out-of-Hats Lad, as Kid Recap and Innovative-
Offense Boy approached the prison infirmary.  "What happened
to you guys?"

    "Let's just say that the Fan.Dom of the Alt.Ra is NOT
involved in the disappearance of our leaders," Kid Recap
said, his arm cradled in a sling.

    "And he's not too *@#$%^& thrilled about houseguests,
either," said Innovative-Offense Boy, speaking through a
fat lip.  "What're Doctor Bad-Bedside-Manner and Fourth
Wall Lass doing with that villain?"

    "Trying to restore Fourth Wall Lass' memory of the
ending to the leadership crisis," Pulls-Paper-Out-of-Hats
Lad said.  "She seems to have been really upset by
whatever she read, and doesn't want to have to go through
and read it again."

    "Now that I think about it," Kid Recap said, "it's
odd that I can't remember anything about yesterday either."

    "That is odd," Innovative-Offense Boy said, "given that
it's your one *@#$%^& superpower."

    "There is a legend," Kid Recap said.  "A very old legend.
It says that the world around us is but the mere reflection
of another, truer world, just as the images our mind
receives from our senses are only pale renderings of the
world that truly exists."

    "That's Immanuel Kant," said Pulls-Paper-Out-of-Hats
Lad.  "It's not that old."

    "In any case," Kid Recap said, "the legend says that
anyone who managed to pierce the veil between what we
experience and what truly is would go utterly mad in the

    "Are you saying that if Fourth Wall Lass went too far
that she might end up reading something that could drive
her *@#$%^& crazy?" Innovative-Offense Boy asked.

    "And us, too, if she were somehow able to show it to
us," Kid Recap said.

        *               *               *

    "I've tried everything," the Time Crapper said,
his silhouette outlined in the steam rising from the power
plant's cooling tower.  "Changed myself.  Changed the way
I talked to Tamela.  The way I listened to her.  The amount
of space I gave her.  Hell, I even put up with her stupid
pot-smoking friends.

    "I've finally come to the conclusion," the Crapper
said, "that the universe does not want me to date this

    "See?" the Dismal-Hope Kid said, turning to Cynical Lass.
"It all worked out.  He's figured it out on his own."

    "Therefore," the Time Crapper said, "I've decided to
go back to the beginning of the universe and manage its
development so that she and I can be together.  As my
eleven other alternate forms used to say, if you can't
cope with destiny, make your own."

    "But you don't really want that," the Dismal-Hope
Kid said.  "Otherwise, you wouldn't have bothered to
wait for us to get here in order to explain your plan."

    "Oh, no.  I really do want to do it," the Time
Crapper said.  "I just needed a sense of closure."

    "I'll say," Cynical Lass said.  "Stand back, Kid."

    "Wait!  Don't... uh, never mind," the Dismal-Hope
Kid said, halting when he saw a strange glow emanating
from Cynical Lass' face.  Her eyes had become silver.

    "You can't stop me!" the Time Crapper said.  "I'm
doing this for love!  And that's the most powerful force
in the... ARRRRGH!" he gasped, as waves of cynicism
struck him with the force of a blow.

thundered, her voice reverberating with energy.  "BUT

    The Time Crapper collapsed under the weight of her
words, finally pulling himself, shaking, into the
fetal position.  He began to cry.

    "Is... is he going to be all right?" the Dismal-Hope
Kid asked, straining to be heard over the sound of the
Time Crapper's sobs.

    "Not for a long time," Cynical Lass said, lighting
a cigarette.  "But when he is, he'll be ready to move on."

        *               *               *

    "That's one Time Crapper, bagged and tagged," Cynical
Lass said, as the Dismal-Hope Kid led the teary-eyed
villain into a holding cell.  "Why's everyone looking so
serious?  There are plenty of other jerks out there for
the rest of you to round up."

    "We think it's no accident that hardly anyone can
remember what happened yesterday," Kid Recap said.

    "Well, yeah," Cynical Lass said.  "I came to that
conclusion when I saw that pile of empty Jaegermeister
bottles outside of Ultimate Ninja's office."

    "I woke up this morning with the Rung of Revamp,"
wReamHack said, rubbing his back.  "Our theory is that
Fourth Wall Lass persuaded me to find it for her, in
the hopes that by boosting her power, she'd be able to
travel further beyond the Fourth Wall and discover the
reasons behind this whole crisis of infinite leaders."

    "She was getting pretty *@#$%^& sick of the whole
thing," Innovative-Offense Boy said.

    "But she went too far.  Saw too much.  It drove her
mad," Kid Recap said.  "And then she told us -- or
showed us -- what we'd seen, and it made all of us mad,
too.  The entire Legion."

    "Funny," Cynical Lass said.  "I don't remember being
insane yesterday."

    "None of us do," Kid Recap said.  "Except... using my
recap power to the fullest, I can recall... bits of things.
Ugly things.  Things I'd frankly rather not remember."

    "Okay," Cynical Lass said.  "Then why aren't we
crazy now?  Assuming that this all isn't some drug-induced
fantasy or a fictional universe?"

    "The Forgetting One would have been more or less immune
to what Fourth Wall Lass showed him, since he would have
*@#$%^& forgotten it right away," Innovative-Offense Boy
said.  "Maybe he saw that the rest of us were going nuts
and wanted to do something to save us.  Or maybe he just
stumbled across the Rung of Revamp."

    "Either way, we think he used it to boost his own powers,
and to make everyone -- Fourth Wall Lass, the Legion, the
entire Looniverse -- forget what she told us," Kid Recap
said.  "Then he threw that crazy party as a way to cover the
fact that we wouldn't remember anything about what happened
that day, as well as a way to explain our unusual behavior
before he zapped us."

    "Or maybe he just wanted to have a party," wReamHack
said.  "We'll probably never know."

    "I see," Cynical Lass said, taking everything in.  "So
you're saying that my decision to help Fourth Wall Lass
recover her memory was a really, really bad idea."

    "Not necessarily," Doctor Bad-Bedside Manner said,
emerging from the infirmary and removing a pair of
purple rubber gloves, which he wore for no particular
reason, from his hands.  "The Hypnotist of Ladies thinks
he can extract information about the cause of the
leadership crisis from Fourth Wall Lass without revealing
all of the potentially deadly information she encountered."

    "That sounds like a good thing," Cynical Lass said.
"So why does the expression on your face say it isn't?"

    "Because the Hypnotist doesn't think he can do so
without causing irreversible psychic damage to Fourth Wall
Lass.  She could become a vegetable, or worse."

    "What's worse than a vegetable?" Cynical Lass asked.

    "Probably a mineral," wReamHack suggested.

    "Or a *@#$%^& fungus," Innovative-Offense Boy suggested.

    "It could be that this was the very event that Fourth
Wall Lass foresaw, and that pushed her -- and all of us --
over the edge," Kid Recap said.  "That's the kind of ironic
twist the writers seem to like."

    "It could also be that this is the only way we'll ever
be able to solve this *@#$%^& mystery, and save our fellow
Legionnaires," Innovative-Offense Boy said.  "If you choose
not to do it, we could all end up disappearing in the end
-- or the Legion could be weakened to the point that the
villains of the world will be able to rise up and destroy

    "Or this crisis could continue, day after day, leader
after leader, for another year or more," Kid Recap said.

    The others shuddered.

    "Let's hope it doesn't come to that," Doctor Bad-Bedside
Manner said.  "It's your choice, Cynical Lass.  The Hypnotist

is standing by, but you have to be the one to make the call.
God knows my malpractice premiums are high enough as it is."

    Cynical Lass looked around the room, her eyes passing from
Doctor Bad-Bedside Manner to the bruised faces of Kid Recap and
Innovative-Offense Boy and the blank expression of wReamHack
before finally settling on the Dismal-Hope Kid.

    "What do you think?" she asked.

    "I'm not sure what I think any more," he said.

    "I need to know," she said.  "Do you think there's even
the merest fragment of a chance that we'll discover a way to
deal with this situation without lobotomizing one of our

    The Dismal-Hope Kid's eyes sparkled.

    "There's always hope," he said.

    "Then we'll go with that," Cynical Lass said.

    "Right," Doctor Bad-Bedside Manner said, pulling on another
pair of gloves.  "I'll take the Hypnotist back to his cell.
Right after I've given him a full body-cavity search."

    "Thank God that's over," Pulls-Paper-Out-of-Hats Lad
said, breathing a sigh of relief.  "Only I can't shake the
feeling there was something else I was supposed to do today."

    "Probably a side effect of the Forgetting One's power,"
Kid Recap said.  "It'll pass in time."

        *               *               *

    "Come and get it!" WikiBoy shouted, running through yet
another of Net.ropolis' neighborhoods.  The people he passed
pointed, gasped and laughed or ran away -- which was hardly
surprising, since for the last fifteen hours he'd been
traveling through the streets of the city, as ordered by his
latest edit, wearing nothing but a chef's hat.

    "Come and get it!" he called again, and sighed.

    This had to be over soon, he thought.

        *               *               *


    Anal-Retentive Archive Kid and
    Fourth Wall Lass.... Saxon Brenton

    The Dismal-Hope Kid.... Tim Munn

    Doctor Bad-Bedside-Manner and
    Kid Shakespeare (?)
    .... Peter "Tick" Milan

    Cynical Lass.... Rob Rogers

    The Forgetting One
    .... Joel Finkle

    The Incredibly Stupid Man
    .... Martin Phipps

    Innovative-Offense Boy.... upLink

    Kid Kiwi's Kiwi Kommandoes
    .... Descrii

    Kid Recap.... Josh Geurink

    Narcoleptic Lad.... Chad Imbrogno

    Punctuality Lad.... Mike O.

    .... Arthur Spitzer

    WikiBoy.... Tom Russell

    wReamHack.... wReam


    The Hypnotist of Ladies.... Jameel al Khavitz

    The Time Crapper.... Benjamin R. Pierce

    "Golden haired, halo-eyed
    Walkin' like she ain't satisfied
    Sayin' things that most girls hide
    Sometimes she's rude
    Two Bloody Marys, she's full of grace
    Laughin' all over her pillowcase
    Man the girl can rock the place
    When she's in the mood"
       --Todd Snider, "Hey Hey Hey"

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