SG/LNH: New Exarchs #1 - La Cosa Nostalgia

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at
Mon Oct 29 08:28:59 PDT 2007

[000SUPERGUY: January 12, 2005 -  Manhattan, KS]

     "Give it up, mortals," Erlang snarled, his third eye blazing with holy
light.  "Your small powers are no match for a god, even a god separated from
his worshippers!"
     Winds whipped around the parking lot south of the Student Union and
clouds gathered ominously.  Erlang himself stood upon a small cloud that held
him a few meters above the blacktop, and celestial warriors could be seen
descending on clouds of their own to join him.  The few brown leaves clinging
to the ornamental trees in the lot spun off into the gathering gale.
     Skysabre put a hand to the cut on his lip and waved off his teammates'
attempts to help him to his feet.  He'd given a good accounting of himself,
but Erlang was a wargod in one of his aspects, and even at the height of his
elemental power, Skysabre would've had trouble lasting any longer than he
did.  "Any ideas?" he asked the others.
     "Unless he's lethally lactose intolerant, I've got nothing," Oakthorn
replied.  "And he already blew up Call Hall to make sure I wouldn't be able
to throw anything together at the last minute."
     "Bulletproof," Kat shrugged, holstering her still-warm pistols.  "And if
Journey to the West is to be believed, even the Monkey King had trouble
fighting Erlang."
     "Yuir gan' have tae bite th' bullet, Jack," Mairi placed a hand on her
lover's shoulder.  "Ye hae godpower inside y'self, much as ye might hate it." 
     "She's right," Louie said, from his perch on Jack's other shoulder.
Ever since Erlang's agents had sealed off most of the transformed monkey's
magic and trapped him in squirrel form, he'd been loath to stray far from
Jack's person.  "This Erlang might be down a few notches because he's an
out-of-towner, but that's still a lotta notches above us.  Y'inherited th'
potion a' immortality yer dad snookered outta Erlang's Monkey King, it's why
Erlang chased ya allaway here."
     "Indeed!" the angry god boomed, although a hint of amusement was
creeping into his tone.  "And baking you in Li's furnaces for a few years
should recover the potion.  But we have caught this world at a weakened time,
many of its defenders are absent or too involved in their private
concerns...we would like to add to our domains now that you have forced us to
act directly!"
     "So...what?  We spent all that time fighting off the indirect stuff, and
now we get to be the first to die in yet ANOTHER inter-altiversal invasion?"
Oakthorn snarled.  "Nuts to that!" he drew and fired in a smooth motion, but
the arrow vanished in the light that sprang from Erlang's third eye.
     "My power's always been reactive, though," Jack protested.  "I heal
quickly, but even with Mairi's training, I really haven't been able to
harness much of it in an active sense.  How can I even hope to go up those
'lotta notches' we need?"
     "The way net.heroes...and superguys...always do," Anna said with grim
determination, putting her wooden wand away.  "By sacrifice.  By giving what
remains of our elemental powers to Jack and helping him touch godhood."
     "I'm in," Skysabre said, standing. 
     "Whatever it takes to take down this jerk," Oakthorn nodded.
     "I guess," Kat shrugged.  "Being made of stone has been more hassle than
help anyway."
     "Maybe this is what the Black Squirrel prophecy really meant," Louie
mused.  "We were thinking it was all about looking for allies in the
Celestial Bureaucracy, trying to forge a coalition and fight a war, but maybe
they were talking about Jack's own spark in the heart of darkness?"
     Erlang merely smirked.  "Come.  Give me one last challenge.  Whatever
you will.  But my patience is not infinite, for all that my mother's may be."
The son of Guanyim, goddess of mercy, had shown few of his mother's
attributes over the past months, in fact.
     Silent nods were exchanged.  The four heroes, shades of net.heroes from
the Looniverse, but lately more and more their own people, each placed a hand
on Jack Yuen, the Crazy Guy.  Louie and Mairi got clear.
     Anna didn't ignore this.  She couldn't, not this time.  This was not a
job for Unsympathetic Magic, but for its antithesis.  A spell of communion,
of bringing together.
     Air blew forth and entered Jack's mouth.
     Fire blazed up and entered Jack's eyes.
     Stone rumbled and entered Jack's feet.
     Wood trembled and entered Jack's hands.
     The whole of 000SUPERGUY, if only for an instant too short to measure,
touched the five heroes.
     The whole of the thousand SUPERGUY altiverses joined in, for an instant
even shorter.
     And for a time too short to be called even an instant, a tiny piece of
every altiverse flowed through the four elementally aligned Exarchs and
fanned the flame of Jack's inherited divinity.  So short a time.  So small a
     But it was enough.
     The world had been saved.

     But the Exarchs were no more.

               *              *              *              *

     Nearly three years passed....

               *              *              *              *

[October 27, 2007 - Manhattan, KS]

     "To Paul," Anna raised a glass.
     "To Paul," Richard and Kat chorused, then all three drank.  The booth at
Rusty's was dimly lit, but thanks to health-minded lawmakers, smoke-free.
     "You know, it's Black Squirrel Day again," Anna noted, putting down her
empty glass.  "I wonder what Louie's up to?"
     Kat shrugged.  Her glass was still half-full, and she looked like she
meant to nurse the drink.  Old reflexes, not wanting to get inebriated when
an attack could come at any time.  Especially now that she was flesh and
blood for the first time in decades.  "Last I heard, the Red/Gray war was
heating up in Britain, he's probably involved with that.  Ever since he
turned down Jack's offer to restore his magic, the little furball's been
going more and more native with the Gray Squirrels."
     Richard nodded.  "Probably, yeah.  Haven't heard from Jack or Mairi in
over a year, myself.  Any of you?  No?  I guess he's busy reforming his home
reality as its newest god."
     "Damn Erlang and his over-elaborate schemes anyway," Kat sighed.  "If he
really just wanted Jack to Transcend or whatever they call it here, why not
just ask?  A lot of people got hurt or even killed in the crossfire."
     Anna shook her head.  "It wasn't transcending, not exactly, but it
doesn't work that way.  It was as much a test of whether Jack was worthy as
anything else.  And gods are very long-lived, if not immortal, I expect they
get bored of doing things the short way."  She turned to Richard.  "So, other
than not talking to Jack, what've you been doing?  I'm up for tenure here, my
odds look pretty good despite my unorthodox background."
     "Unorthodox GIRL," someone muttered from another booth.  [No, it's not
Trudy.  Unless Sabre decides it was. - Ed, glad to be back on the job.]
     Richard shrugged.  "I've been toying with enlisting.  I mean, most of my
actual skills revolve around net.heroing, I never had a civilian life to
speak of.  I've done a little of this and that lately, enough to keep a roof
over my head and food on the table, but there's not a lot of call lately for
a superguy without powers.  I suppose I could try to help out with the Likmi
situation over in Boston, but I hear that's pretty much contained now."
     "In other words, you're a freelance bum at the moment," Kat smirked.
"Been there, done that.  You could always work for me if you want.  Most of
the skip-tracing is boring stuff, idiots who can't use a dayplanner to tell
them it's time to go to court, but the money's good and there's the
occasional chance to take down a badguy, if that's what you're missing."
     Richard sighed, refilling his mug from the pitcher.  "I thought about
it.  But...really?  When you've faced things like the Gentle Gift of Crimson,
taking down Vinnie the gas station robber doesn't really scratch that itch.
At least in the months we were fighting Erlang's minions, there was a sense
of escalation, that we were headed for a Big Damn Battle, even though I knew
I lacked the power to really matter in that sort of fight."
     "But we did matter, in the end," Anna pointed out.  
     "At the cost of what power we had left.  You're a theoretical magician
now, Anna.  The closest you get to actual magic these days is stage tricks,"
Richard made a "voila!" gesture.  "And Kat's still got her perfect memory,
but is otherwise as normal as I am."
     "And I'd really, REALLY rather have lost that too," Kat sighed.  "But we
got off better than Paul, we're still alive."
     "Are you sure of that?" Richard quirked an eyebrow, an exaggerated
motion clearly intended to be visible past the domino mask he no longer wore.
     "Well, if you call this living," Kat smirked.
     "Oh no, not this again," Anna sighed, refilling her own glass and then
draining half of it.  "Look, these aren't the days of the Mega Intelligence
Bureau, those ended before we even got here.  And Paul was working with
unstable cheeez-based substances.  There was a lab accident two years ago
today, taking out most of New Call Hall, and he died.  This sort of thing
happens to normal people, sadly.  And that's what we are now.  What Paul
     "He may have been normal, but cheeez isn't," Richard countered.  "Isn't
it a little suspicious that even Kat couldn't dig up anything on what he was
working on?  That suggests serious security."
     "Or serious laxity," Kat shrugged.  "All the on-site machines were
trashed or even turned into cheeez.  If he'd had some sort of brainstorm, it
might have gone wrong before he could be bothered to report the direction of
his research to anyone off-site.  I'll admit, his lab assistant being
committed is a bit fishy, but he's a Zwarghoff, they're not known for
sterling backgrounds or mental stability."
     "That's a carefully cultivated reputation," Richard noted.  "But
generally false.  I did some digging.  While mad science runs heavily in the
Zwarghoff family tree, no actual genetic mental illness like schizophrenia
does.  I think they just play to the stereotype because sane mad scientists
don't get a lot of work."
     "In any case, Hans Zwarghoff was on vacation when it happened, and
claims not to know what happened," Anna sighed.  "I've had plenty of time to
dig around, although I've had to be careful.  The scuttlebutt around New New
Call Hall is that there might have been an attempt to mix cheeez and spam,"
she suppressed an involuntary shudder.  Old habits died hard, and while spam
was dangerous and powerful in 000SUPERGUY, it was nowhere near the universe-
destroying threat that she remembered from the Looniverse as "spham".
     "Exactly," Richard thumped the table.  "And we know what spam does
here.  It doesn't kill you, it sends you elsewhere.  I'm sure Paul's alive,
just trapped in another altiverse."
     "So...what?" Kat shrugged.  "The investigation is officially closed.  We
no longer have powers.  I suppose if Jack ever reads his mail we could ask
him to poke around...."
     Richard shook his head.  "No, this is our teammate, our responsibility.
Powers or no, we need to find him.  And that starts with going to see Doctor
Hans Zwarghoff and seeing what he really knows, especially about a name I've
dug up: the Fromage Initiative."  He paused dramatically.  "I'm getting the
band back together.  Are you with me?"

__--__--__--__--__--__--__--     \\NEW//       --__--__--__--__--__--__--__
 .|,Coherent Comics Presents      \\ //        #1 - La Cosa Nostalgia
--X-------------------------     E }X{ ARCHS      copyright 2007 by the
 '|` A Superguy/LNH Tale          // \\        Dvandroid (Dave Van Domelen)
--__--__--__--__--__--__--__     //   \\       __--__--__--__--__--__--__--





     Answers to some of these, and possibly more, on the cheeez-filled next
episode of...SUPERGUY!


Author's Notes:

     I blame Mason.  

     That said, I've decided to just wrap up the Erlang plot and Never Speak
Of It Again.  It effectively killed both of my previous Superguy series, so
that's that.  You got to see the climax, trying to fill in the gaps would
just stall me out again.  Besides, in re-reading the issues of "The Gods Must
Be Mad," I found I no longer even remembered what the Black Squirrel prophecy
was supposed to mean.  :)  Although I'm pretty sure I intended to rip off
Defenders #100 in *some* way.
     As for overall influences, I'll go into that more next episode, when I
reveal a little more about where things are going.  I want to keep episodes
short here, like I did in early Exarchs, to avoid stalling out as long as
possible.  Back to stuff I can do in one (longish) sitting, if possible.  A
few people already know what I'm doing here, though, and others should be
able to guess.  And if you don't have any idea what what I'm doing, when
welcome to my experience picking up reading some of the other SG-relaunch
stuff cold.  Heh.

     I don't, however, expect to be specifically parodying New Exiles or New
Excalibur or New X-Men, which would require actually READING them.  Well,
okay, I read some of New Excalibur and New X-Men.  But I have other sources
in mind. 

     Finally, there really is, in the real world, some sort of war going on
in England between gray and red squirrels right now.  That was almost enough
on its own to get me back on this title....

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