Mon Nov 23 06:00:05 PST 2009
Written by Andrew Perron
Cover by Frank Quitely
Issue #12 - LEMBAS! Turn Down Your Lights Where Applicable!
James is holding Casey in the Phoenix/Supergirl/Pieta position (or
attempting to, at least). Mala and Carmine are ignoring them, posing
for a Charlie's Angels-style action pinup. For some reason, they're
all dressed as Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. An explosion-box
near the bottom raves "Finally, the Return! Collectible 12th Issue!"
LNH SUBTEAM WITHOUT A NAME ROLL CALL!
Kid Enthusiastic - James Takato Preponderation
Still Doesn't Have a Superhero Name Yet - Casey von Aluminumfoil
Shining Tungsten Magister - Malachite Wendigo
Crimson @venger - Carmine Aurum
The coffeeshop in the Net.ropolis branch of Byrne's and Noble had
become the de facto hangout spot for the four. They had talked about
moving to a parody of something less corporate, but this was
convenient. Perhaps if it got blown up someday.
"...and one of the middle chapters of Infinite Leadership Crisis," said
James, sipping on a soy mint chocolate banana milkshake.
Casey sighed. "You get all the guest appearances." He stirred the froth
on his hot chocolate.
"That you would claim such!" declared Carmine, pointing at him with her
Turkish cayenne. "Soon do you forget your own role in LNH: The Early
"Yeah," mused Malachite, who didn't actually have a drink. "Nobody's
used us yet, because our... backstories... hey, does something feel
weird to you?"
They paused, considering the situation.
"...crap, we're on-panel!"
Casey pulled on his goggles. "What do you think - net.villain ambush?
Cosmic entity appearing in the sky? Anti-net.hero lynch mob? Heck, I
thought he'd forgotten we existed!"
Carmine held out her hands, summoning the mystic runes that covered the
skin of the Crimson @venger. "While a hiatus of four and a half years
is not the longest on record, I agree. Laggart."
Mala pulled her grayish-white robe with green and gold borders out of
her backpack. "It could be a more subtle threat. And does this mean
we'll finally see issues five to ten?"
James was fiddling with his Kid Enthusiastic mask. "Or it might just be
a down-time, characterization-y 'Day in the Life' issue."
"James, that doesn't seem very oh I see." A book on the end table had
fallen open, an arrow-shaped bookmark pointing to a sentence stating
that the twelfth issue of Digital JUMP! would involve following the
individual characters around on a typical day.
Everyone relaxed, putting away their costume-bits, picking up their
drinks, and taking a long sip.
"...so, I should really get to doing..."
"Yeah, I have this thing..."
They packed up and left, each going in a different direction. James
walked out last, singing, "I read the news today, oh, boy~"
The Net.ropolis 777 local bus stopped a block away from Casey's house.
He walked into the brownstone and called "I'm home!", then continued
into the kitchen, where his parents were sitting. His mother was typing
away at the laptop sitting on the kitchen table, while his father was
eating a sandwich.
"Hey there, Casey," said his mom. "How's heroing?"
"Pretty slow, actually," he replied, getting a soda from the fridge.
"We met up today, went around on patrol, stopped at the coffeeshop, and
split up. Not a lot going on for those who aren't part of a big cosmic
"Yes, I'd noticed the sky was an odd color," remarked his dad. "Oh,
mail came for you."
"Thanks." Casey picked up the pile and leafed through. "Hey, this one's
from Net.ropolis University!" He tore it open. "Awesome! I'm accepted!
And... this one's from Calisota University of Net.ropolis!" He tore.
"I'm accepted there too!"
"Wow!" "Neat!" "Well-done!" "Excellent!" "So... which one will you
"...I don't know." Casey bit his finger in thought. "I mean, on the one
hand, Net.ropolis U has a much better pseudobiology program. But on
the other hand, I don't know if that's really what I'm going to want to
do. If I want to keep my options open, I should go to Calisota. But
then again, Net.ropolis is a higher-quality education overall. But
Calisota is cheaper. But Net.ropolis is closer to home. But maybe I
don't want that. And they're both in the same city, so it doesn't
really matter, unless I don't get a car, but I don't want to spend
money on a car, unless I have extra money, but even then I could and if
the unless and..."
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" His father laughed. "You know, you don't have to
make the decision right this very minute."
"It's true," his mother said, nodding. "With comic book time, who knows
how long it'll be until you actually enter."
Casey breathed. "Yeah, you're right... I just don't want to put it off,
His mom nodded. "Just don't get too tangled up in your own thoughts."
He nodded, and went up to his room, hanging his coat and goggles up in
the hall on the way. He flopped on the bed and stared at the ceiling.
Eventually, he got up and turned on his computer. Webcomics, fora,
B-movie reviews. He snickered a bunch, laughed three times, and fell
off his chair once.
Then an instant message window popped up. It was alphadoublealpha, AKA
Adelwine Aaronson, Casey's English friend.
alphadoublealpha (4:55:02 PM): hey Case
typesomethinghere (4:55:32 PM): Hi!
alphadoublealpha (4:56:14 PM): how's it been?
typesomethinghere (4:56:34 PM): Same old, same old. You?
alphadoublealpha (4:57:17 PM): meh, not so great.
typesomethinghere (4:57:37 PM): What's up?
alphadoublealpha (4:58:11 PM): well.
alphadoublealpha (4:58:58 PM): I have some stuff to decide and I dunno.
typesomethinghere (4:59:18 PM): What a coincidence.
alphadoublealpha (5:00:01 PM): ??
typesomethinghere (5:00:16 PM): Never mind.
typesomethinghere (5:00:26 PM): What's your problem?
typesomethinghere (5:05:41 PM): Still there?
alphadoublealpha (5:05:50 PM): yeah
alphadoublealpha (5:06:12 PM): well, there's a lot of personal details
alphadoublealpha (5:06:59 PM): but basically I have to decide between
what I wanna do and what people think would be better for me.
typesomethinghere (5:07:44 PM): Hmmmmmmm.
typesomethinghere (5:08:00 PM): Well, you really need to do what *you*
think is better for you, you know?
alphadoublealpha (5:09:00 PM): yeah, you're right
alphadoublealpha (5:09:12 PM): thanks, man. think I know what I'm
alphadoublealpha (5:09:20 PM): gtg
typesomethinghere (5:09:25 PM): No prob. Bye!
alphadoublealpha has signed off
Well, thought Casey, that... didn't really help him at all. He flopped
back down. "..."
On the other end, Adelwine opened her eyes and broke the connection.
Well, she thought, that was surprisingly helpful.
She stood. Her powers of instantaneous communication were convenient,
but not especially useful for colorful battle scenes. Thus, she'd
stood at a crossroads: go for the sensible route and use her abilities
in industry and commerce, or take a flying leap into the crazy world of
For a while, encouraged by her parents, she had dived into study,
trying to find a niche where she could exercise her talents and pull
down a living.
But she knew now that the yearning inside her couldn't be fulfilled by
sitting and watching. She had to be out there, one of them.
The decision was made. Adelwine Aaronson would be... A NET.VILLAIN!
Casey opened his eyes. "Jeez, even in my own vignette I'm not the main
character." He stood, stretched, and yawned, scratching his side. The
smell of proteins denaturing under high temperature told him dinner was
almost ready, so he ambled downstairs. Grandpa was sitting down
already, so Casey scooted into the kitchen and helped bring out the
hamburgers and fries. After everyone took their seats, he dug in.
His mother swallowed. "So, Pop, how was your day?"
"Oh, n'bad. It was just the young kids today, so no nosering types."
Casey's grandfather was retired, but taught woodworking at the
community center. He had been a superhero in the 1950s, but he was too
late for the Classic Squad and too early for the Legion of Net.Hippies,
and the pressures of the Vaguely McCarthyist Administration had forced
him into retirement. "How about you, Casey? Beat up any Nazis?"
Casey laughed. "Not today." It was an old in-joke; at the age of five,
Casey's understanding of history had been vague. He knew the Nazis
were bad guys from a long time ago, so obviously, anyone who showed up
before he was born had fought them. "I did have a problem, though."
Briefly, Casey sketched out the college situation. "...so I'm not sure
which way to go, y'know?"
His grandfather nodded. "Well, Casey, you're a bright kid. You're
gonna succeed no matter where you go. Having the brains and talent to
back up a degree is far more important than where it came from."
"Hmmmmm... good point..."
"Not to mention, your vocation is probably less important than your
avocation, know what I mean?"
Casey chuckled. "Fair 'nuff. Though precognition and telepathy aren't
as useful as your telekinesis."
Grandpa smiled and pulled a roll from across the table. "If there's one
thing I learned from my cape days, it's that it's not your powers, it's
what you do with them."
Then his dad came by with the grilled peaches and ice cream and all was
forgotten in deliciousness.
Later, as Casey was loading the dishwasher, he mulled things over.
Grandpa and Adelwine came at it from opposite directions, but converged
on the same point: what was his *goal*?
Obviously, he wanted to keep net.heroing. Just as obviously, he didn't
want that to be his whole life. He wanted to grow as a person, not to
mention having a supporting cast outside his fellow heroes.
So he'd need somewhere that afforded him ample time to patrol and fight
villainy, but also ample opportunities for socialization. Something
with some academic standards, but also mad science labs that could be
counted on for an accident or two. Something, perhaps, where other
heroes went so that a crossover could be considered...
Casey's head started hurting. He sought out a pen and paper and began
to write these down.
But it was all right. He still didn't know where he was going, but at
least he knew why he was making the trip.
Mala sauntered through the streets, in no particular hurry to get
anywhere. She looked left and right, drinking in the sights and sounds
and most of the smells of the city.
She was an experienced traveler between the worlds, and yet, she always
enjoyed the feel of a new universe, a new culture and people. And as
it looked like she was going to be staying here long-term, she'd have
time to see everything this one had to offer.
She bought a gyro from a street cart and sat down on a bench, watching
the people go by. The taste of strange chemicals and foreign spices
sparkled on her tongue.
She wondered what, exactly, the rules were for when women wore pants
and when they wore skirts. And when they moved from short buildings to
skyscrapers. And why they still built short buildings, and why they
started building skyscrapers. And who built cars, and why cars and
buses coexisted, and what the difference was, and what about the
Actually, what about the subway? Eventually, she wanted to stop by the
dimensional immigration office, and Casey said it went right by. He
also said it was a wretched hive of scum and villainy, which just made
it more intriguing.
She skipped down the steps and slid her LNH membership card through the
turnstile. She stepped forward between the few pre-rush-hour commuters
and looked about curiously.
Well, she thought, this would be easy enough. Steam engines ran up and
down the length and breadth of the continent of Rutas, so she was
perfectly familiar with railHOLYCRAP
Mala staggered backwards as the maglev railcar silently zoomed to a
stop in front of her. She looked around in alarm, but as the
passengers quietly filed in and out, she relaxed and stepped in with a
slight embarrassed glow.
The chagrin evaporated as she looked around. Her fellow riders
represented a detailed cross-section of humanity, and she drank it in.
Business suits, leather jackets, boxing shorts, polo shirts. Painted
nails, wedding rings, carefully-trimmed goatees. White, black, red,
green, Mannequin-American. Each one was completely absorbed in their
own thoughts, brows furrowed in concentration, heads slowly raising and
eyes widening as a screech emanated from the tunnel outside.
The railcar coasted to a smooth stop, and there was much groaning and
griping. Mala scratched her cheek. Unexpected loss of momentum plus
complaints all around meant a low-level problem that probably didn't
*need* a net.hero... but might be able to use one.
She rose and made her way to the front, where the engineer was calmly
arguing with the radio. He rolled his eyes and let it drop back into
its cradle, then turned to face Mala. "Sorry, ma'am, but we're gonna be
stuck for a bit. Somethin' cut the Tesla lines up ahead, and we can't
proceed until they're reconnected."
"Well, I believe I can help! For I am..." Mala struck one of the
dramatic poses she and Carmine had practiced. "A registered, licensed,
The engineer shrugged. "Eh, you probably can't cause any more damage...
at least, not that the maintenance guys can't fix. Go nuts." He
opened the door and Mala hopped out.
She walked over and examined the trouble. There was a great gash in
the track; obviously, a giant mutant guinea pig had ripped it up before
being chased off by the Secret Presidency.
Mala bent down, touched the raw metal, and dipped into the
metamolecular symbol-structure of the elements from which the track was
made. Luck! There was some tungsten in the alloy. Unfortunately,
making the rest of the track take on tungsten-like characteristics
wouldn't help in this situation; if anything, it'd only be stronger,
She spoke the element's indivisible name, hoping to request its help.
The metal shivered and seemed to go liquid for a moment, but if it had
moved, she couldn't tell. She sighed and stood up, tapping her chin in
She stepped up into the railcar. "Excuse me, but is there anyone here
who has low-level net.ahuman powers and a burning need to make a
difference in the world but no clear idea of how to do so?"
A man in the back raised his hand. "Hi, I'm Alan Farthing, and--"
Mala said "Yoink!" and took him out to the gashed track. "Okay, so what
do you do?"
"I've got magnetic powers, but they're pretty weak." Alan scratched his
head. "I don't think I can fix this by myself, ma'am."
"Worry not!" She raised her hands, and a flickering green-gold aura
coruscated around them. "Let our powers combine!"
"Um, I don't--"
Mala released the energy and it flowed into the man's lean frame. His
senses became attuned to the patters and flows of the magnetic field.
She shot a bolt of blazing light into him and he became part of those
flows. She surrounded him with a glistening haze and he had the
strength to change them.
Alan reached out without moving his hand and gently nudged the
high-speed steel. It quivered and began to flow. He guided it back
into form and shape, a smooth expanse of metal concealing a looped
coil, and let go, staggering back as the energies suddenly left him.
Mala nodded. "Looks like that should do it."
Alan looked at his hands. "I'm confused."
"I'm not bad at matter-manipulation magic, but my true talents are in
"Huh. ...so maybe I should go join the LNH or something?"
Mala shrugged. "Well, you weren't powered up permanently, and your
powers wouldn't be too useful in combat; then again, the LNH has a lot
of non-combat types. Of course, you could always go for something more
commercial, or be a freelance agent. Lots of choices, really. For
right now, we should probably get back on the train."
They climbed back into the railcar. The engineer tipped his
cool-looking 1800s-style conductor's hat and started the train back up.
The other passengers in the car applauded. Mala grinned and bowed,
gesturing to Alan; he was stuck with a deer-in-the-headlights
expression for a moment, but eventually managed to bow as well.
Mala sat back down and stretched out. Ah, it had been a productive
day - and it had just begun!
She sighed in relief as she walked from the bookstore, muscles
relaxing. Working with others was a new experience for her. True,
she'd had mentors in the past, and friends, but few equals.
Then she grinned. Teaming was fun, but she'd grown up soloing.
Carmine strolled down the street towards the Seedy Bar (and Grill).
Outside, a grizzled man wearing a trenchcoat, jeans, and a fedora with
a press pass tucked into it was smoking a cigarette. She walked over
and leaned on the wall next to him.
He tossed the cigarette on the ground, grinding it out. "I'm guessin'
you're not here for happy hour."
"Information, Tony. I know you have 'the goods' on the trouble at the
docks last night."
"I might. If you arrested 7 of the Scullions down there, I might tell
She sighed. "We have to go through this folderol every time?"
"Hey, if you don't wanna know..."
"Yes, yes." She pulled out her Staff of Pogo and bounced towards the
The Scullions were one of the street gangs of Net.ropolis. They
dressed as medieval house servants, in button-up coats, aprons, floppy
hats, tights, and pointy shoes. No one knew exactly why they did this,
though it was rumored that it was part of a contract they'd made for
dark magical power.
Red runes flared, twisting over Carmine's skin, forming ampersands,
octothorpes, pilcrows, sections, and, of course, at signs. The power
of Keystroke flowed through her veins, and as she stepped up to a
loitering group of Scullions mid-drug-deal, quotation marks swarmed
over her hand. She picked one up with a gauntlet of punctuation and
threw him into his fellows.
Much arresting followed, and after she dropped the hoodlums off at the
local Street-Level Bad Guy Holding Box, returned to Tony.
"All righty, so you're the real deal. My buddy Jack Parkingstone can
give you the scoop, over at Four Color Square."
"Do you find amusement in sending me back and forth 'cross the city?"
Carmine said, voice dripping with contempt. "I ask out of pure
"Take it or leave it, doll." She considered getting annoyed at the
'doll' crack, but left it and pogoed away. Bouncing over the rooftops,
she tried to get her bearings; she still wasn't quite used to the
foreign city, and that wasn't even taking into consideration the
occasional shifts as streets realigned to serve one story or another.
Jack was feeding the cyberpigeons in front of the statue of Lost Cause
Boy. He looked up and smiled as Carmine arrived. "Hey, Red. What's
She smiled back, despite herself. "Tony said you knew the shovel about
that attack at the docks last night."
Jack squinted at 'shovel', but nodded. "There's been rumors circulating
in Mutant Town that the Respirist faction of the Inhilators were going
for a property grab."
Carmine nodded, grimly. The Respirists were a faction of the alien
Inhilator underclass, stranded on Earth, who wanted to return to the
drugged-out slavery that they had come from. Nobody was quite sure
why, including the other Inhilators; the leading theory was that some
people just couldn't recover from the shock of suddenly gaining free
So they would take over buildings, start pumping them full of gas, and
just kind of lie around. It was very mellow, but also very annoying
and dangerous; the gas would inevitably escape, sending nearby
bystanders into drooling incoherence.
"Do you have some protection from the noxious fumes?" she inquired.
Jack rummaged about and pulled out a gas mask. "This should protect you
for a while."
"Thirty minutes exactly."
She sighed. "Of course. Thank you, Jack."
He nodded. "You be careful out there, all right?"
She grinned and gave a roguish salute, then hopped off.
Now that she was looking for it, she could see the faint traces of
multicolored gas hovering over a warehouse. Landing on a nearby roof,
she secured the gas mask and leapt down.
The door was open, and she passed through quickly, letting the minimum
possible amount of gas out. Slumped on the floor here and there were
doped-up Respirists, who took little notice of her. She took note,
however, of the metal implements that were scattered about. While the
Respirists had never bothered to develop the Inhilators' inborn psychic
powers on their own, they were surprisingly good at fighting dirty.
Skulking about trying to find the atmospheric generator was the most
tedious part. Naturally, it was in the exact center, but it was twenty
minutes' worth of navigating a labyrinth of racks and crates before she
She stood in front of it, shifted her stance, got ready to run. She
put a hand out, covering it in punctuation. In a single, fluid
movement, she pancaked the device and took off for the exit.
The first few Inhilators she passed were far too groggy even to stand,
and she managed to take down the next few with little resistance. But
then she ran into a cluster who were awake enough to be aware, and
aware enough to be furious.
Carmine ducked under an arcing crowbar. Runes flared, and she was
covered in Keystroke armor, but she could feel her magical energy
She jumped back, and raised her hands over her head. A spiral of
ellipses gathered between them, forming an ever-larger dot. When the
period was larger than her head, she tossed it, bowling over the group
She pushed past. Aha! The door... with the biggest Respirist she'd
seen so far standing in front of it, pounding his fist into his hand.
Naturally. And, to add insult to injury, a five-minute countdown had
started flashing in the corner of her gas mask.
No time like the present, then. She took off at a run, tucked her head
in, and barreled into the burly alien. He staggered, but didn't fall.
She pressed the advantage, pummeling him with craggy fists.
Then she felt the scream in her head. Great, *one* of these guys
actually takes some initiative... She started chanting "six sick slick
slim sycamore saplings" in her mind to buffer the psychic attack and
slammed him between the eyes. The scream cut off abruptly, and he
reeled. She gave him one in the kidneys (actually around the shins),
and he fell.
Carmine thrust him out of the way, kicked the door off its hinges, ran
out, threw off her mask, and gasped in lungfuls of fresh air.
She notified the Net.ropolis Police Force's Extraterrestrial Affairs
Unit and conferred with them when they arrived. Afterwards, she pogoed
back to Jack.
Jack was playing poker with the superintelligent squirrels when she got
there. "Hey! How'd it go?"
"Annoying as usual. Thank you for the help!" She tossed the mask to
He caught it and smiled. "Hey, got something for you." As Carmine
looked on, perplexed, he rummaged in his satchel and pulled out a piece
of cloth. "Here you go!"
She took his offering. "Is this... a merit badge for defeating aliens?"
"Yeah, I'm giving 'em out at the scout meeting tonight, but I thought
you ought to have one."
Carmine shook her head and chuckled. "You know, where I come from, they
have a saying for these kinds of situations. I believe it was: Ding."
Kid Enthusiastic rocketskated back to the LNHHQ. He coasted through
the doors and skidded to a halt in front of Reception. "Hey, Kyoko, I
got your seeds!"
"Thanks, Kid E!" Since the farmer's market was being held today, Kyoko,
the receptionist on duty, had asked him to pick up a bag of Magic
Beans(tm) brand interdimensional beanstalk seeds.
He dropped them on the counter and zipped off. Around a corner,
through a door, under Bad-Timing Boy's papier-mache volcano, inbetween
the LNH Nerf Fight Center For Boffer Battles and the LNH Character Nerf
Center For De-Omnipotizing, and into the cafeteria.
James slid past the big picture window overlooking the garden and
examined the day's menu. He sighed, resigned, and skated backwards
into the kitchen, where Domestic Lad was sprinkling turmeric into the
plate perched in front of the duplicator ray.
He opened his mouth to speak, but Domestic Lad smiled and pointed at a
plate on the counter with chickpea cutlets and sweet potato fries on
James cheered. "Thanks!" He swung out of the kitchen, past the soda
jerk, and out into the dining hall. He looked over and spied a small
round table where Anything-You-Can-Do-I-Can-Do-Better Lad, Footnote
Girl, and Kid Borlaug were playing Zyxbac Poker.
After he'd created the game on a particularly boring afternoon (one
ultranatural invader, two world conquerors and a rampaging mutant
gecko), Zyxbac Poker had caught on like wildfire. Today, it looked
like they were playing Lunar Monkey format, double Highlander with
proportional representation and no ontological inertia.
Anything-You-Can-Do-I-Can-Do-Better Lad was laughing and waggling a
seven of spades in front of Footnote Girl, who had her eyes closed,
breathing slowly to keep herself calm and prevent AYCDICDB Lad's powers
from triggering. Kid Borlaug looked over, saw him, and waved.
"Hey, guys!" James slid into the free seat and inhaled half his meal.
"Deal me in?"
Footnote Girl shuffled each of the three decks and dealt him a four of
hearts, a seven of clubs, a nine of staves, The Empress, a Wild Draw
Four, Ventnor Avenue, and a rookie Nolan Ryan. He passed the four to
Kid Borlaug and received a trivia card (all of the answers were "Ronald
Reagan") from Anything-You-Can-Do-I-Can-Do-Better Lad.
"All right," said AYCDICDB Lad, "I'll lay down the ace of clubs.
Soft-check." He gave a reckless grin.
Footnote Girl rolled her eyes. "Discard two and a half to exile it,
then I'll put down The Sun and The Moon, invoke the Taijitu, and summon
a Major Fulcrum." She picked up a slightly chipped Fearless Leader
ceramic bust and put it on top of her cards.
"Um..." said Kid Borlaug. "I'll put The World on top of your cards,
aaaaaaand it's after three o' clock, so I'll start patting my stomach
and rubbing my head."
"Aha!" crowed James. "That gives me the chance to double down, spin
around, and sing the first three verses of Auld Lang Syne! Oh, should
auld acquaintance be forgot, and--"
"Not so fast!" shouted AYCDICDB Lad. "I'll recycle Kamchatka for
lyrical inversion, so that your pentatonic melody becomes a harmonic
"Oh no you don't!" responded Footnote Girl. "In response, rotate the
Fulcrum so that the figurative weight of ages falls at D flat,
neutralizing both the theme of remembrance and its ironic subversion!"
"I've got the three of hearts," said Kid Borlaug.
"Dangit!" "Nice." "Good game!"
Kid Borlaug smiled, but frowned at the clock on the wall. "Aw, man.
Time for my tutoring with Librarian Lady."
Footnote Girl said, "I'll go with you; I have to bring Sharon this box
"And I have to go participate in a political debate," declared
James waved as they split up. He polished off his fries and stood.
His heels clicked and his surroundings blurred, taking him north north
south south east west east west-- wait.
He stopped. There was a crackling in the air, a crackling of conflict,
of completely incompatible energies interacting destructively...
Slowly, James turned. His eyes narrowed. There, lying heaped in the
corridor, was Super Apathy Lad.
Their eyes locked, and the duel began. The air was still but humming
as invisible torrents blasted between the adversaries. Wills were
locked in struggle, and incalculable forces vied to gain the upper
At first, it seemed that the battle would last until Doomsday, two
locked in Sisyphean combat eternal, but then there was a
nigh-imperceptible change. Bit by grinding bit, the tide shifted, one
pushing the other back, irresistible force impelling the immovable
Super Apathy Lad sighed, stood up, brushed the dust off his pants, and
went off to clean the bathroom or something.
James wiped the sweat from his brow, grinned, and zipped down the hall
into his room.
He took off the rocketskates, hanging them on a hook by the door. Said
room was filled absolutely to bursting with a menagerie of books,
souvenirs, games, inventions, photographs, gadgets, attempts at art,
and just plain stuff. A Transreliquat from Domi.net.ria sat on a shelf
next to a pointillist painting of the Net.ropolis skyline at sunset. A
stack of Hamlets from different worlds was supporting a delicate
lattice made of Blue Plotdevicium. A picture of James, his parents,
and another young boy hung from one of the nails of the True Crosspost.
James sat at the great wooden workbench that filled the center of the
room. "And now, to work on my latest creation!" He touched a metal pole
to get rid of static, picked up a circuit board covered in wires, and,
carefully, tweaked a wire.
For the next half-hour, most of the motion in the room was the shuffle
and twisting and tweaking of copper wire. Occasionally, he would run a
current through it, take a note, and go back. Little changes...
increasing efficiency, getting rid of minor glitches, and just making
things a bit better.
Finally, he put down the circuit board. "I guess only *kind* of
breaking the second law of thermodynamics is good enough for tonight.
James leapt, landing with a kerflapt! on his racecar waterbed. The
surface bobbed like a slow-motion wrath of Poseidon, and the
undulations rocked him into the lands of dream...
Standing in a park grown up around a building. Looking into the sky as
a drop of water falls up and disturbs its surface. Dark spreading
fractal ink into space. Land becomes a bowl as a sphere of rock and
lava and metal and plastic and ice and fire drops ponderously. Sinking
into the dirt to escape it, falling into a room of fluorescent bulbs,
trapped, held as words scroll by, meaningless gray clicking. Cold
outside, burning inside, exploding glassshower thunderclap, freedom,
grabbing a slender thread of music and riding as it changed into a
James blinked and fuzzily chased down the marmoset-shaped alarm clock.
He yawned and stretched, scratching his head and making his hair even
more chaotic. "Huh."
He shuffled over to the complex, multi-tiered computer setup in one
corner of the room and poked the mouse. The large central monitor lit
up, as did the smaller monitors to each side. James squinted at the
windows he'd left up. Several browser tabs on
CompletelyImplausibleWiki, a rotating 3D graphic of a comfy couch, and
the source code for... ah, that was right!
James took a phone out of his pocket. It was an ornate receiver, made
of polished mahogany and bronze. He flipped out the rotary dial and
The atmosphere in the Net.ropolis City Police Headquarters consisted,
as always, of random flailing motion slowly simmering into some
semblance of order. The currents of people, paper, and politics eddied
this way and that, but all were swirling around one central point; a
great wooden desk slightly upraised on a platform in the middle of the
room, at which sat Police Chief William Trouser.
He stood, shouting, pointing, directing like a traffic guard just
elected to high office. "Bentley, get the files on the LaMarche case
and bring them down to Homicide. Quarren, you've got an interview with
the arsonist's daughter. MacKenzie, get everybody to kick in a couple
bucks for Charleston's birthday party." The phone on his desk rang.
Chief Trouser looked at the caller ID and sighed. The LNH. Of course.
The position of Net.ropolis Chief of Police had not been kind to its
last few incumbents. Herbert Schultz had attempted to take a tough
stance on whoopee-cushion-related crime and ended up in the Mildly Less
Creepy Than Ark.net Sanatorium. Winston Culver had been memetically
infected and become the villain known as the Molybdenum Sheik. And
Green Hectares, Alt.abama was the most orderly town in the Usenetted
States, thanks to eight Net.ropolitans who had retired there, one after
another, over the last twelve years.
Each of these men had struggled against the chaos, the ridiculousness,
and the net.heroes for years, and were crushed by it. Chief Trouser,
on the other hand, hated the net.heroes, but hated them like a rascally
brother who got drunk, played at craps and lost, and needed bail every
other Thursday; he protected them because they were his to hate.
He picked up the phone. "City of Net.ropolis Police Headquarters, Chief
of Police William Trouser speaking."
"Hi, chief! How's the PEBKAC?"
Despite himself, Trouser smiled. Kid Enthusiastic was as screwy as the
rest of them, but at least he was constructively screwy.
When he'd shown up a few months ago babbling about infinite resolution
and higher-level perception, they'd thought he'd gotten lost on his way
to a club or a convention, but when he slipped a disc into an
unattended laptop... well, they were halfway through booking him before
he got them to look at what the program was doing. Now the
Photographic Enhancement Button Kooky Applied Computation program was
part of their standard operating procedure, allowing them to pick out
details from camera footage in ways that were not, technically,
"Goin' pretty good, kid. Bust open the First Net.ional Bank case last
"The one with the guys who were wearing big trenchcoats and hats with
floppy brims? Awesome!"
"Yeah, turned out they were alien mutants in disguise. They're cooling
their heels in the net.acells; the grand jury indictment is next week."
"Excellent! What about that legal case?"
One defendant who was being prosecuted using PEBKAC evidence had made
an argument that the use of physically-impossible technology violated
Constitutional protections against ex post facto laws by preventing one
from acting in an informed manner as to the possible consequences of
"The Net.ropolis Supreme Court said impossible technology was
constitutional as long as it was an extension of possible methods, but
it's being appealed. No injunction, though, so we're gonna keep usin'
it for now."
"Goodgood. Any techy problems?"
"Not other than that same one with the quantum wossnames."
"Oh, yeah, the one where if someone's about to see something that
causes a paradox the picture erases itself? I'm going to push out an
update within the next week or so! It'll hopefully fix that, plus
there'll be some user-interface improvements."
Trouser chuckled. "Kid, you're a wonder."
"Just doin' what I can! Oh, gotta go, there's somebody at the door."
"All right. Take care, you hear?"
James hung up, slipping the phone back into his pocket, and opened the
door to his room. A Civil War-era soldier in a blue Army uniform,
cowboy hat and poncho was standing there. He handed James a telegram,
bowed, and marched off.
As James read the telegram, his eyes widened and a huge grin (no,
huger!) spread across his face. He tossed the bit of yellow paper to
the side, pulled the phone back out, and hit the "call Casey, Mala, and
Carmine all at once" button. He gabbled animatedly into the receiver,
waving his arms with a great to-do.
The telegram floated to the ground, landing face-up. The message was
typed in great bricks of monospace fixed-width lettering, and it said:
TAKATO STOP DO YOU AND YOUR FRIENDS WANT TO COME AND VISIT STOP
Author's Note: Digital Jump! hath returned. What do you think, sirs?
How'd my characterization-heavy experiment turn out?
Casey's comment about cosmic storylines *really* isn't supposed to be a
complaint about Beige Midnight. I realized it could be taken that way
after I wrote it, but it's meant as a more general "Crisis Crossover"
"alphadoublealpha" was an available AIM screenname when I wrote that
bit. Casey's screenname would be too long anyway, so ha!
The "Secret Presidency" is totally a reference to Tom's idea of Barack
Obama and Grammer Boy's underground resistance movement against the
Mandatory Spell-Checking Law.
If you can figure out which fictional alien race I'm parodying in
Carmine's segment, you get a cookie.
I'm not sure if the whole "ex post facto" thing actually makes legal
sense. I considered both something involving due process and something
Eighth Amendment-based before settling on this, but I may not have made
the right choice. Ah well...
Also, yes, this *does* mean Digital Jump! issues 5 through 10 are going
to come out. I'm hoping to finish them before I move to the next
storyline, but I might switch back and forth. Either way, issue 5 is
Oh, speaking of the next storyline: As far as I can tell, nobody's
visited the Looniverse version of Osaka yet (OS/2.aka!); have I missed
Police Chief Trouser is completely and utterly Not Reserved. Use this
For that matter, Alan Farthing, Tony, Jack Parkingstone, the
Respirists, and Kid Borlaug are also Not Reserved. Casey, Mala,
Carmine, James, and Casey's family are Not Reserved, But Ask Before
Making Major Changes. Adelwine Aaronson is Reserved, since I'm still
figuring out her story. Anything-You-Can-Do-I-Can-Do-Better Lad was
created by Slash Maraud and is Not Reserved, and Footnote Girl was
created by Saxon Brenton and is... Reserved, but Usable with
Permission!? Dangit, hang on...
...okay. Footnote Girl was created by Saxon Brenton and is used with
And to you-know-who-you-are: Chirp!
Andrew "NO .SIG MAN" "Juan" Perron, seriously, I've been writing this
since February. Sloooooow.
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