ASH: LL&DD #9 - Other Family

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at
Fri Feb 5 11:42:46 PST 2010

     The cover shows a page from a coloring book, with line art of Lady
Lawful and Doctor Developer.  However, there's a rip in the page between the
two, and a child's hand is coloring Doctor Developer blue.

 Coherent                                                  LL&DD #9
 Comics          | ADY | AWFUL    __        __             "Other Family"
 Presents an     |__   |__     &  | \ OCTOR | \ EVELOPER   copyright 2010
 ASHistory Tale:                  |_/       |_/            by Andrew Burton

[August 6, 2004 - What Was]

     Cameron McKay knew where a lot of the bodies were buried...or, perhaps
more accurately, where they would be buried had they not simply vanished on
that horrible day six years ago.  Having worked both sides of the street, but
never having been considered a big enough threat to Deal With Once And For
All, he'd picked up a lot of very useful (and incriminating) information that
he'd filed away in case he'd ever need it.  Blackmail really wasn't his
thing, but sometimes you needed the right bait to get someone into a trap,
and he'd just made a habit of mentally filing away items of good bait.
     It'd taken some doing, but that bait had managed to get him a very big
fish indeed.  He...or one of his corporate fronts...had the contract for
rebuilding Detroit.  The terms were very generous, effectively giving him
sole governmental authority over all municipal operations, as well as a
number of things that would once have been under state or even federal
     The world had nearly cracked in half.  Most of the people Cameron cared
about, for good or for ill, had left him behind to pick up the pieces.
Sometimes he wasn't sure it was worth the bother...Jenny was gone, and what
was the point of a future that he couldn't share with her and the child
they'd once hoped to have?
     "Uncle Cam, I'm coloring two pictures at once!" little Sam "Spaz"
Zimmerman called out from the floor of Cameron's office.
     Cameron looked down and saw that while Sam held a red crayon in his hand
and diligently colored in part of Brightsword's costume in his coloring book
(never mind that it was a part of the hero's costume that was supposed to be
blue), a purple crayon moved of its own accord across a picture of Dragonfly.
     "So you are," Cameron smiled, hoping it was a friendly smile.  He still
didn't really have much of a knack with children, for all that he'd been
Sam's father figure for the boy's entire life.  "And it looks like you're
definitely your father's might be time to show you some of his old
books, if your mother's okay with it."
     A small part of Cameron's mind noted that the purple crayon wasn't
staying inside the lines, but he shouted that part down.  The bear could
dance, yes?  That was enough for now.

               *              *              *              *

[August 6, 2004 - What Could Be]

     "You're not coloring inside the lines."
     "You think you can do better?"
     "I know I can.  Let me do it."
     "Fine, but I'm going to color the grass."
     Jennifer McKay turned her head and looked across the living room.  "Tom,
who are you talking to?" she asked.  She knew Tom...Thomas Calvin McKay...had
a tendency to talk to himself, it was a trait he got from his father, but
she'd never heard him arguing with himself.  If he'd developed an imaginary
friend, it would probably be a good idea to find out, before someone
accidentally sat on said imaginary friend.
     Tom rolled and looked back at his mother.  "Just talking to myself," he
said.  Satisfied with his answer, Tom rolled back over and resumed coloring.
     Her interests still piqued, Jennifer quietly stood up from the table.
She stepped close to Tom, so she could watch him coloring.  To her surprise,
Tom was using both hands to color.  One was holding a red crayon, carefully
coloring a ball.  The other was holding a green crayon, shading grass at the
bottom of the page.

               *              *              *              *

     Much later, after Tom was asleep, and Jennifer getting ready for the
same, she said, "I think Tom might be ambidexterous."  She was standing in
front of a bureau brushing her hair. Lying a few feet from her was Cameron
McKay, husband and father.  He was staring at Jennifer, watching dreamily as
she worked tangles from her blond locks.
     "Only sort of," Cameron mumbled, quite distracted.
     The caught Jennifer's attention.  She slowly rotated herself around to
look at Cameron.  "I saw him using both hands to color, and he was doing a
pretty good job of it.  Now you say he's 'only sort of' ambidexterous," she
said, "Care to go into a few more details?"  Her fists were on her hips, legs
slightly spread.  It was a subconscious stance, but one that Cameron could
read like a billboard.
     "It's not really ambidexterity," Cameron said, "rather ambidexterity is
a side-effect..."
     "A side-effect of what?" Her eyes narrowed. "Spill it, Deedee."
     Cameron sighed as he shifted off the bed, onto his feet.  "Okay, but
it'll be easier if I show you, and for the record, this is as much Tom's
fault as it is mine."

               *              *              *              *

     Forty-five degrees perpendicular to the Big Crunch, Fleet reconfigured a
section of his armor to withstand a stored entropy purge fired from the
uncannon of a remnant of The Clanking Replicator.  Unknown billenia passed,
stars died from fuel exhaustion, but one fragment clade of The Clanking
Replicator was still determined to conquer the human race...even if the only
remaining human race this far out was Fleet.
     "The curse of being me," Fleet decided.  His armor absorbed the blast,
letting the impact of chaotic nothingness absorb a portion of his armor that
broke off upon impact, keeping the rest of him safe from being nulled out.
     "Fleet, hello?" a voice crackled in a section of his consciousness he'd
tasked to watch-listen for any broadcasts.
     "Dad?" part of Fleet asked, "What's up?"
     "Your mom wants to talk with you."
     Fleet slammed his fists into The Clanking Replicator's back, releasing a
torrent of disruptive quantum foam from his gauntlets, an extrapolated energy
burst created from the chaotic patterns of subatomic stuff that formed the
universe.  It was pseudorandom enough to break through any data channels
within The Clanking Replicator, and ensure that it would be a while before
his components were able to function in harmonious concert per normal.
     Fleet floated away from his defeated for and told himself to reply.
"I'm on my way, dad.  See you in a blip."

               *              *              *              *

     "You're stalling for time," Jennifer said.  She was tapping her foot.
Her arms were crossed in front of her chest.  Here eyes were angry.
     "You heard him," Cameron said.  He nodded to the computer stack in front
of him, his homebrewed supercomputer, Jennivac, named for his wife.  "He said
he'd be here in a blip."
     "How long is a blip?" Jennifer asked.
     "About so long," Fleet answered.  He was stepping into their garage,
where Cameron's computer and workbench were kept, from the kitchen door.
     Jennifer watched the man coming from her kitchen door, but she noticed
it wasn't her kitchen behind him.  She couldn't make out much before he
closed the door, but it looked like he was coming from a long, corridor
filled with doors.
     "Hey, dad" the man said.  He looked at Jennifer, at least his helmet was
facing her.  She could only see his mouth and nose beneath the visor.  "Hi,
     Cameron sidled between Jennifer and the new man.  "Jenny, this is's Thomas," he explained.  "Show her, Tom."
     Fleet nodded and reached for the back of his helmet.  There was a
popping noise, then he started to slide the helmet off his head.  "So, she
knows?" Fleet asked Cameron.
     "No," Cameron shook his head.  "I wanted you to tell her.  You can
explain it better."  Cameron smiled.  Fleet finished pulling his helmet off.
When it was tucked under his arm, resting on his hip, he smiled as well.
"You get that from her," Cameron added.
     "As much fun as I enjoy being the only person here who doesn't know a
damn thing that you two are talking about," Jennifer growled, "How about
someone start talking."
     "And I get my lack of concentration from you, dad," Fleet added.  "Mom,
it's me...Thomas...Thomas Calvin McKay.  I guess I'm about six years old from
your time frame, right."  Jennifer nodded.  "You probably just noticed that I
could color with both hands, and I talk to myself."
     "The coloring, I just noticed you coloring today."
     Fleet set his helmet on the hood of Jennifer's car.  Now that both arms
were free, he reached out for her hands.  Slowly, but certainly, she accepted
his grasp.  Cameron smiled absently, and walked back over to his workbench.
"The first thing you've got to know, mom, is that I love you.  No matter what
I'm about to say here, I remember you raising me those six years.  I remember
your smile.  I remember your voice.  I remember the way you and dad used to
kiss, and then you'd pick me up so I wouldn't get left out."
     "Thomas," Jennifer whispered.  "It is you."  Thomas, the armored man she
just met as Fleet, smiled.  "And your father didn't tell me he'd met you."
     Fleet's smile wavered.  "That's my fault.  I swore him to secrecy."
     Jennifer looked back at Cameron, who looked somewhat deflated.
     "That's the second thing," Fleet continued, "None of this is real."
     "It is real, Thomas," Cameron insisted.
     Fleet looked at Cameron.  "It is real in the sense that it's matter.
It's energy.  Yes, by that limited definition, this is all real."  He looked
back at Jennifer.  "But from my perspective, this world is only what might
possibly have been.  It's not even what could have been, and definitely not
what should have been."
     "You're losing me, son," Jennifer said.
     "You're supposed to be dead," Cameron grumbled, "I'm supposed to be
alone.  He's never supposed to have been born."
     "Now you're scaring me," Jennifer added, "and that's saying a lot."
     "A little over six years ago, there was a cosmic event.  A crash.  Every
person with the magene was supposed to have vanished.  These last six years
have been a detour, so to speak.  A probability snare, like tugging at a
loose loop in a sock.  It's a detour, but in a very short time, the
probability snare is going to pull tight.
     "The whole world will get snapped back from where I nudged it.  No one
will really be the would take actually being from an outside time
frame to realize the difference...and anyone who did realize the difference
probably wouldn't care about a mere six years."
     Jennifer's face twisted.  She understood what he was saying, but still
had a hard time grasping it.  "You reshaped the universe to make sure you
were born before I died, since you knew I died before you were born," she
said carefully.
     "I know it doesn't make a lot of sense...even I have a hard time with
it...but that's about the gist of it," Fleet answered.  "I only told dad
first, because I needed someone here to watch me...the little guy in
bed...and let me...the guy in the armor...know when my powers started to
manifest, which you saw today."
     "You have powers?" Jennifer asked, forgetting everything for a moment,
long enough to be a proud parent.
     Fleet nodded.  "My brain works different than most.  I can think in
parallel because I can percieve multiple states simultaneously.  When you
heard me talking to myself, coloring with both crayons, that was one of the
first times I did that.  Two minds...seperate body.  It's why I'm
here today.
     "My brain works differently than most as of today, so differently
that..." he paused.  "It works so differently that my enemies can track it.
When I first worked out this plan, I wanted let you and dad grow old
together, but I found out later that as soon as my powers presented, one of
my enemies began to destablize the snare.  It's collapsing back faster than
I'd hoped."
     "What does that mean?" Jennifer asked.  She had a sinking feeling it
meant something terrible.
     "It means I have to go," Fleet said, "both of me."  He pointed to his
chest, then he pointed in the general direction of his childhood room.
Jennifer's eyes welled up with tears, but before she could refuse, Fleet
spoke again, "There's nothing I can say that will make this easier for
you..." he trailed off.  "I still remember the I came to
take me.  It was frightening to be taken by some guy in armor,
worked.  I've saved a lot of people, mom, dad."
     Jennifer shook her head.  "You can't have him," she said.  It was the
voice of someone on the verge of tears.  After speaking, Jennifer went rigid,
steeling herself.  The next time she spoke, he voice was firm, harsh.  "I
won't let you take my son," she declared, "Even if you are my son."  She
backed away from Fleet, clenching her fists as she did...
     ...and walked right into the taser Cameron was holding at neck-level.
Jennifer's eyes opened as wide as they could, as the charge coursed through
her body.  As the taser's capacitor depleted its charge and she began to
relax, Cameron caught her in his arms to safely lower her to the ground.
     "Dad, I..." Fleet began, but a vengeful look, one unlike he ever thought
his father could give, stopped him.  "Thank you."
     "Don't thank me," he almost growled.  Once Jennifer was on the ground,
he stood back up to face Fleet.  There were a dozen things he wanted to say
to Fleet, and they ranged from wanting to tell him how proud he was a father
to telling him how much he hated Fleet for ensuring he would lose his family
not only in the future that could be but also the future that should be.
However, when he finally spoke, it was something else entirely that came out
of his mouth.
     "Save your mother," Cameron said.  "When reality snaps back...when
everyone with a magene is about to her."  Cameron glared at
Fleet who still looked unsure.  "I'm your father, and I'm telling you: save
her."  Fleet nodded carefully.
     "I can do that," he said.

               *              *              *              *

[July 6, 1998 - What Was]

     Jennifer McKay, dressed in her Lady Lawful costume, hugged her shoulders
as she looked out over Chicago.  She could see smoke billowing from two fires
in the horizon.  It was getting hard to tell whether the outbreaks were
caused by the people dying en masse or people killing en masse for their gods.
All Jennifer was certain of was that the world was going crazy.
     She felt a hand touch her shoulder, and a familiar, comforting voice
asked, "You okay?"
     She took the hand in her hand and turned to look at Cameron.  He was
looking at her, his face looking concerned, a mirror of her own no doubt.
She tried to smile, but she knew it fell short of reassuring.  "Not really,"
she told him.  He nodded knowingly.  "We should be out there," she pointed to
the fires, "Not hiding here.  We're the good guys."
     "Jack's conferencing with ASH and some other teams.  They want to
coordinate efforts before we..."
     "Before we stop hiding?" she asked.  Jennifer let out a breath and
forced herself to relax.  "I'm sorry Cameron."  She stepped closer to him,
wrapping her arms around his waist and feeling his arms around hers.  "I suck
at waiting.  You know."  She felt his head nod against the top of hers.  When
he stopped moving, she reached up to peck Cameron on the lips.  "Come on,
let's see if Jack knows anything."
     Jennifer started to move, but found that Cameron's arms were holding
onto her tightly.  She pushed slightly away from him, but his arms felt like
lead pipes.  "Cameron, come on.  Let me go."
     Someone else spoke, "Sorry about that."  There was a tingle, and
Jennifer felt Cameron's arms flop to his side.  "I had to bring him in the
bubble with us, but he's unconscious, won't wake up until we're gone."  By
the end of the sentence, Jennifer was facing the speaker: Tymythy Twystyd.
Behind him there was another man, but she couldn't remember his name.
     A beat passed, and then Twystyd said, "We need to talk."

               *              *              *              *

     Cameron knew something was different, but he didn't have time to figure
out what it was before he saw Jennifer's face.  She had been crying shortly
before.  But she hadn't been crying a moment ago, a second ago.
     Something was wrong with time.  Something was wrong with Jennifer.
     "Cameron...Deedee," she put her hands on either side of his face, so
they were looking into each other's eyes, "Listen to me, I don't have long."
     Cameron stammered out half a question, "What's going..."
     "Just listen to me, I don't have time to explain," she said.  "I've got
to go, Cameron.  Everyone with a magene has got to go.  It's going to happen
really soon."  He wanted to ask what she meant, but she kept going.  "I'm not
going to be here with you, and I'm sorry about that Cameron.  I'm so sorry.
But you've got to be strong, as strong as I know you can be.
     "The world's going to need the remaining good guys more than ever, and
you're a good guy, Cameron," her hands slid down to his shoulders as she
spoke.  "That's why I love you, because you're one of the best guys I know.
Not just as Doctor Developer, but Cameron Dante McKay."
     "Don't go," Cameron whispered hoarsely.
     "I don't want to," she said as sob caught in her throat, "but I don't
have a choice."  She leaned forward and kissed Cameron on the mouth.  It was
a hard, passionate kiss, one he returned in earnest.  She pulled away.  "And
neither do you.  Promise me, Deedee, promise me you'll take care of Moira,
take care of the world.  Promise me you will."
     Cameron nodded.  It was a slow nodding at first, but was soon a hard,
large nodding.  "I promise," he told her, "I won't let you down."
     "I know you won't," she told him, "You never do."  She hugged him
fiercely.  "I love you, Cameron."
     "Jennifer," Cameron stammered.  He wasn't sure what wanted to say, but
he said what needed saying, "I love you, Jennifer."  Their lips met again,
and his arms wrapped around her as hard as his muscles would allow.  If this
was the last time he would ever see her, it wasn't going to be because he let
her go without a fight.  He would hold onto her with all of his might.
     But a moment later she was gone.  Her sudden lack of presense caused him
to stumble forward and fall.  As his face his the gravel of the Four Strike's
lair, he knew he should have felt something.  His nerves should have
registered something.  However, all he could feel as he lay on the roof, too
stunned to reach for the golden belt beneath him, was a widening hole forming
inside his stomach.

               *              *              *              *

[July 6, 1998 - What Must Be]

     Jennifer wasn't sure what she expected to feel when Twystyd took her.
Of all the ways she imagined he would end her life, being yanked sideways by
a man in an armored space suit was not on her short list.  A part of her mind
wanted to fight, but the more rational part, the part that agreed to
abandoning Cameron for the sake of humanity, kept her from doing anything.
If this was how she was going to go, then she would meet her end with dignity
and peace.
     "Sorry about that," the armored man told her.  Jennifer was about to
tell him how little his apologies meant, but she didn't have a chance.  The
was suddenly a small boy clinging to her leg, trying to climb up into her
arms by pulling on her thigh.  "Easy does it, kiddo," the armored man spoke
     "Mom, mom, mom!" the boy cried.  Reflexively, acting like Lady Lawful
without conscious thought, Jennifer reached to pick the boy up.  Once in her
arms, he clung to her neck like it was a life preserver.  "I knew you'd come.
I knew."
     Jennifer looked at the armored man, unsure of anything.  Was she dead?
Was this where Twystyd took her?  Jennifer McKay would have fainted under the
weight of such upheavals, but Lady Lawful refused to give in.
     "You probably have a lot of questions," the armored man said, "so let me
answer your first three.  My name's Fleet.  His name's Tom.  And you're not
dead, not by a long shot."
     "I don't understand," Jennifer told him.  She understood his words, but
had no real idea what they meant.
     "Tymythy Twystyd and the Wanderer said they were going to make everyone
with a magene vanish, seal off Earth from the Crash," Fleet said, pretty much
parroting what she knew, "I have good news, better news, and bad news.  The
good news is, their plan worked.  Humanity was saved by their actions.  The
better news is, as I said, you're not dead.  I managed to yank you out of
there along a perpendicular dimensional axis just as Twysted transported you
into...wherever you would have gone.  As far as everyone on Earth knows,
including those two mages, you vanished with everyone else."
     Between the shock of not being dead and trying to hold Tom in her arms,
nothing about dimensional axes made much sense, but Jennifer did grasp that
she was not dead and that there was bad news.  "What's the bad news?" she
     Fleet spoke slowly, "As far as everyone on Earth knows you vanished with
everyone else."  He let his words sink in before contining.  "You can't go
back.  Even after the seal cracks, letting anyone know there was a sideways
out is too dangerous.  If the Crash didn't happen like it did, things would
be bad, bad in ways I'd need math to explain.  BAD math."
     She knew she should be greatful, but somehow she couldn't muster up the
ability to show it.
     "One more thing," Fleet said.  He held out his hand, palm up, so that
Jennifer and Tom could see as a picture appeared, floating in his hand.  It
took Jennifer a moment to realize the elderly man in the picture, surrounded
by five other older woman, two women in their teens, and three
men who looked about the same age...was Cameron.
     "Dad!" Tom called out.  He let go of Jennifer with one hand and reached
for the picture.  Fleet brought it closer so Tom was about to run his hand
three the three dimensional image.
     Jennifer understood what Fleet was saying, even without words that young
Tom wouldn't understand.  Cameron survived.  Even though she couldn't be
there with him, he wasn't alone.  He had a family, one that by all evidence
loved him as much as she would have.  Jennifer swallowed and used a hand to
wipe her eyes.
     Rationally, Jennifer knew that it would take time to adjust to how off
the rails her life went in the last ten minutes.  She was deceased, widowed,
and learned she was a mother in less time than it took to make breakfast.
She would adjust, she would move on, but it would be a process.
     Irrationally, she felt the weight of hers and Cameron's son in her arms.
He was a link back to Cameron, even if only a symbolic one.  Rationally she
had no reason to hug him close to her, but her life stopped being rational
when the gods of Earth went to war.  It would be a process finding a new
level of normalcy, and she could think of a lot worse ways to start that
process than by loving the best possible thing she and Cameron could have
ever made together.

               *              *              *              *

[May 3, 2026 - What Is]

     Cameron rolled the ancient purple crayon back and forth in his fingers,
considering it.  The first spell he could remember Spaz casting had been to
enchant the crayon to draw on its own.  A magic crayon.  Spaz had quickly
moved to embrace significantly higher technology than wax on paper, but it
was all still symbols, regardless of the medium.
     He stopped and set the crayon down...the paper wrapping was starting to
fray.  Yes, things were definitely starting to fray.  He wasn't sure how much
longer he could keep the lid on various secrets, the things he'd needed to do
in order to do the best by the most.  He'd never been one of those idealistic
supervillains, who felt that it was necessary to break the law to defend the
Right, but for the past few decades he'd certainly learned to sympathize with
that sort of person.
     Yes, he'd kept Detroit from falling into total chaos.  He'd improved the
lives of the survivors quite a bit, and if the city wasn't a technocratic
paradise, it was certainly a nice place to live.  If he'd had to do some
questionable things along the way...well, so had the Combine's government as
a whole.  He'd just decided not to cede authority back to them in 2008 when
the rebuilding contracts ran out.
     It wasn't the world he'd have wanted to raise his and Jenny's children
in, but it wasn't a horrible world, and he'd saved what he could.  If Jenny
hadn't gone away, maybe she'd have helped him find the strength to do things
differently, more purely.  But if Jenny hadn't HAD to go away, he probably
wouldn't have had to do anything at all.
     Still, while Spaz, Rachel, Ralph and Scarlet weren't the children of his
DNA, they were his family.  And wherever she'd been sent, he hoped Jenny
could see how he'd done raising them, and that she approved....


Author's Notes:

    First, I have to give Dave Van Domelen credit and thanks for framing
sequences.  Various Real Life issues kept me from getting them written in a
timely fashion, and he did me a serious solid doing this.  It's appreciated
and enjoyed.  Give him and hand, everyone!
    Second, the idea of Fleet was born out of Joe Casey's G0DLAND and Grant
Morrison's THE INVISIBLES comics.  I'd had an idea for Deedee and Jennifer's
kid for a while, but figured any story with him would have to be an alternate
time line.  Then, one night, I figured, what the hey, and started working on
a gonzo spaceman who made his own alternate reality to make sure he got born.
It snowballed from there to providing a way to save Lady Lawful II from dying
in the crash without really saving her.
    Third, this is not the last LL&DD story.  Dave tells me this is #9, and
I've planned for LL&DD to go to #12.  So, look forward to LL&DD sometime in

Editor's Note:

     The core of this story was written...a year ago?  Maybe a little more?
But it felt too much like a fragment to Andy, and he shelved it.  In January
2010, he asked my advice for what might flesh it out, and I suggested a
framing sequence, but after a few weeks I was in a mood to write something
short and worked out a slightly different one than what I'd suggested (the
first and last scenes of this issue).  Andy liked it, so I proofread the
results and here we are!


     For all the back issues, plus additional background information, art,
and more, go to !

     To discuss this issue or any others, either just hit "followup" to this
post, or check out our Yahoo discussion group, which can be found at !

     There's also a LiveJournal interest group for ASH, check it out at (if
you're on Facebook instead, there's an Academy of Super-Heroes group there


More information about the racc mailing list