ASH: ASH #107 - The Office Part 1: I Hate Mondays

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at
Wed Jun 16 15:56:57 PDT 2010

     [The cover shows a collage of photos of the members of ASH, two and
three at a time, strung together with red ribbon.  In the lower right is a
yellow sticky note reading, "See me!"]

 '|`  /|(`| |   The Office Part 1 of 3 - I Hate Mondays
     /-|.)|-|        copyright 2010 by Dave Van Domelen

                       ACADEMY OF SUPER-HEROES ROLL CALL

CODENAME       REAL NAME                POWERS                   ASSIGNMENT
--------       ---------                ------                   ----------
Solar Max      Jonathan Zachary         Spacetime Control        AMERICA
                 "JakZak" Taylor
Meteor         Sarah Grant-Taylor       Superspeed               AMERICA
Scorch         Scott Handleman          Pyrokinetic              CANADA
Centurion      Salvatore Napier         Strength, Regeneration   MEXICO
Fury           Arin Kelsey              Concussion Blasts        MEXICO
Contact        Aaron Zander             Psi, Mind-over-Body      DIPLOMATIC
Breaker        Christina Li             Telekinesis              DIPLOMATIC
Essay          Sara Ana Henderson       Gadgeteer                VENUS
Peregryn       Howard Henderson Jr.     Elemental Mage           VENUS
Beacon         George Sylvester         Living Light             VENUS
Geode          Unknown                  Living Crystal           VENUS
Lightfoot      Tom Dodson               Velocity Control         TRANSIT

[September 28, 2026 - Mexico City, Federal Sector, Mexico]

     "Was I ever that naive?" Arin rolled her eyes, a gesture that would have
been lost had she been wearing her sunglasses.  But the outdoor cafe the
couple were dining at was using one of the new UV-blocking canopies that was
transparent to visible light but cut off the excess ultraviolet that had been
a problem for Mexico City since the generation-old smog had been dispelled.
     "I refuse to answer that on the grounds you may incinerate me.  Or knock
me into the next sector.  I'm just saying I'm willing to give Mendez the
benefit of the doubt," Sal replied, referring to the current holder of the
Red Widow codename.  "There's a bunch of ways she could have dealt with the
situation without making any of her dirty laundry public.  If she wasn't
trying to be a better person, she could have used Walters's resources to ruin
that guard's life without anyone knowing.  Or used her old contacts to
arrange for a fatal accident."
     Arin shook her head.  "You're not thinking twisty enough.  Remember,
Ghostclaw wasn't some thrillganger...she stuck with Cockatrice's crew well
into the worst days of the paragang 'bonfire', long after Bathory's influence
brought out Cockatrice's worst side...and that one started out a stone cold
killer.  I bet there's at least one murder Mendez got away with cleanly
before she got caught trying to kill Coulter.  But now she's grabbed the
reins of the press and steered them from 'she might be a murderer' to 'she
once had a unicorn tattooed on her butt.'  Maybe more embarrassing, but a lot
less dangerous."
     "La cuenta," a waiter stopped at Sal's elbow.
     Sal absently took the pad and pressed his thumb to the scanner.  While
he'd made sure his new uniform had pockets, and he did carry cash, most of
the higher-class businesses in Mexico City took biometrically-linked credit
     The pad beeped discreetly and the scanner turned red.
     "Did your thumbprint warp again?" Arin asked, quirking an eyebrow in
amusement.  The somewhat fluid and homogenous nature of Sal's innards almost
never impacted his outer appearance, but it had been known to happen.
     He glanced at his thumb.  "No, I think it's still that stupid bug in the
system."  He started to reach for cash, but Arin took the pad and thumbed for
the meal.  
     "You can get it next time," she shrugged.  "You changed your codename
almost two months ago.  I thought you dealt with the weird multiple-identity
red tape already."
     Sal shrugged.  "In all the major databases, yes.  Centurion is now a
legal alias of mine, under all the old 'secret identity' laws.  I can, in
theory, sign contracts as Centurion rather than as Sal Napier.  But for some
reason, some parts of the net still think I'm the Green Knight, and won't
release my funds for some stranger called the Centurion.  It did get cleared
up, mostly, but it's been a bigger hassle the past couple of days for some
     Arin shook her head.  "And to think how much trouble this'd be causing
if you were actually trying to keep your real name secret!"
     "Identity is a tricky thing," Sal shrugged.  "We don't even think about
it unless it's being threatened, and then it might be too late.  It gets even
tougher for me, if I have to prove it, since I no longer have any medical
record trail to check...all of my old scars are healed, I don't even always
have all my bones, much less the evidence of the arm I busted as a kid.  A
Khadamite shapeshifter would have an easy time copying me.  I suppose having
to deal with balky red tape is worth it, though, if it makes it harder for
someone to pretend to be me."
     "In cases where you can't simply lift a car or something," Arin
smirked.  "But...yes.  Identity is tricky.  Even if your body doesn't change,
your mind certainly can.  I'm living proof of that one...."

               *              *              *              *

[September 28, 2026 - MetaPsych Montauk Facility, New York Sector]

     Aaron flumphed down in one of the chairs of the private lounge he shared
with the other people working on the "Marx Mark 2" case.  He wasn't
particularly high in MetaPsych's clearance structure, but since he'd been
involved in the original murder investigation, he already knew all the
particulars and didn't need to be cleared.  
     Say what else you might about MetaPsych, they knew how to rehabilitate
old structures rapidly and effectively...the old Camp Hero facility looked
almost brand-new now, only a few months after they'd taken it over from the
shell company that Marx set up.  Fortunately, of all the legal tangles
involved in Devlin Marx's attempted non-suicide, ownership of the Montauk
property wasn't one of the things Aaron had to deal with himself.
     Gene Clark was perched on another of the chairs, her legs drawn up
underneath her as she pored over her tablet computer.  "Any progress?" she
asked without looking up.
     Aaron shook his head.  "Still no signs of an identity coalescing in the
clone body.  Hell, the raw data is still in such small pieces that it's not
even juicy dirt on its own...I mean, it's like having half of a password and
no idea what it's the password to.  At least I don't have to figure out any
of the info," he shrugged.  "Of course, trying to find a person in that mess
isn't exactly easy either.  If Thetan Bodies are like trying to find a person
in a crowd, this is like trying to dig someone out of an avalanche when
you're not even sure they were ever on the mountain."
     "You'll be happy to know that my own search through the avalanche is
starting to bear fruit," Gene finally looked up.  "The Babbage machine
incident in the news got me thinking of machine personage precedent, which is
a lot more robust than anything I've found in the telepathy-related
jurisprudence," she tapped the tablet.  As part of trying to disentangle the
legal status of Marx's clone, Gene had used her powers to gain the equivalent
knowledge of a dozen attorneys, but she still had to learn how to apply it in
a meaningful way.  Which meant hard studying the old-fashioned way.
     "Ah, I see where you're going.  If I ever find a person in there, we
could show that it's equivalent to a computer mind that was scanned from a
living one.  It just happens to be in a meat computer," Aaron pointed to his
     "Exactly.  Most of the telepathic precedents involve possession or
domination, which aren't really applicable here and tend to focus on the
rights of the original owner of the body.  That isn't relevant for a mindless
clone, although the gene donor might have some claim on any property that
Marx 2.0 eventually gets."  Gene shook her head briefly, as if trying to
drive away thoughts of that impending legal nightmare.
     "And, of course, I'm intensely interested in how all this plays out
too," Paul's voice said from Aaron's mouth.  "Thinking of myself as an
artificial intelligence is a bit more flattering than being an elaborate
delusion overlaid on a set of memories."
     "True," Gene nodded, unfazed by the sudden shift of speaker.  It rarely
happened anymore, but Paul did sometimes come out to talk.  "Of course, it
would also grant some sort of legal standing to implanted personalities like
Thetan Bodies, so we have to be very careful where we tread here.  Especially
since a retroactive ruling of personhood would mean that curing Jo Ridley a
few years ago would have been the equivalent of mass-murder."
     "Yow," Aaron blinked.  "I hadn't even thought it through that far.  I
guess this is why the law is so complicated...people like us keep finding
exceptions to perfectly reasonable situations."
     Gene snorted.  "Tell me about it.  Did you know they simplified the
legal code immensely fifteen years ago as part of merging all the codes of
the various member states of the Combine?  They had to, or it'd have been
impossible to accomplish anything.  But it's had fifteen years to
re-complicate, and even with twelve lawyers in my head I can't get it all to
lay straight."
     "It is in the nature of red tape to multiply when you aren't looking,
true," Aaron said as he stood.  "Well, that's enough rest, back to the coal

               *              *              *              *

[September 28, 2026 - Washington, Federal Sector, America]

     "I thought this would be a total hell of paperwork and micromanaging,"
Scott said, looking up from his handcomp at George, who was reading through
the same material.  "But it's really just a matter of signing off on the big
stuff.  The government practically runs itself, as long as you don't poke too
     George nodded.  "When they say 'reins of power' it's a better metaphor
than you might think.  Government isn't a car you drive, it's a horse you
ride.  Sometimes it's well-broken, other times it's a stallion, but all
governments have a mind of their own.  The Combine government is kind of a
cyborg horse, though, thanks to the 'Body Snatcher' contingency plans of the
1980s that both America and Canada had."
     "I vaguely remember something about that," Scott frowned.  "They didn't
really call 'em 'Body Snatcher' plans, though, did they?"
     George chuckled.  "In private, I bet some did.  The actual titles were
typical longwinded bureaucratic bloviation, but it amounted to plans for what
to do in the event someone replaced or subverted a big chunk of the upper
command structure of the government.  Most militaries had 'em too, especially
after the scare of the Dimension Z incursions of the 70s.  Given how many
supervillains and alien invaders had access to things like clones, robot
duplicates or holographic disguises," he briefly flickered into an
approximation of his original human appearance, although he hadn't gotten the
hang of being non-green for more than a few seconds at a time, "everyone
pretty much recognized the need for a backup plan."
     "Right.  Prove that the President is a pod person, and the plans kick
in.  I doubt anyone expected to use the Body Snatcher plans to deal with the
way all the upper echelon vanished in '98, though," Scott shuddered.
     "On the plus side, all the really ambitious or outright evil people in
our government who might have tried to take advantage of the state of
emergency were appealing to the gods for help in advancing their careers, so
they went poof too and things just ran on automatic for a few years.  Not
optimal, but at least we didn't end up with a police state."
     "ALL of them?  Are you sure?" Scott raised an eyebrow.
     "Well, enough that institutional inertia kept them in check long enough
for things to settle down.  No one strong enough to pull on the reins was
left behind, at least not here or in Europe.  China was another story
entirely, of course," George shrugged.
     "Who'd have known the fate of the free world would be in the hands of
paper-pushers?" Scott mused.
     "Whoever first wrote the pod-people protocols, I suppose," George
     "Still, it may be easier than I thought, but there's an awful lot of
this sort of stuff lately," Scott tapped his screen.  "Definitely more than
last year, unless I was just better at ignoring it last year."
     "Bureaucracy?  You're soaking in it!" George chuckled.
     "Sorry, old-timey advert reference.  I've been watching Telly Mobster's
'no mods' show during my commute," George tapped a helmet that sat on the
table next to the terminal he was using.  While was still limited in how fast
he could go while remaining solid enough to carry something like navigation
gear, he'd gotten to the point where he could fly back and forth to Venus
under his own power in a reasonable time frame.  Some people jogged or biked
for exercise, George flew between planets.
     "Just don't get so distracted you overshoot and end up on Mars," Scott
jibed, "Howie ain't gotten around to dropping a giant monster on that one
yet."  The smile faded a bit.  "Seriously, though, don't you get worried
about accidentally doing the accidental exile thing that the original Solar
Max did?  A failure in that helmet and good luck finding a planet in all that
empty space."
     "A little," George admitted.  "I'm mostly worried about the boredom
part, though.  If I end up too overdue, Peregryn knows how to cast a spell to
find me and send a ship for me, I'd just have to drift in silence for a few
hours.  Maybe a couple days if no ship's available or Howie's busy."
     "Oh?  He finally crack that photonic-tracking issue?  Woulda been nice
to be able to pinpoint where they all were during the Paris affair."
     "Nnnnot exactly," George turned a slightly darker green as he blushed.
"It's a sympathetic magic thing.  I leave a lot of, um, resonances on Geode,
which Peregryn can use to track me.  In fact, he says he could craft a spell
that would let me home in on her automatically, but I'm not quite comfortable
with how stalker-y that feels."
     "Saved from the eternal void by weird nookie.  Groovy," Scott chuckled.

               *              *              *              *

[September 28, 2026 - Falcon Bay, Venus]

     Little Rosa cooed happily at the sparkly lights as Geode wiggled her
crystalline fingers between the baby and the early "morning" sunlight
streaming in through the western window.  Rosa was too young to notice or
understand the wistful edge to the smile on Geode's face.
     Rosa's father did notice and did understand, but he doubted it was an
issue he could devote enough time to that he could solve it...even assuming
either Geode or Beacon asked for help.  Which they hadn't.  And fatherhood
had put enough on Peregryn's plate in addition to his previous duties that he
firmly resisted the urge to meddle in his friends' lives unasked.  If that
made him seem a little cold, so be it.
     Rosa's mother did notice, did understand, and was mainly wondering if
her impulse to do something about it was turning her into her mother.  It's
not that Essay disliked her mother, certainly not.  But she was too young to
be Mama Rodriguez for her generation, por Dios!
     If Rosa's godmother noticed, odds were good that the planetary spirit
might try to do something about Geode's wistful smile, but it was probably
for the best that Peregryn's ritual required Inanna absent herself from the
immediate vicinity.  Young goddesses of love could be...unpredictable.
Doubly so when they were goddesses of war.  And if the planetary spirit of
Venus wasn't a "true" goddess, she was powerful enough that the distinction
wasn't meaningful in this case.
     "Any luck, Howie?" Essay looked up from the gizmo she'd been working on.
     Peregryn nodded slightly.  "I believe I have managed to attune to the
Axis Mundi of Earth.  There is a slight tinge of darkness to it, but I cannot
say if that is due to the cultists reported in Europe or simply an
aftereffect of the photonic shell that blocked the Sun.  But this gives me a
baseline, I suppose you could call it.  If the darkness fades in coming days,
it was probably an aftereffect.  If it grows...."
     Ominously, a cloud passed in front of the Sun.  The day was partly
cloudy to begin with, but the timing was certainly...undesirable.
     "Hm.  That's odd," Peregryn frowned, apparently ignoring the shadow.  "I
feel something else in the Axis Mundi.  Not evil, exactly.  Rather, it's...
orderly.  Law without justice might be the best way to put it."  He reached
over for his enchanted tablet computer and scrolled quickly through some
notes, scanned pages from the notebooks of Tymythy Twystyd, the originals of
which were too dangerous to remove from their vault on Earth.  "I think I'm
going to have to make a call to the Department of Super-Human Affairs."
     "Oh.  One of THOSE calls, no?  So much for date night," Essay sighed.

               *              *              *              *

[September 28, 2026 - Vancouver, Columbia Sector]

     "Well, at least no one tried to rob the place while we were here," Tom
sighed, putting his napkin back on one knee.  He was out of uniform and
dressed in a passable semi-casual outfit that had been picked out for him by
one of ASH's support people.  In the absence of strong fashion preferences,
the staff tried to make sure everyone in their care, especially at the minor
base in star-studded Vancouver, looked at least presentable in public.  And
since Tom tended to wear his self-cleaning Safsuit whenever he went out,
regardless of whether he was acting in his official capacity as Lightfoot,
he'd realized he needed their help and accepted it gladly.
     Tina smiled weakly.  "I'm really sorry, Tom.  I guess we waited too long
to try to take this seriously.  Neither of us is really the same person we
were when we met."
     Tom nodded.  When Tina joined ASH as Breaker to help fill out the ranks
in the wake of the Revanche attack on Scorch, Channel and Essay, he'd
naturally gravitated towards her as the other "new kid", and there'd been
some flirting back and forth.  They'd even dated once or twice, but they were
both too insecure at the time for it to go much of anywhere.  Since then,
each had done a lot to deal with their personal issues, and Tom had finally
gotten up the nerve to suggest they try to rekindle the old spark.
     If lunch had been any indicator, the spark was long dead.  They still
got along well, as teammates and friends, but romantically?  Zip.
     "I think maybe back then we both felt kinda adrift," Tom suggested.
"Everyone else was either paired up or at least comfortable with their
position in the team...and Peregryn and Essay getting together around that
time just made it more obvious."
     Tina nodded.  "Don't get me wrong, Tom, you're a nice guy, if a little
too much like my uncles in your cultural background."  Tina's family had
moved around from university to university in her youth, in part to hide them
from immigration officials and possible pursuit from China.  The faculty who
helped hide the two Chinese academics in the system had been Tina's de facto
aunts and uncles, and the missing thirty years in Tom's life gave him more in
common with them than with Tina's generation.  "But...yeah.  You were
Mr. Right Now in a lot of ways.  I guess I was hoping my interest back then
hadn't been so shallow, but...."
     "Hey, I'm a guy, I won't knock shallow," Tom smiled.  "But...yeah," he
copied her tone.  "It was like the first week at college, seeing all the
others already paired up and wondering 'Why not me?'  At least we didn't end
up hating each other."
     "There is that," Tina shrugged, then sighed.  "I guess not everyone on
the team can be Peregryn and Essay."
     "Or JakZak and Sarah," Tom added.

               *              *              *              *

[September 28, 2026 - Chicago, Illinois Sector]

     Meteor's fist slammed into Solar Max's stomach at over a hundred meters
per second, a blow that would have cracked his normal armor had he been
wearing it, and might have come out the other side of a regular human's
     Rather than doubling over in pain, however, Solar Max bounced away like
a balloon hit by a baseball bat, rapidly at first but quickly slowing to
bounce lightly off the far wall of the training room.
     "That.  Is seriously.  Weird," Meteor said, putting hands to hips and
watching as her husband drifted back towards her.
     "Blame Doc Smith," JakZak settled back onto the mat with a slight whuff
of air from the padding.  "I was poking at old sci fi for ideas on how to use
my gravity powers in new ways, and I came across his ideas about inertialess
drives.  Santari tech has proven that you can be antigravity without becoming
massless, so Einstein was wrong, but that doesn't mean I can't exercise a
little Magene and make myself not only weightless but 'free'.  There's no way
I can avoid being hit by someone like you, or the speedsters in the Revanche,
if I don't see you coming from a long way off.  But I can make it so impact
is merely...weird.  Inconvenient rather than bone-breaking.  I still need to,
um, un-brace for impact, but with some more practice I might be able to shift
to inertialess mode in an eyeblink.  Then all I have to worry about is
Conflicto increasing air resistance so much it's like hitting a wall anyway."
     "I preferred Conflicto when he was stupid," Meteor pulled off the padded
training gloves she'd been wearing.  "He's getting far too smart for my
comfort.  Especially if everything I'm hearing about his new trainees on
Venus is true."
     "Seriously," Solar Max nodded.  "I used to think it'd take a shift in
the nature of reality itself for Eugene to grow up.  Maybe Radner got tired
of him and had him replaced with a template clone?"
     "Ugh," Meteor shivered.  "I think I prefer the idea that Conflicto
finally grew up.  Triton being able to manufacture superpowered clones simply
to end an annoyance?  That's a bit more in the way of resources than I'm
comfortable with him having."
     "Incoming priority message for Solar Max," the training room's computer
voice said.  Although it was out of sight and hearing in the locker room, he
suspected his personal comm was also buzzing for his attention.
     "If that's news that Triton has sent an army of cloned Conflictos to
march on Washington, I will make sure you predecease me," Meteor mock-snarled.

               *              *              *              *

[September 29, 2026 - Washington, Federal Sector, America]

     The conference room only had a few people in it physically, with the
rest of the participants contributing via video connections...except for one.
On an easel facing the rest of the present participants was a portrait of
Peregryn, clearly painted by an amateur hand.  Specifically, it had been
painted by Peregryn himself, with bits of his own body worked into the
pigments: his tears were in the eyes, his spittle on the lips, and so forth.
And at the moment it showed a liveliness that had nothing to do with artistic
skill and everything to do with the fact it acted as a realtime mystic link
for his senses and his voice.
     "Looks like everyone's accounted for," Solar Max brought the meeting to
order with that informal statement.  "For reasons that I'll make clear
momentarily, I've asked for Marshal Walker to be present via link, but due to
being on administrative suspension he will not be able to join us on the
mission at this time...although Director Farmer assures me that should his
expertise be vital he will make accomodations."
     "Whoa, did Walters lean on Farmer about that Babbage machine incident?"
Scorch asked.  He was one of the few present in the flesh, and he turned to
face the monitor that showed Netwalker's face.
     Walker shook his head.  "Well, Walters did lean, but the Director
doesn't want to give anyone the idea that he'll cave to that sort of
pressure.  If Walters had his way, I'd be discharged and facing a trial.  My
current suspension is more because Director Farmer felt I waited too long to
admit my role in things, given that he figured out what I was up to before I
actually carried out the plan.  He said I was insulting his intelligence.
And that we, as an organization, can't function if we're keeping secrets from
each other.  Officially, my suspension is because of that second bit, but I'm
pretty sure it's really because of the first," he grinned wryly.
     "Anyway, to business," Solar Max cut off the digression.  "We have an
interdimensional incursion under the old gateway has opened up
after a generation of silence."
     "Which one?" Centurion asked.  "I seem to recall there were a bunch of
the things under the's what happens when you build too much
mystic symbolism into an important building."
     "The Multiversal Office," Solar Max replied.
     "Oh, hell," Lightfoot spat.  "You mean that one's REAL?  I was working
from rumors when I helped write about that in my old net.fic days."
     "It's real, and it's been around for quite a while, actually,"
Peregryn's painting replied.  "Just creating the Pentagon was enough to draw
a synchronization with the Office, and it's not the only link we know about.
It's simply the only link currently in Combine territory that we can
confirm.  As a gross oversimplification, bureaucracy could be considered a
sort of element in the way fire or water are.  And just as immense
conflagrations can open links to the elemental plane of fire, immense
bureaucracies can open links to the Multiversal Office.  Like fire, it is
neither good nor evil, it simply is."
     "But like fire, it's dangerous if left unattended," Marshal Walker
added.  "Now I see why you wanted me in on the consult.  If the old Legion of
Net.Heroes stories were really based on the truth, then I might know a bit
more about what we're facing, since I read a lot of the archives.
Unfortunately, there's not much more beyond what Tom wrote about.  What made
the Office really dangerous in those stories was when someone tried to take
control of it and use it as a weapon."
     "And we're going to need to go in and make sure no one's doing just
that," Solar Max pointed out.  "Like Peregryn said, there's other known
doors, and even if not all of them exist anymore, I doubt the Combine is
unique on this planet in being sufficiently bureaucratic to attract the
Office's attention...."

               *              *              *              *

[September 30, 2026 - Chang'an, People's Republic of China]

     Li Fan was a fairly anonynous cog in the workings of China's
government.  A few rungs up the ladder of lower management, but currently on
the least desirable work schedule in an attempt to demonstrate his
willingness to do what the state needed.  So, while the daylight on the other
side of the planet shone on discussions of the Academy of Super-Heroes, night
shrouded Fan's efforts in China.  
     Working the overnight shift was a fairly common career move among those
who never got very high in the bureaucracy, but who nonetheless wanted to
better their position as much as they could.  Li Fan was certainly nowhere
near high enough to have ever known about a certain locked and guarded door
that had existed in one of the buildings on Tiananmen Square prior to the
nuclear destruction of Beijing.  But he was familiar enough with the building
in which he worked to realize that the door before him shouldn't have existed
at all.
     For one thing, it had no proper lock, much less a passcard pad.  There
was an old-fashioned keyhole in the middle of the doorknob, as many of the
doors in this older part of the building sported, but all the other doors had
been retrofitted and could no longer even be locked with the old keys.
     Fan frowned.  Mysteries were bad for the smooth operation of his
department.  And pranksters rarely managed to do well enough to reach
positions in this department, so it was unlikely that someone had installed a
fake door as a joke.  But he should have been alerted to any renovations.
Indeed, he couldn't see how the door could have been installed without him
noticing, since it didn't show signs of recent construction, and he certainly
would have seen it before now if it had been around for weeks or months.
     Had he been slightly less ambitious, Li Fan would have simply reported
the anomaly to the building facilities management and gone about his evening.
Had be been much more ambitious, he probably would have been promoted out of
this department long ago and would never have seen the door.  But he was just
ambitious enough to be there, and to think that solving the mystery himself
might be a boon to his career.
     And so, Li Fan opened the mysterious new door and walked into the
hallway behind it....


Next Issue:

     It's definitely not Office Casual as the scouting team enters the
Multiversal Office on "Hump Day"....


Author's Notes:

     Due to a curse cast by Tezcatlipoca, the smog problem that plagues
Mexico City in real life got particularly nasty in the ASH Universe, and
resisted any technological solution.  The curse was finally broken by Pope
Pius XIII (Vittorio Lombardi) in ASH #21, and Santari-made scrubbers cleared
the air.  Unfortunately, that didn't fix all the damage, and the ozone layer
in the area was also rather depleted, resulting in moderately dangerous UV
levels (and the Santari tech for fixing that problem was proven not to work
so well on Earth back in the 1980s or 1990s).

     "Marx 2.0" first appeared in ASH #92.

     Tina Li (no relation to Li Fan) first appeared in ASH #25, pretty much
for the reasons laid out in her scene.

     The "Doc Smith" referred to in the Solar Max/Meteor scene is E.E. "Doc"
Smith of Lensman fame.  Ironically, a few hours after writing that scene, I
had the following article pointed out to me, which suggests Einstein was
indeed wrong: (well,
"wrong" in the sense that "always the same" might become "*almost* always the
same" if the speculative theory pans out).

     In the ASH Universe, Lightfoot wrote many of the early Legion of
Net.Heroes stories that I wrote in the real world, up to his disappearance in
1994.  The "Bad Forms" trilogy was definitely before his vanishing, but since
I wrote ASH #4 before I started datestamping things I don't have an exact
date for when Lightfoot began his headlong plunge through the wilds of
Special Relativity.  However, a topical reference to betting on the Cowboys
to beat the Bills in the Superbowl "like last year" suggests he was around
until December 1993 or January 1994.  So he definitely would have finished
"Bad Forms," Constellation's piece of the Multiversal Office crossover.  In
the real world, that would be Constellation #16, although given Lightfoot's
speed-based powers he could easily have written more issues between the
crossovers than I did in real life.  The next issue of Constellation was a
crossover with Transformers fanfic, something Lightfoot might not have been
involved in anyway, so I'm going to establish that his involvement in the LNH
ended with "Bad Forms."  Ironically, #17 was part of the Looniverse Adrift
crossover, and Lightfoot himself went adrift about then.  
     Of course, even if he hadn't been the writer, Dvandom Force would have
ended in the middle of the Death Duck Saga when July 6, 1998 hit....


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