LNH: Easily-Discovered Man #52 (2/2)

EDMLite robrogers72 at gmail.com
Sun Apr 1 14:19:15 PDT 2012

Part 2 of "The Adventures of Easily-Discovered Man" #52 follows:

     The Prof lowered his head.

     "You never told him," Substitute Lad said, shaking his
head.  "Just like you weren't going to tell him about Aurora
Jones [the vigilante known as the Screen Saver, who has been
accused of murdering the Waffle Queen -- Kid Recap].  You can
let your family down... your friends down... your colleagues
down... but you can't stand to have your sidekick see you
as anything less than a hero."

     The Prof remained silent.

     "I'll tell you what happened," Substitute Lad said.
"This was during the 'Infinite Leadership Crisis,' when every
member of the LNH, one by one, was getting called to become
the leader of the team, and then disappearing at midnight.
You were one of the first to go, Lite.  Then Cynical Lass.
Then I went.  And still the whole thing kept going, on and
on, through 500 days of April, with everybody getting picked
as leader -- clones, kiwi birds, alternate universe versions
of LNH members, even Pants Rabbit Lad.

     "Everybody got chosen," Substitute Lad said, "except
Easily-Discovered Man.  Until finally he was."

     Oh, God.  "And I'm guessing it wasn't one of those
days when there was nothing for the leader to do but
sit around filling out paperwork?" I asked, already
knowing what the response would be.

     "There was no need," said Easily-Discovered Man,
staring off into the middle distance.  "By then, the robots
had automated most of those functions, so that I was free to
do what I do best -- charge valiantly into battle!"

     "The robots?" I asked.  "You mean the ones created by
Doc Stomper's Robot Duplicate Machine?  The ones that
lost their minds and started killing the bad guys?" [as
revealed in LNH Comics Presents #500 -- Kid Recap].

     "In point of fact, yes," the Prof admitted.  "Though at
the time, they merely seemed very efficient, and very
motivated about their work.  I did find it difficult to
accommodate myself to your robot duplicate, however.  There
was simply something... unnerving about him.  His hair was
parted on the wrong side, and he had a habit of repeating
'Exterminate!' after everything he said."

     "I can see how that might get on a person's nerves after
a while," I said.  "So you ran off into battle alone?"

     The Prof stared at his boots.

     "Come now, Hector," Mrs. Prof chided.  "Everybody knows
that my husband would no more consider running off to play
super-hero without a teenage sidekick than he would without
his mask or cape.  And if one Easily-Discovered Man Lite
wasn't around..."

     My brain struggled with the meaning of her words, until I
saw the look on Jennifer Wong's face.

     "Is that how you got that cast on your leg?" I asked.

     "I'd studied Wing Chun for six years.  I'm one of the top
dancers on the Net.ropolis stage... or I was," she added,
glancing at her cast.  "I've even taken two semesters of
criminal justice courses at Russell Community College.  I
thought I could do at least as good a job as my father's
sidekick as an untrained teenager armed with a spatula."

     Jennifer's voice fell until it was almost a whisper.

     "And I thought that if I did, my father might finally
decide that something about me was worth spending time
with," she said.

     "My God," I said, staring at her shattered leg while
doing my best to make it look as though I wasn't staring
at her leg, a skill that as an 18-year-old boy I had
frequently practiced without success.  "Who did this to
you?  Londonbroil?  Barrage?  I'll bet it was that
bastard Carrion..."

     Jennifer sighed.

     "I tripped getting out of the Easily-Discovered Van,"
she said.  "Dad came to the hospital with me, held my hand
while they were setting my leg.  He stayed with me all
afternoon, even though it was his chance to be leader of
the Legion of Net.Heroes."

     I blinked.

     "So then, why all this?" I asked.  "You know your
father loves you, that he's willing to put you ahead of
the things he really..."

     I stopped, realizing what I was saying, but it was
too late.

    "Finish that sentence," Jennifer said.  "Put me ahead
of... what?  The things he really wants?  The things he
really cares about?  The things he thinks are important?
It was one of those, I'll bet.

     "No," she said, "the only way his daughter was able
to put herself into one of those categories was by
dressing up in a silly costume and breaking her leg."

     "What is it you want from me, Jennifer?" the Prof
asked.  It was the first time I had ever heard him refer
to his daughter by name.

     Jennifer looked up.

     "I want you to put Mom and me first," she said.
"I want you to be around when we need you.  I want you to
be proud of who you are.  There was a time when being a
physics professor really meant something to you, when you
didn't have to put a mask over your face to feel like you
were contributing something to the world."

     I saw Professor Dahl silently mouthing the word
"Amen," but neither he nor anyone else in the room
interrupted Jennifer as she spoke.

     "I want to be able to meet you for lunch, and not
have you constantly checking your watch, or scanning the
city skyline for the Easily-Discovered Signal," she said.

     "Wait," I said, making the time-out signal with my
hands.  "There's an Easily-Discovered Signal?"

     "I had one installed on the roof of police
headquarters," the Prof said.  "However, I could only
obtain permission to use it during the daytime, which
often makes it difficult to discern.  It does still
bring down the occasional plane, however."

     "If you can be this... thing you feel you need
to be, and still be my dad, then do that ," Jennifer
continued.  "But if you can't... then I want you to
stop being Easily-Discovered Man."

     The Prof looked from his daughter to his wife.

     "And is this what you want, Irene?" he asked.

     "It's what I've always wanted," his wife said.
"I would ten times rather be a professor's wife than
a super-hero's widow."

     Easily-Discovered Man looked down at his hands,
which seemed to have curled themselves into fists.
He removed one glowing orange gauntlet, revealing a
hand that -- if anything -- shone even more brightly
than it had while covered.

     "If only it were that simple," he said.  "Even if
I were to accept what you say, and choose to retire from
the field of battle, like some caped Cincinnatus...
how can I ignore the responsibility bestowed upon me
by my fabulous powers?  How could I continue to radiate
glory... to stand out among all others by the very ease
of my detection... and not use those remarkable abilities
in the fight against evil?"

     It was to the credit of Professor Wong's friends and
family that not a single one of them snickered, coughed or
rolled their eyes in the silence that followed.

     "If you truly wish to become a new man," ReVamp Lass
said slowly, "there is a way."

     The Prof looked up.

     "If your powers are the only things keeping you from
being the husband... the father... the teacher.., the man
you have always yearned to be... I can remove them,"
ReVamp Lass said.  "But think carefully, Easily-Discovered
Man.  Is this what you truly desire?"

     "I... I...," the Prof said, fumbling.  "Lite... Hector.
What do you think I should do?"

     I opened my mouth, ready to tell ReVamp Lass and Mrs.
Prof and My-Dall and the rest of them what they could do
with their intervention.  After all, if there was one thing
that hadn't changed in all the time we'd known each other,
it was this: I always had the Prof's back.

     Or did I?  I'd licensed the Prof's image in a dozen
different endorsement deals without ever asking for his
permission or making sure that any of the money
went to his family.  I'd kept the Prof from being shot,
stabbed, barbecued or baked into a waffle any number of
times, but I'd never once considered the larger question
of whether being Easily-Discovered Man was a good thing
for him, or the people he cared about.

     I'd looked up to the Prof as a mentor, as a teacher,
as a friend.  But although I'd referred to him as "the
Prof" from the very first day we'd met, I'd only ever
known Theodore Wong as Easily-Discovered Man.  I'd never
thought that much about his life outside of the costume,
and I certainly hadn't thought about how or when or
whether our adventures together would end.

     And that's when it hit me.  I'd known super-heroes
who had died, or received career-ending injuries.  I'd
known heroes who had left the Legion, though they remained
active elsewhere.  I'd even known heroes who had departed
for another universe, or been wiped out of existence by
changes to continuity (this was, I told myself, why
Areo Lass had stopped returning my phone calls).

     But in Net.ropolis, in the city with the greatest per
capita population of superhumans on earth, I had never met
a retired super-hero.  Or a sidekick, for that matter.
For an organization with hundreds of members, with
resources that went beyond the cutting edge and a reach
that extended outside of the known universe, the LNH
had one hell of a lousy retirement plan.

     "Prof," I said, "the reason I've stuck by you all of
these years..."

     "Apart from the money he pays you," Jennifer said.

     "And the fact that you have a contract," Substitute
Lad added.

     "And that you appear to have no marketable skills,
other than committing random acts of violence with kitchen
utensils," added the Prof's wife.

     "Irene!  This will not do!" the Prof said.

     "It's okay, Prof.  She's actually quoting from my
LinkedIn profile," I said.  "As I was saying, the reason
I've always been proud to be your partner is that you have
always known what a true hero would do in any situation."

     Easily-Discovered Man took a deep breath, but said

     "So ask yourself what a hero -- the hero you have
always been -- would do now," I continued.  "And whatever
the answer is, whatever you decide to do, I'll stand by
you.  And I'll kick the shins of anybody who says otherwise."

     The Prof stared at me for what seemed like a long
time, then smiled.

     "Remember me well," he said, "for from this day
forward, my career as Easily-Discovered Man lives only
in your memory."

     He swallowed, then nodded to ReVamp Lass.

     "Do it," he said.

     ReVamp Lass removed her glasses, wiped them, then
replaced them on her face.  She regarded the Prof with
a look of intense concentration.  As she did, the
shadows in the living room grew longer and darker,
stretching out from the curtains, the doorways, the
cracks along the floor, cascading along in a sable
wave until at last they reached out to touch Professor

     A moment later, and his phosphorescent glow
was gone.

     "Consummatum est," the Prof said.

     "Thank you," Theo, his wife said, and the Prof
stood there, startled, as first his wife, then his
daughter, and then the whole company assembled in
his living room -- with the exception of ReVamp Lass,
Substitute Lad, and myself -- moved in to wrap him
in a hug.

     "There's just one thing more," I heard ReVamp
Lass say, as I eased myself out of the front door
and began walking across the lawn.  "Having bid
good-bye to his powers, it is now time for Professor
Wong to cleanse himself of his old identity through
a ceremonial burning of his costume and mask."

     "Where is Professor Wong's mask?" I heard
Professor Dahl ask, followed by several muffled cries
of "I don't have it" and "I thought you had it?"

     The mask in question, still glowing, still warm,
remained in my back pocket as I fled into the night.


    NEXT ISSUE: Can Easily-Discovered Man Lite solve the
mystery of the Waffle Queen's murder while eluding the LNH,
the villainous Mynabird, and any further "Beige Midnight"
crossovers?  Can the help of an old friend -- and the home
of an older enemy -- provide him with the information he
needs?  Can the author get away with continuing "The Adventures
of Easily-Discovered Man" without the presence of the title
character?  All this, and substantially less, in a story
our focus group has recommended we call "Barnstorming!"

    CHARACTERS: Easily-Discovered Man, Easily-Discovered Man
Lite, Cynical Lass, Substitute Lad, My-Dall, Plummet and
related characters are (c) the author.

     Kid Recap is (c) Matt "Badger" Rossi.  Areo Lass is
(c) Tom Russell, Jr.  ReVamp Lass II is (c) Jeff McCoskey.

    "And after all is said and done
    I gotta move while it's still fun
    I'm gonna walk before they make me run"
       --The Rolling Stones

More information about the racc mailing list