LNH: Beige Countdown #9 (6/9)
robrogers72 at gmail.com
Thu May 16 09:54:15 PDT 2013
"You," Jean Grey said, her clenched fists pulsing with
unearthly fire, "have insulted my great-grandmother."
"And my great-great-great-granddaughter," added Luke
Skywalker, his hooded face shimmering in the glow of his
Deja Dude's eyes scanned the bridge of the ship.
Nothing he saw -- a wooden steering wheel, a repurposed
Wurlitzer jukebox, a miniature copy of the Beige Clock Tower
-- seemed like it could serve as the kind of weapon that
would allow him to defend himself against a Jedi Knight,
a wizard, a vampire, a Time Lord or any of the other
fictional entities that the living virus Merissa had
summoned to destroy him.
For the briefest of moments, the net.hero found himself
wondering if constantly surrounding himself with powerful
and dangerous women was not, in the end, a rather poor
"And my great-great-great-granddaughter, too," Harry
Potter said, then paused. He turned to Jean Grey. "So that
makes you, what? My great-great-great-great-great-great-
great-granddaughter? Or is there another word for that?"
Captain Picard rolled his eyes. "This is why I endeavor
never to get involved in time-travel stories," he said.
"Oh, come on then, they're not that bad," said the
Doctor, clapping the Starfleet officer on his shoulder.
"Always meeting interesting people, always seeing another
piece of the universe. And you get to do a bit of running."
"Aren't we... aren't we supposed to be doing something?"
Edward Cullen asked, looking a bit confused.
"Isn't that the motto for your entire series?" Potter
"No, no. The sparkly boy is right," the Doctor said,
advancing on the now-powerless super-hero standing in
front of them. "We are here because this fellow," he added,
pointing his sonic screwdriver at Deja Dude, "has insulted
someone who is, was, or will be very dear to each of us."
"Have you read any of my work?" Deja Dude said. "I'm
an equal opportunity insulter. None of it was meant
"Your actions may have been meant in jest, but they
carry far-reaching consequences," Picard said.
"And why is that, exactly?" Deja Dude asked, walking
towards the Captain. "Surely you, of all people, Picard,
understand the need to consider words -- even harsh words
-- in their culturally relevant context. And going out
of your way to avenge an insult seems out of character
for you, Doctor. You too, Skywalker."
"I'm pretty sure it's in character for me," Cullen
said, as the Doctor rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
"That's because you haven't got one," Potter said.
"If you don't shut up, I'm going to eat you," the
"What _is_ it with you and schoolchildren?" Potter
asked. "I mean, really. You're how many hundred years
old now? You couldn't at least have moved on to university
"You're trying to distract us," Grey said, energy
coursing through the length of her long red hair. "Trying
to make us doubt ourselves."
"I'm trying to make you remember yourself," Deja Dude
said. "You're all strong people. Leaders. Warriors.
But you're acting like characters in somebody's badly-
written fan fiction. And that's..."
"He just insulted Merissa again!" Cullen said.
"Let's kill him!"
"Deja Dude is right!" Potter said. "We _are_ being
written out of character. The real Edward Cullen would
never be able to come to a decision in fewer than two
The Dark Phoenix glared at the young wizard.
"Seriously, knock it off, Potter," she said. "I
happen to like those books."
"Hang on a tic," the Doctor said. "If there's one
thing I've learned in centuries of knocking about the
universe, it's never to ignore the intuition of an
English schoolboy. Captain, are you picking up anything
unusual on your tricorder?"
"My...?" Picard said, startled, then reached for
the instrument in question while keeping his phaser
trained on Deja Dude.
He glanced at the device. "There... appears to be
some kind of localized anomaly," he said.
"Right," the Doctor said, pointing his sonic
screwdriver at the tricorder. The device blinked twice
with a little "twee" sound. "What does it say now?"
"It..." Picard began. "It says... that we are each
characters from a separate and distinct fictional universe,
and that we are at present existing within... another
fictional universe, whose rules explicitly forbid our
"Blimey," Harry Potter said, staring at the sonic
screwdriver with renewed respect. "Where'd you get
your magic wand, then?"
"You're all being used," said Deja Dude. "Not to tell
a story, not to develop as human beings, but to make
someone's point for them. That's what distinguishes
fanfiction from real writing."
"Wait," Edward said. "Are you saying... that someone
would develop a whole story around a badly-written version
of me? Who would do that? And what kind of sick individual
would want to read something like that?"
"No," the Doctor said, "that's not what he's saying.
It's what he wants us to think he's saying... but it's not
what he actually means."
"What do _you_ actually mean?" Skywalker asked, as
Deja Dude edged slowly toward the captain's chair, and
the medical kit beside it.
"Deja Dude wants us to believe that Lady Merissa
-- whom we all love and cherish -- plucked us from our
individual universes and brought us here," the Doctor said.
"But the data we've obtained suggests that's
impossible," Captain Picard said. "The physical laws of
this universe prevent it."
"Then how are we here?" Cullen asked.
"I'm guessing a wizard did it," Potter said.
"Wait," Jean Grey said. "The question isn't where
we came from, is it? It's who we really are."
"Oh," the Doctor said, wagging his finger at the
tall, glowing woman. "Oh, I like her."
"If we _couldn't_ have come from another universe,
that means we all originated in this universe," Grey
said, as Deja Dude fingered the latch of the medical kit.
"And that means that although our behavior might be
out of character for the beings on whom each of us is
"It's entirely in character for _us_," Picard said,
recognition spreading across his furrowed brow. "Very
well, then. Let's murder him!"
The captain of the _Enterprise_ fired his phaser
at Deja Dude, who used the reflective surface of
the medical kit to deflect the beam at Edward Cullen.
The vampire fell, twitching for a moment before
collapsing into a heap of glittering ashes.
The starship shuddered momentarily, as half of the
Internet gasped in horror and disbelief while the other
"Now you've...ulk!" the Doctor said, as Deja Dude
pitched a pair of aspirin into the Time Lord's open
mouth. The Doctor began to convulse violently, lips
foaming, until at last the outlines of his body blurred,
becoming a cascade of searing energy as his poisoned form
sought to regenerate itself.
The sudden eruption of energy consumed and
incinerated Jean Grey, who seemed, if disheartened,
not particularly surprised by this development.
Deja Dude leapt forward, catching the Doctor's
sonic screwdriver as it fell. He rolled, dodging a jet
of red fire from Harry Potter's magic wand, and aimed
the device at Luke Skywalker's right hand.
As the sonic screwdriver whined, the Jedi's mechanical
hand began to spin -- an effect that would have been awkward
for Skywalker at the best of times, but was particularly
inconvenient at the moment, since he had been about to
deliver a killing blow with his lightsaber.
Instead, the blade in question decapitated its owner
and cleaved a neat diagonal path through Harry Potter before
crumpling to the ground with the rest of Skywalker's
"And everybody said you could never get through all of
_Harry Potter_ in one go," Deja Dude said. "Well, that's
He flinched, as a phaser blast knocked the sonic
screwdriver from his hand.
"You fought well," Picard said, aiming the weapon
at the center of the hero's chest. "Against any other
opponent, you would surely have prevailed. But I and my
crew have been appearing in fanfiction stories for a long,
He turned to the woman beside him. "What would
you have me do with him, Admiral Merissa?"
"Lead him to the chair," said Merissa, striding
forward in a long, sleek uniform of Starfleet red.
"He's the one who decided he wanted it rough."
"I'll take this, thank you," said the Doctor,
retrieving his sonic screwdriver. He had emerged
from his regeneration as a younger man, now
attired in a sport coat, bow tie and fez. "Can't
believe you did me in with aspirin. Really ought
to watch what I tell people about my allergies."
"You made a mistake, Merissa," Deja Dude
said, as Picard and the Doctor strapped his arms
to the captain's chair.
"That's _Admiral_ Merissa to you," the living
virus said, pulling on a pair of rubber gloves.
"Or 'Mistress.' I think I like 'Mistress.'"
Something within the captain's chair growled,
causing Picard and the Doctor to step back and
Merissa to look up.
"You could have kept it to just the two of us,"
Deja Dude said, his voice deepening. "A whole
universe, just you and me. In time, I might have
given in to what you were asking. Hell, I might
even have enjoyed it."
"Your eyes," Merissa said, staring. "When did your
eyes become green? And why are they... glowing?"
"You did what all fanfiction writers do, in
the end," Deja Dude said, his spacesuit straining and
finally bursting as his muscles swelled. "You brought
Picard, the Doctor -- everything but the kitchen sink --
into the story. And when you did that, sweetheart,
you turned this into a comic-book universe."
His arm straps fell like ticker tape as Deja Dude
rose from his chair, his massive green form dwarfing the
instrument panels surrounding him. Ignoring the barrage
of phaser blasts striking his chest -- and swatting the
Doctor aside like a tweed-suited gnat -- the creature
that had been Deja Dude finally closed his enormous
hand around the waist of a struggling Merissa.
"And in that universe -- in ANY universe based
on comic books -- DEJA HULK IS THE STRONGEST ONE THERE
IS!" he bellowed.
"What... what are you going to do with me?"
Merissa gasped, struggling to free herself from the
"I'm thinking a Barbara Eden special," Deja Hulk
said, as a vaguely Arabic-by-way-of-the-1960s bottle
appeared in midair.
Picking up the struggling girl -- who managed to
eep out a "Help meeee" -- with his thumb and forefinger,
the giant green creature dropped Merissa into the bottle
and mashed the stopper down with his fist.
"I can't say for sure that no one will ever find
you, floating out here in the middle of a universe
in which nothing else exists," Deja Hulk said, placing
the bottle on the transmat platform. "But I think
it's a pretty safe bet."
"We cannot allow you to murder a sentient creature!"
Captain Picard said, as he and the Doctor rushed to
free Merissa from the bottle.
"You know," the Doctor said, looking up as Deja
Hulk activated the transmatter array, "I really think the
in-character versions of ourselves would have found
some way to help her without actually getting on the..."
The two men and a bottle vanished in a curtain of
"Now," said Deja Dude, who had simultaneously
reverted to human form and reconstituted himself a new
spacesuit, "let's see. There's the damage to the bridge
to repair, and then I'll have to build a new central
computer from scratch -- one that can navigate its way
back to the Looniverse. Am I forgetting anything?
He picked up Luke Skywalker's fallen lightsaber
from the floor of the bridge, switched it off, and
pitched the weapon at the Wurlitzer jukebox. The aged
machine blinked to life, filling the bridge with the
lilting lyrics of Taiwanese singer Cyndi Wang.
"That's more like it," Deja Dude said. "Should be
ready to go in half an hour... and then we'll find out
just how much trouble Kirby and the others have
gotten themselves into while I've been gone."
"Worlds of wonder beyond measure," Kid Kirby declared.
"Designs beyond the mind of mere mortals to comprehend,
stretching out in every direction toward the infinite!
Jeweled cities forged in the hearts of stars, peopled by
beings whose merest thoughts would collapse the space-time
continuum should they manifest in our dimension!"
He paused, as the subspace escalator circled skyward
and he and Jack took in more of the marvels assembled
within the vast interdimensional vault housing the
"It's all a bit much, ain't it?" Jack said.
"Indeed," Kid Kirby said. No civilization in existence,
no marvel of the multiverse had escaped the Collector's
notice, and the fruits of his fanatic assembly stood
-- or rotated, or pulsed -- in all their glory within the
chamber in a manner that Kid Kirby found frankly rather
"I mean, I like bobbleheads as much as the next guy.
Maybe more," Jack said, scratching the back of his neck as
a comet laden with the entire production run of Teenie
Beanie Babies drifted beneath their feet. "But, you know.
One bobblehead is kind of funny. Two, you've got a pair.
A whole galaxy of them? That's a problem. They got a
show on TLC for people like that."
"I have heard of this phenomenon," Kid Kirby said.
"People who transform the sanctuary of their homes into
mere holding spaces for the flotsam and jetsam of everyday
"Yeah," Jack said, shaking his head as a three-masted
ship sailed past, each billowing sail stitched together from
Bazooka Joe comic strips.
"Everybody has in them the desire to be creative, you
know?" he continued. "A little spark of God. Most people
never act on it, but it's still there. So they see something
that inspires them, and they take it, and put it away, thinking
someday when they have the time, they might be able to turn it
into something magical."
He chuckled. "Like me, I guess."
"How can you say this?" Kid Kirby asked, swiveling
his helmeted head to stare at the man beside him. "For no
being who stood among men ever gave greater expression to the
febrile fruits of his fevered imagination! Nor indeed did
any artist, neither mortal nor divine..."
"Stop," Jack said. "Sure, I had a few good ideas.
I was lucky enough to get them down on paper. Luckier still
-- after a long, long time -- to find an audience that
appreciated what I had to say."
They stopped to watch the entire K-Tel record
catalogue dance by on the breath of the solar wind.
"Once you get yourself an audience, though, it's hard to
keep yourself from listening to them," Jack said. "There's a
part of you that likes nothing more than giving them what
they want. And there's nothing wrong with that -- I
wouldn'ta worked in comics all those years if I didn't want
people to read my stuff. But then there's all that other stuff
you want to create, the bits and pieces of ideas you put aside
for time you think you're going to have eventually."
Kid Kirby hesitated, then said, "Is... is that what
you have been working on since the Collector brought you
to his realm?"
"Since he brought me back from the dead? Yeah," Jack
said, gazing out into subspace. "That's what we've all been
working on, me and Gerber and Gruenwald and Miller. All of
us have these secrets stored up in our hearts, and now we
finally have all the time in the world to work on them.
Only it isn't going so good."
"You find it difficult to collaborate?" Kid Kirby asked.
"That part's fine," Jack said. "It's just that...
when you're under the gun, you've got a deadline and
mortgage payments to make and kids to feed... you grab
the first thing you find in your brain and slap that
on the page and do what you can to make it the best it can
be. You don't really have time to think about whether
it's art or not.
"Take all of that away," he continued, "and you start
thinking about going big. You think about making the
grandest, most amazing statement of who you are and how you
see the world, and you go rummaging through your brain to try
to find the very best stuff that's in there so you can make
that statement. And then maybe you find that you aren't as
good at finding that stuff when you're thinking about it
as you were when you were under the gun."
"Are the others having the same problem?" Kid Kirby
"Miller is," Jack said. "Gerber, he starts and stops
and starts and stops, but that's just how he works. I
don't know about Gruenwald. I think he'd be just as happy
to keep on writing stories about Captain America forever."
"In truth," Kirby said, "there is a lot of material
"YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THAT STATEMENT REALLY MEANS,"
said the voice of the Collector.
"At last you speak!" Kid Kirby said, doing his best
to look intimidating in the absence of his armor. "Show
yourself, if ye be unafraid!"
"A RATHER IRONIC REQUEST, COMING AS IT DOES FROM ONE
WHO HAS ALWAYS HIDDEN HIS FACE BEHIND A HELMET," the
Collector said. "BESIDES, LEGIONNAIRE, YOU HAVE ALREADY SEEN
ME. TO HAVE GAZED UPON THE MAJESTY OF THE COLLECTION IS TO
KNOW... THE COLLECTOR!"
"Now hold on," Jack said. "It's nice to be known for
what you do, but the last thing you want is for people to
start confusing that with the person you are."
"THE DISTINCTION IS MEANINGFUL ONLY DURING THE SPAN
OF MORTAL LIFE," the Collector said. "ONCE THAT IS PAST,
WE ARE ONLY AS WE WERE IN THE MINDS AND MEMORIES OF THOSE
WE ENCOUNTERED -- AND THE MONUMENTS WE HAVE BUILT TO
The spiraling escalator stopped, leaving Jack and Kid
Kirby in a circular room filled with banks of monitors, all
of which seemed to be suspended in midair. Robots -- a
sleeker, more professional-looking grade of robot than Kid
Kirby had so far encountered -- scurried here and there,
while pinpoints of starlight danced in the vast emptiness of
subspace surrounding them.
It looked, Kid Kirby thought, quite a bit like the
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, if one were to replace the skyline
of downtown Cleveland with the sublime majesty of the cosmos.
"But you yourself have eliminated that distinction,"
Kid Kirby said, as the face of the Collector stared
impassively at him from a dozen screens. "You have
unearthed the secret of life itself -- of sustaining the
living soul indefinitely beyond the mortal coil.
Surely you have no further need for monuments."
The Collector paused. Several of the robots looked up
for a moment, then went back to whatever it was they were
"PERSPECTIVE CHANGES ALL," the Collector said. "ONLY
WHEN ONE HAS TRANSCENDED DEATH CAN ONE APPRECIATE THE
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DOING SO AND ACHIEVING TRUE IMMORTALITY.
'I AM THUS, YES -- BUT I WOULD BE SAFELY THUS!' "
"You're quoting _Macbeth,_ " Jack observed. "That
can't be a healthy thing."
"Perhaps they are mutually exclusive," Kid Kirby said,
searching for some sign of the Collector's true self in the
space surrounding the floating monitors. "Those who have
scaled the obsidian cliffs of true immortality have done so
only through their willingness to sacrifice their lives
to some higher goal."
The Collector nodded to his robots, several of whom
waved their phalanges in a manner that Kid Kirby finally
realized was meant to be a dismissive gesture.
"MUCH YOU KNOW OF IMMORTALITY, LEGIONNAIRE," the
Collector scoffed. "AT YOUR HEIGHT YOU WERE, AT BEST,
A DERIVATIVE WORK... AND NOW, STRIPPED OF THAT POWER WHICH
WAS NEVER YOURS, YOU ARE REDUCED TO FOLLOWING AT THE HEEL
OF YOUR CREATOR LIKE A MEWLING CUR."
"I don't care if you are the boss of this place. You
don't talk to my friend like that," Jack thundered, jabbing
his forefinger at the nearest monitor.
"I never created Kid Kirby -- I don't know who he is,
or why he happens to have my name -- but I know courage when
I see it. And doing what he does, putting his life on the line
for other people... that makes him more of a man, in my book,
than some schlub who won't even come out from behind the
curtain to talk with us."
"He won't come out because he can't come out," Kid Kirby
"YOU KNOW NOT OF WHAT YOU SPEAK, HERO," the Collector
"There is no secret to how you survived the Flame Wars,
Collector. The secret is that you did not survive," Kid Kirby
said. "Yet on this planet, you had created a universe in which
you must exist... and so you did, after a fashion."
"Did I miss something?" Jack said, his eyes darting from
Kid Kirby to the expressions on the various monitors -- which
ranged from anger to raw panic -- and back again. "Are you
saying that the guy who brought me here ain't a guy at all?"
"I AM THE COLLECTOR!" the Collector said. "I HAVE
TRANSCENDED THE NEED FOR A PHYSICAL FORM!"
"That's a kind of fancy way of sayin' you died, ain't it?"
Jack said. "Take it from one who knows: the sooner you get
around to accepting it, the quicker you'll be able to move on
with your afterlife."
"I EXIST!" the Collector said. "ROBOTS! TELL THEM I
The robots all looked at one another. After a long
pause, one of them shrugged what passed for its shoulders.
"It is as the Collector has maintained," the robot
chirped. "At the highest levels of design no significant
difference exists between the creator and his creation.
The intelligence of the one expresses itself through the
physical form of the other."
"But you do not truly believe this," Kid Kirby said.
"There is enough of the Collector in you to recognize the
difference between an original and," he nodded to the
monitors surrounding him, "a derivative work. That is why
you built the device that captured the spirits of Jack and
his fellow artists: you hope to one day replace this thing
you have created with the actual departed soul of the
"MADNESS! HE SPEAKS MADNESS!" the Collector cackled.
"I COMMANDED THE ROBOTS TO BRING ME THE SOULS OF THE
GREATEST COMIC ARTISTS IN ALL OF CREATION SO THAT THEY
COULD CREATE THEIR MASTERPIECES -- SOMETHING MORE
VALUABLE THAN ANYTHING THEY ACHIEVED DURING THEIR LIFETIMES
-- AND ADD IT TO MY COLLECTION!"
"Did you command them?" Kid Kirby asked. "Or did
they program you to believe you had commanded them? Why
were they able to bring Jack and Frank and Mark and Steve
back with their bodies intact, but leave you, their
supposed master, as a flickering face on a screen?"
"I AM ALIVE IN EVERY TENDRIL OF INFORMATION THAT
FLASHES ACROSS THE SURFACE OF THIS PLANET," the Collector
said. "I AM THE ALL-SEEING, ALL-KNOWING, ALL-POWERFUL
ENTITY THAT THE GODS OF YOUR PRIMITIVE RACE ONLY
IMAGINED THEMSELVES TO BE."
"Yeah, you're a god, all right," Jack grunted.
"You're exactly the kind of god the robots wanted to
build for themselves."
"TELL THEM!" the Collector said. "TELL THEM YOU
HAVE NO NEED TO BE SEARCHING THE UNIVERSE FOR MY SOUL,
THAT I EXIST WHERE I HAVE ALWAYS EXISTED, AND ALWAYS
The robots glanced at one another again.
"The Collective is not pursuing an effort to
retrieve the corporeal soul of the Collector," one
of the robots began.
"THERE! YOU SEE!" the Collector crowed.
"...because the soul-harvesting device was
irretrievably damaged by the Ellenache upon their arrival
on this planet," another robot continued.
"In keeping with the Prophecy," a third robot said.
"Ellenache... the... the Legion of Net.Heroes is
here? On this planet?" Kid Kirby asked. "Where are
they? What have you done with them?"
"I EXIST!" the Collector insisted, his electronic image
wavering. "I AM THE ABSOLUTE MASTER OF THE GREATEST
SOURCE OF INFORMATION ABOUT THE UNIVERSE THAT HAS
EVER BEEN ASSEMBLED..."
"The Ellenache is gathered outside the entrance to
the Collection," one of the robots said. "They are now
moments away from destroying each other."
"In fulfillment of the Prophecy," several of the
"MY RANGE IS INFINITE! MY CAPACITY FOR UNDERSTANDING
KNOWS NO EQUAL!" the Collector continued.
Jack shook his head. "Why is it that someone with
all the power and all the knowledge in the universe can't
be happy unless us powerless folks are paying attention
to him? You want people to start calling you a god,
Collector? Start creating something. The rest of us
have got work to do."
"The Legion of Net.Heroes is in danger," Kid Kirby
said. "I must needs go to their aid."
"Not to put too fine a point on it," Jack said, as
the Collector continued his wailing, "but you don't seem
to have any super-powers at the moment. What, exactly,
did you have in mind?"
"The Collector was right about one thing," Kid Kirby
said, reaching his hand up to one of the monitors. "He
is the greatest source of information on this planet,
if not the universe. And knowledge, as ever, is power."
NEXT WEEK: The Collective unleashed! The Ultimate
Black Hole breached! And Plum Master experiences an
existential crisis of infinite lives!
More information about the racc