LNH: Possum-Man: Relinquished #10: The Fox and The Possum

Mitchell Crouch msc376 at uowmail.edu.au
Wed Apr 23 02:43:00 PDT 2014


STICKS TARQCHEVSKISON, party clown for hire, is having a mighty bad time! Turns out his girlfriend MONICA JADE is actually THE VIXEN, the arch-nemesis of his net.hero identity POSSUM-MAN and yep, she's known this all along! Monica's co-worker DAVID SAWLEY has enlisted POSSUM-MAN's help to train his son DEANO SAWLEY in the art of heroism as Deano takes on the mantle of SONFLOWER, a plant-themed net.hero. The Vixen and her associate THE WHITE BOOMER have a situation of their own to deal with after Professor SAH MUMIYAH, Deano's tutor, was injected with the soul of the ancient evil sorcerer NETMAKAHN while trying to render Possum-Man less heroic. On top of that, their evil buddies GREEN-ON-BLACK, who can shoot lightning from his hands, and DUCK McMUCK, a serial killer hunting his former classmates (including Sticks and Monica), are behind bars. Mumiyah's condition is currently unknown as Sticks mopes about his apartment with his best friend, STONES.

----=== {PM} ===----


An ongoing
    what a guy!

-10-{ The Fox and The Possum }-10-

The cover shows Sticks and Moni sharing a tender moment while in the background, Possum-Man and the Vixen fight, both bloodied and bruised and unwilling to concede an inch.

----=== {PM} ===----

Sticks sat at home.


He was just kinda... sittin' there. At home. He was marginally comfortable, I suppose?

Look he was straight up not in a good headspace. His girlfriend had been secretly trying to kill him for months, come on, I don't think it's unreasonable of him at all. But... he was certainly not a happy chappy, you know?

"I quietly believe," Stone loudly opined, "that you are not, at present, particularly joyful."

Sticks' reply was rendered unintelligible by a large spoonful of double choc ice cream, straight from the tub.

Stones nodded sagely, and continued, "You're probably right, you know, but I really have no idea seeing as how I have no clue what you said."

Again, Sticks' response was hindered by his continued efforts at the ice cream tub.

"You could at least tell me what's wrong?" Stones prompted.

Sticks mumbled through his ice cream again.

"Did your celebrity crush get pregnant?"

A negatory moan with a side of ice cream.

"Have the flat-earthers been proven right?"

A grunt, with ice cream.

"Did you hang a picture crooked on the wall somewhere?"

A deadpan stare. Ice cream.

"Okay!" Stones jumped up and clapped energetically. "Clearly what we need right now is a zany game of charades that escalates into-"

The doorbell rang, and  a sigh of relief was heard through Sticks' ice cream. He returned his full attention to the tub as Stones, deflated, left to answer the door.

Sticks heard the door unlock and open, followed by Stones' voice, muted by distance. "Oh thank goodness you're here," his friend was saying. "I think Sticks forgot how to be a person." The door closed and locked. "It's still funny for now..." Two sets of footsteps were approaching from the entrance to the small unit. "...but I'm seriously scared about what will happen when we run out of ice cream."

"Thanks, Stones," came a cold, feminine voice from behind the lounge over which Sticks was sprawled. "I'll handle him from here. You go get more ice cream."

Stones' footsteps retreated, the door opened and closed again, and an uneasy silence settled. Sticks slowly savoured another spoonful of double chocolate ice cream, not convinced that it wouldn't be the last thing he ever tasted.

Monica Jade walked around to the front of the lounge and crouched down, looking him straight in the eye. "Hello, Sticks."

In his best approximation of a vengeful, desperate attack, Sticks non-commitedly mumbled, "Liar," and tossed his spoon at her. It fumbled out of his fingers and clattered onto the floor, lacking the required energy and momentum to go any further as he sagged, deflated, further into the lounge.

He was rather, in a word, pathetic.

Monica's serene neutrality twitched into a frown, but just as quickly resumed its previous glacial setting. "There's no need for that, Sticks. I've come to talk. I want to explain what's happening and why you can't-- why you _cannot_ keep being Possum-Man."

"I help people," came Sticks' mumbled reply. He had no fire left, none of his usual determination. Just the facts that he didn't know if he believed and the conclusions that followed. "I help people and you try to kill me for it. I love you, and you've been trying to kill me all along."

"Only when the mask is on," came Monica's instant reply. Her tone was steely now, her gaze fixed.

Sticks frowned, and his eyes darted from side to side. "That... that doesn't make it better." He stuck a finger into his tub in lieu of the spoon before sucking ice cream off the end of it. After a thoughtful pause, he continued, "Yeah, no. It definitely doesn't make it better. You are a really, really bad girlfriend."

"I am trying," she explained slowly, as if talking to a child, "to save your life."

"You were tryin'a punch me 'til my head asploded," sulked Sticks. His hand flailed limply in the air. "Gimme spoon, please."

Monica grabbed the spoon and pointed it at him accusingly. "Do you have any idea how hard this was for me, Sticks? Do you? You're not a hero. You're not helping anyone. You are a vigilante. You dress up like a thug, beat up people in the night, and encourage others to do the same."

"I dress up like a friggin' possum and get cats outta trees."

"You call yourself a net.hero," Monica hissed, "but you have no idea what you're doing. It is a fact," she continued, standing up tall and throwing the spoon back down, "that where ever 'heroes' pop up, villains follow. It is a _fact_, Sticks. The villains never come first, and they always outnumber the heroes. They're less memorable, sure, but they're there. Screwy science and tragic backstories don't make villains; heroes do. And you are superbly -- hilariously! -- incapable of dealing with yours."

"Dealt with you," Sticks muttered. "Want some ice cream for that burn?"

"Yeah, you're doing a fantastic job of 'dealing with me' as you lie there on your lounge. I'm cleaning up your mess, Sticks! I'm not the bad guy here; I'm the one taking control of the bad guys so they don't do anything worse."

"Duck McMuck killed everyone we went to school with. You're a bad girlfriend and an even worse control freak. Gimme spoon, please."

"You and Stones would be dead too, if I hadn't intervened. You're welcome."

"Not the impression I got when he broke in here to kill Stones on your orders. Just sayin'. Now gimme spoon."

"Stop this stupid, childish dream, Sticks! Do you know how hard it was for me to take this assignment on? Do you? But someone has to clean up your mess. Someone has to stop you from getting yourself, or other people, killed!"

Sticks' eyes narrowed. "Assignment?" For the first time, he began to sit up a little straighter. "Who 'assigned' you to me?"

Monica's gaze faltered for the first time. "The good guys," she mumbled.

"Who the hell are the good guys, Moni? A bunch of creeps hiding in shadows telling my girlfriend to kill me for helping to get cats out of trees? Yeah, they sound really delightful!"

Monica's teeth were gritted now. "Stop asking these questions, Sticks. You're not helping people, just creating a breeding ground for villains and-"

"You're my villain!" Sticks exploded, jumping to his feet. "I put my bad guys in gaol! They got dealt with! You're the one making anti-hero serums and injecting them into weird people! You are the bad guy here, Moni, now pick up my damn spoon!"

"I'm not picking up your spoon!" Monica yelled back. "You're useless! You're not a net.hero! You're not Kid Kirby or Irony Man or even WikiBoy, you're just a grumpy, lonely, deluded man who climbs trees!" And then she added: "Badly!"

"Well you're not exactly LNH material yourself!" Sticks spat. "You're insane and manipulative and generally unlikeable as a person! You're no..." As he had spoken, Monica had begun to slump. Her eyes fell, glancing around guiltily, and for the first time in as long as he could remember, she looked genuinely uncomfortable. "You're no... hero... Monica, you're... you'll never be part of the LNH. Will you?"

An uneasy silence filled the room to bursting point.

"You're not part of the LNH, Moni... are you?"

Monica Jade couldn't look him in the eye. "The Ultimate Ninja gave me this assignment. Personally."

Sticks fell back into the lounge, stunned. "The UItimate Ninja... asked you to... what, exactly? To kill me?"

"Well, not in so many words," she hastily amended. "He asked me to... take care of you."

Another silence.

"Well that could be taken in many different ways," Sticks replied slowly.

"He's the Ultimate Ninja. Pretty sure if he asks me to 'take care of you', it means he wants you dead."

"Pretty sure you missed the part where you're insane. This is the LNH we're talking about!" Sticks shook his head in disbelief. "They're the good guys, remember? How are you so bad at ethics?"

Monica met his eyes again. "I do what I have to do, Sticks. Forget the costume. Leave it all alone."

Sticks glared back. "I help people, Moni. I do. Maybe I don't save the world or fight Turtles of Apocalyptic Proportions or even stop bank heists, but I help _people_. Individuals. And the LNH wouldn't want you to handle this like... this."

"You need to stop, Sticks," warned Monica. "I'm warning you now. It says so, right there." She pointed at the relevant sentence you just read.

"And I'm replying mockingly," Sticks replied mockingly. "Says so. Right there."

"Is this really how you want to do this, Sticks? Think long and hard about how it's going to end up."

"This is how _you_ want to do this," he replied. He picked up the spoon. "And I will stop you. I will."

The door burst open. "I got ice cream!" Stones beamed. "Yaaay!"

----=== {PM} ===----

Deano Sawley's eyes rocketed open as he awoke with a start. A noise!

Oh boy oh boy oh boy!

It sounded like a kind of quiety loudy thumpy bangy noise. Is there a word for that? Deano wasn't quite sure. There should be, though. Maybe like-

Bang. Okay, that one was definitely a bang. Deano could identify a-

Crash. What's banging and crashing? Did the noises know that it was night time? That's when you're meant to-

Snap. Deano's hand slipped under his pillow and grabbed the two dollar walky talky he kept there. It was pretty impressive; he'd finger painted it himself.

"Possum-Man?" he whispered hurriedly. "Hello? Mr. Possum-Man?"

There was a long quiety quietness. Deano was pretty sure that that was called a-

Crackle. "Deano?" Possum-Man sounded rushed and kind of out of breath. "Are you okay?"

"I don't..." Deano frowned, and strained to hear anything else. "I thought I heard a-"

Zap. An arc of green electricity shot through Deano's window and hit the walky talky straight out of his hand. Deano turned around, eyes wide with fear and wonder, to see a hulking figure clothed in white and silver. In front of him was a smaller, rakishly thin man dressed in black with an eerie green glow.

"Green-on-Black!" Deano gasped. "And the White-"


----=== {PM} ===----

Pos cycled through the streets of Www.ollongong as fast as his bicycle could take him, which wasn't particularly fast since the gears were kind of broken, and the brakes weren't working anyway so getting up too much speed was not only difficult but dangerous. He peddled hurriedly, but responsibly.

He arrived at the Sawley's house to a wide open front door, and ran straight in. "Hello?" he whispered.

"Hiiiii," came a singsong reply as the door slammed shut behind him. A black mist swirled through the room, threw Possum-Man against the ceiling and then materialised into a corpse, wearing clothes that were somehow familiar. "Did you miss me?" it chuckled.

Beneath his goggles, Pos' eyes opened wide. "Mumiyah? Sah Mumiyah?"

"And then some," Mumiyah growled. "I have the full, highly diluted powers of the sorcerer Netmakahn! I have become a GOD!"

"I'll be honest," came Possum-Man's reply, "I can't help but feel that if the powers are highly diluted then, y'know, they're not the full powers, and if he's just a sorcerer, then, well, he's not quite a god."

Sah Mumiyah's head rotated on its neck a full three hundred and sixty degrees as if to prove his point.

Pos cleared his throat. "Again with the honesty: that was impressive. It would be more impressive if you didn't look dead, and like, you know, you weren't evil and crazy, but still! That's a good trick. That is a good party trick."

"How's this for a party trick, hero?" Green-on-Black entered the room with Deano bound, gagged but conscious, followed by the White Boomer with an unconscious Dave over his shoulder.

Pos sighed. "Alright, I suppose. I thought you were in gaol?"

"We broke them out," giggled Mumiyah as his head and limbs twisted and turned unnaturally.

"Well firstly, I really don't appreciate that, and secondly, please quit it with the weird head stuff." Pos paused for a moment as Mumiyah's cackling head continued to spin. "Seriously. That's messed up. And what are you guys even doing here, anyway? Why are you terrorising these innocent people who I'm pretty sure that I, as Possum-Man, do not even know?"

Leading a double life was difficult, especially when social circles overlapped, as Pos' current girlfriend situation indicated.

Green-on-Black scoffed, and shot a green bolt at Possum-Man. It tingled lightly on his skin as it penetrated the Styrofoam muscles covering his core. "You really are a thick one, ain't you Pos? You can't put two and two together."

The White Boomer, as always, remained silent.

"Pretty sure I can do maths with numbers," Possum-Man replied, "but you guys can be SUPER DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND SOMETIMES." He shook his head, and found that his entire body rotated uncomfortably against the ceiling. "Seriously, are you just going to hold me here? Is that the plan? We're just chilling out?"

"Until McMuck finishes his business, we're just going to keep you company." Mumiyah laughed again. "And once you've nice and failed at stopping him, that's when the real pain begins. We're dancing tonight, Possum-Man!"

Duck McMuck. What unfinished business did Duck McMuck have?

Pos' heart sank as he realised where Duck and the Vixen were: with Stones.

"Well," he drawled, trying to make eye contact with Deano and failing somewhat through his tinted goggles, "I guess that's it, then! You got me. Definitely got me. Yep. No possible way for me to get out of this one, and even if I did, I don't know what you're up to. No idea at all." Nothing from Deano. "Too bad no one else is here who could help, eh? No one at all. Yep. Absolutely nothing to be done." He smiled charmingly at his captors. "Yep. I'm absolutely- oh there we go."

There was a tree where the net.villains were moments prior.

A root wrapped around Sah Mumiyah, enclosed him completely and then dragged him into the earth. Vines gripped Green-on-Black's neck, pulling him to his knees before a thick branch crashed into the back of his head, knocking him out. Meanwhile, bark seemed to sprout from the White Boomer's feet, up and then all over his body before he could move, freezing him to the spot. His right hand broke out briefly, but then the bark was back, thicker than ever.

Deano was on the ground, his arms elongated and rough with bushy texture, bursting through the floor into the soil deep below. "What now?" he innocently asked as Possum-Man fell from the ceiling.

"Good job," Pos muttered as he brushed himself off. "Excellent. Yeah. Okay! Okay. Sonflower. I need you to hold these guys here. Can you do that? Can you do that for me? I'll get onto Hank and the police, but can you hold them until then?"

"Of course!" came the young boy's chipper reply. "It's not like they're tricky or anything."

Pos paused for just a moment. "Yep. Pieces of cake. Fantastic. Okay, thank you! Thank you, and be careful." He rushed out of the room, terrified to leave the young boy alone with three of the most powerful villains he'd ever had the misfortune of meeting, but even more terrified of what might happen to Stones if he didn't.

----=== {PM} ===----

Pos arrived home at his apartment to find the door slightly ajar. He knocked anyway. "Hello?" he called. "Is my déjà vu ready yet?"

No reply.

He crept in, and the lights were all off. "I think you'll find that we've done this before," he continued. "A while ago, yeah, but you're being all serial killer-y on the people from your old high school. You tried killing Stones before, and I stopped you, remember?"

He flicked the light switch on to discover that the power was cut. Perfect. He couldn't wait to tell his landlord that.

"I stopped you," Pos was saying, "Yep. It was me who stopped you, not the Vixen, because she's bad at... well, everything, really. I don't have one particular example in mind."

"Well you're bad at banter," replied the Vixen, and the curtain was ripped away from the window to reveal the silhouettes of the Vixen and Duck McMuck holding Stones' gagged body against the backdrop of the city lights. Stones struggled lightly, but Duck's blades against his neck stopped that fairly quickly.

"You're not wrong, Possum," growled Duck. "You stopped me once before, and now I want you to know that you failed. You failed, Possum! I win!"

"Cool," replied Possum-Man as he opened up the freezer and got out a fresh tub of double chocolate ice cream. "Sorry, remind me of what your brilliant plan was again? Still had to kill three people, didn't you?"

Duck grimaced, anger clear on his face. "Yes. After Stones, I've still got to get Sticks, and then find that dog Monica Jade."

Pos shrugged and retrieved a fresh spoon from the cutlery drawer. "That should be easy enough," he said as he pulled off his mask. Sticks smiled at the shocked killer. "How you doin', bud?"

"Sticks? Sticks is... Possum-Man?"

"Yeah," mumbled Sticks through a mouthful of ice cream. "And that dog over there, Vixen, is Monica Jade."

The shock on the Vixen's face was plain to see through her mask, but Duck's face was something else to behold entirely.

"Yeeaah," Sticks continued. "She's been playing you for an idiot this whole time, buddy. Sorry and all, but... well, I'm not really sorry at all. You're kind of a psycho, and she's just plain rude."

"I bought ice cream for Possum-Man?" Stones asked, clearly struggling to keep up with events. His struggle ended with a swift blow to the back of the head from the Vixen, knocking him out cold.

"Just plain rude," Sticks repeated through his ice cream.

Duck dropped Stones on the ground and moved away from Vixen, glaring at her warily. "Vixen?" he prompted. "Monica...?"

Vixen scoffed and kicked Stones' body out of the way. "Seriously, Duck? You're going to believe Possum-Man? You're going to believe Sticks? He's clearly just trying to divide us."

"Objection!" Sticks objected. "I'm not smart enough to come up with that plan!"

Duck's gaze whipped back to Sticks. "Are you calling me dumb?!"

"What?" Sticks frowned, confused. "No. I mean, you are, but that's not what I was saying. I guess what I'm saying now is that you're dumb enough to think I'm calling you dumb when I was... not. Before."

There was a tense moment of silence. "So," Duck began again, "who... who am I stabbing?"

Sticks pointed at the Vixen.

The Vixen pointed at Stones.

Stones drooled on the cheap linoleum.

Duck shrugged. "Okay sure. That works for me!"

Suddenly Sticks dove across the room, tackling Duck on his way before rolling out and grabbing the Vixen's mask, pulling it off to reveal Monica's face.

"Dang it!" cried Duck. "Seriously, just... stop surprising me! I am in a VERY DELICATE STATE OF MIND, OKAY? I really don't need this. My therapist would be having a fit."

Sticks paused for a moment. "You have a therapist? You?"

"Yeah," Duck replied. "Or I will have one, anyone. I'm thinking I might ask YOUR TOMBSTONE!"

And with that, Duck McMuck lunged at Sticks, blades at the ready. Sticks, ill-prepared to defend himself from a murderous serial killer jumping at him from fairly close range, squeezed his eyes shut and braced himself for a great deal of discomfort.

He continued to wait for it, but instead heard something heavy hit the floor, followed by Monica's voice: "Not my Sticks, you bastard."

Sticks slowly opened one eye, and then the other to confirm what he was seeing. Monica held Duck's head in one hand, and one of his blades in the other. Duck's body, head not included, lay on the linoleum in a puddle of blood.

"Thank goodness that stuff's easy to mop," Sticks muttered. "The linoleum, that is. Blood itself? Probably not the easiest stains to remove. I don't know, I've never tried it. But at least I could never afford a rug like I wanted."

Monica exhaled as though she'd been holding her breath the entire time, and dropped what had previously been in her hands. If you've been paying attention, you know exactly what that was! If you haven't been paying attention, then you can either go back two paragraphs and try again, or I can just tell you now if you want: it was one of Duck McMuck's blades in one hand, and his head in the other!

In case you completely missed it, Duck's head is not on his body any more. He's dead.

"So this wasn't my best plan," Moni admitted sheepishly. "I kind of... I thought you'd just fight him, agree that it was too dangerous for Stones for you to keep being, you know, you, and I just... I just wanted you to stop."

Sticks nodded slowly, still somewhat in shock. "That's a really a bad plan," he agreed. "So can I get back to the Sawleys' now? I didn't really do a fantastic job of cleaning things up there."

"They'll be gone," she told him. "They were only there to distract you for a bit, and... well, make you feel bad, that they were in harm's way. No one else knows that you're connected to them or anything."

"No one else knows? Moni, how often are you going to keep including that family in what goes on between us? There are more than a dozen people in this town, you know. You could afford to assault someone other than Stones, Deano or David."

Moni chuckled quietly, and a silence settled in. "So what does happen between us?" she whispered. "Now that you know. Now that everything's out in the open. I want to save you, Sticks. I want to stop Possum-Man."

Sticks shook his head. "You're still the worst. The Vixen is the worst. You just busted two really dangerous villains out of gaol -- nice job on that one -- but you did also just decapitate your serial killer friend to save me. So... thanks for that."

This time Moni openly laughed. "They were going to get out anyway! You know how these things go. And better to have them be grateful to me -- to the Vixen -- than start getting organised with someone who actually wants you dead."

"So we're at an impasse, then. You want to 'save' me by stopping me from wearing the costume. I want to save you by stopping you from wearing yours. You think I'm the villain, doing more harm than good, and I think the exact same thing about you. The Possum-Man and the Vixen are sworn enemies, it seems."

"Forget about the fox and the possum," Moni whispered. "What about us? What about Sticks and Monica?"

Sticks shrugged helplessly, his styrofoam muscles squeaking adorably as he did so. "I love you," he admitted. "I always have, Moni, and I always will. Always. But how can we... how do we do this, if we're always wearing masks and beating each other up?"

"We're not wearing masks now."

In the darkness of the night, with the lights of the city sparkling through the window, they kissed. While it was a very dramatic image, the presence of Stones' unconscious body on one side of them and the, oh that's right, the corpse of their former classmate Duck on the other side, yeah, that kind of prevented it from being as romantic as it maybe could have been, if circumstances were different.

For a tender moment, there was silence as they held each other.

"I love you too," murmured Monica. "But... I need to protect people."

The embrace ended, and they stepped apart. Sticks looked her in the eye. "And I need to save them."

Monica picked up both their masks from the ground, and handed the Possum-Man's to him. "Whenever you have this on, I will hunt you. No matter where you go, or what you do, I will find you."

Possum-Man put on his mask, and smiled softly as he fitted the loops on the corners of his cape onto the hooks on the back of his boots. "And no matter how many villains you recruit, or how hard you fight, I will stop you. Always."

"Always," the Vixen agreed as she slipped her own mask on. "Now get out of here. I'll give you a ten second head start."

Possum-Man grinned, opened the large window, and jumped out. He reached his limbs out, and the cape stretched as he glided away. After an appropriate wait, the Vixen leapt out after him, racing along the rooftops.

Together, the fox and the possum chased each other into the night.



Well, there we go! Sorry for the delay there. I started writing this the day I posted issue #9, which Google Groups tells me was the 12th of March.

...last year.

So honestly, I didn't think it had been THAT long between issues, but I guess since then I have moved houses four times, graduated with my Masters, gotten a new job, and toured a significant portion of this absurdly large and flat land they call Australia.

Life issues aside, I found that first scene with Sticks being sad in his apartment quite difficult to write. While there certainly had to be a strongly emotional response from him, after finding out this his girlfriend was his arch-nemesis the entire time, I didn't really want to start an issue too slowly or too seriously.

Hopefully the contrast between the philosophies of Pos and Vix is present without smacking you in the face too hard. They really are two people with similar values who love each other, but find themselves with strongly opposing philosophies of how to pursue those values.

Pos, of course, is the idealist, but he lives in the fictional world and his world is more like our own reality; he wants to do good, so the best way to do that is to help people. Sounds reasonable to us. Vixen is more pragmatic, but this is largely due to her awareness of their status as fictional characters; she knows that stories demand conflict, and since Pos lacks the ability to resolve conflict, he should not be doing things that make for storytelling.

Duck and Stones also make for nice representations of how Pos and the Vixen see each other. Stones is always well-meaning, but useless, somewhat stupid, and in constant need of rescue. Duck is a murderer, an unquestionably bad person who believes that he's justified in what he's doing, but whose single-minded obsession makes him dangerous.

Anyway, the intended status quo for the series has now been set up (finally) and will be explored in the next issue, whenever it will come out! Don't despair for these long breaks, for not only have I got a bunch of issues planned and outlined quite extensively, but issue #12 will be titled "Stones' Big Day Out" and will literally just be a day in the life of Stones. It should be fun! At this rate, that should only be two years away, so you've got that to look forward to.


<3 Mitchell Crouch.

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