LNH/SW/GC/HCC: Just Another Multi-Writer Cascade That Will Probably Never Have an Ending #9: "Merissa Stole the Precious Thing"
pwerdna at gmail.com
Tue May 13 19:29:24 PDT 2014
JUST ANOTHER MULTI-WRITER CASCADE
THAT WILL PROBABLY NEVER HAVE AN ENDING
ISSUE NUMBER NINE
"Merissa Stole the Precious Thing"
by Andrew Perron
(Part of High Concept Challenge #45: "An Awkward Situation"!)
Rated ACRA for strong language and buttonholes
The cover is yet another homage to Days of Future Past. Pliable Lad
crouches in the foreground in the spotlight, and the posters are:
* SIG.LAD - Deceased
* KID CHIVALRY - Presumed Deceased
* OBSCURE TRIVIA LAD - Deceased Twice, Resurrected Twice
* LOST CAUSE BOY - I Think He Was Dead Already
* CAPTAIN CLEANUP - Deceased, Cloned, Retired and Active
* PANTA - Retconned
* CURLY - Forgotten
* REVERB BOY - In Superguy
* SUPERGUY - What's That
* KID ANARKY - Actually Still Around
* and finally, half-covered in shadows, PLIABLE LAD - Happy Ending
Foreshadowing Lad kept his mouth shut.
He and Non-Judgmental Agnostic had shooed off Bad-Timing Boy and were
silently guiding Pliable Lad down the corridor to the medbay in which FL
had spent the last twenty years. He didn't exactly relish the idea, but
they had to get Pli to Dr. Stomper before someone told him something
that would disrupt the timeline and make this cascade even more
confusing than it already was.
Pliable Lad twiddled his fingers, trying not to even look at the names
on the doors. "There are regulations about what to do with time-
"Probably!" said Non-Judgmental Agnostic. "But I've never been very good
with telling people what they shouldn't do. We should ask-- oh, here we
She pushed open the wide swinging doors. The place was pretty sparsely
inhabited; a good chunk of the LNH was off on the space mission against
LAN.os. There was a figure in a labcoat over next to one of the tables,
and Non-Judgmental Agnostic tapped them on the shoulder. "Excuse me, Dr.
The person in question turned around. It wasn't Doctor Stomper, that was
for sure; it was a youngish... well, person, with smooth, pale-brown
features and a short black buzzcut. Their only makeup was eyeshadow,
purple on one eye and white on the other. Under the labcoat, they wore a
bright pink vest over a white button-up shirt, a purple bowtie, and a
pair of purple knickerbockers with pink boots. "Sorry, he's off in space
at the moment. I'm Mashup Laq, Mad Doctor in Training. What can I do to
"Sorry, Laq?" said Pliable Lad.
"It's the nonbinary equivalent of Lass or Lad," said Mashup Laq, making
a checkmark on their clipboard.
"Ah." Pli decided not to ask followup questions - he didn't know what
was normal in this brave new world of the twenty-first century. "Well,
basically, I was in another dimension, fighting some psychic energy
creatures, when I was thrown into a reality distortion. I started
drifting from world to world, always intangible, able to see but not
interact. They were mostly worlds with superheroes, but not
exclusively... I felt like I was seeing these things for a reason, like
my journey had a destination... but then, before I met that destination,
I ended up here.*"
[ * A subjective view of the _Omaha Project_ crossover and _Pliable Lad_
Annual #1: "Phantom Traveller". - Footnote Girl ]
Well, at least Footnote Girl was still around, Pli noted.
"I seeeeee. Okay, sit on the bed with all the intimidating scientific
equipment clustered around it, please..." Mashup Laq started fiddling
with a tablet that held various technical readouts.
Pliable Lad laid down gingerly under what looked like a giant satellite
dish. Things bleeped and blipped. Foreshadowing Lad and Non-Judgmental
Agnostic stood around nervously as Mashup Laq poked and prodded at the
"Hmmm, I see, I see..." They looked up from the tablet. "Well, looks
like we don't need to worry about changing history."
Pli felt a pang of fear. "You mean I can never return to my own time!?"
ML blinked. "Er, no, it's just that anything that happens to you here
will be out of synch with what happens to you there."
"Out of synch...?" Pli tilted his head, trying to get a grip on the
"Well, it's like... Have you ever seen the Doctor Who episode 'The Three
"Doctor Who? That's one of those old British shows on PBS, right? The
guy with the scarf?"
"...yes." Mashup Laq pinched the bridge of their nose. "Basically,
whatever sent you here did so by pushing you out of a pre-existing
story. You're out of synch with the continuity, and so, the
Ottobindervitch Conservation Limit states that once you return to your
proper point in the timeline, you won't remember any of this until you
'catch up' with it."
"Well, that's reassuring, I suppose," said Pliable Lad, sitting up
"Indeed - especially as it implies you weren't pulled away from some
kind of death scene."
Non-Judgmental Agnostic raised her hand. "I'm a time traveler too," said
"Yes, but this doesn't apply to you. For one, you're coming from the
future, not the past. For another..." Mashup Laq waved a blinking light
at her. "I can tell that this is the 'present' of your story - that is,
what's happening now is further ahead in your personal timeline than
anything else that's been written about you."
"So you don't know what's going to happen to you," offered up
N-JA grinned. "So why should today be any different?"
Suddenly, the medbay doors slammed open. A man wearing a ninja outfit
covered in faintly-glowing white dots like a starfield ran in, holding a
limp form wearing a bright white spandex suit with a red "power" symbol
on the chest. We know them as Penultimate Savior and Killswitch, but
remember, readers, that everyone else in the room is foolishly ignorant!
"Are you sure the narrator is oka--" Pliable Lad was interrupted by that
thing that just happened.
"What happened?" said Mashup Laq as Penultimate Savior laid Killswitch
down on a bed. Four others followed them in, including Masterplan Lad,
bringing up the rear.
"He came through a rift in time and space from another universe, he's
probably all right and just needs a rest, happens to be holding an
object of cosmic power in his left hand, if you could take care of him
while we have a chat that would be swell." MPL hooked his arm in
Penultimate Savior's and marched him over to a corner of the room.
Mashup Laq blinked, holding her hands out towards Killswitch as if
warming them over a fire. "He's giving off intense levels of crossover
energy." She looked up at Continuity's Champion, Kid Remender, and
Occultism Lord. "Do you know him?"
"We are new to this place," Occultism Lord demurred. "Of us, it seems
that friend Penultimate Savior is the only one who's made his
Over in the corner, friend Penultimate Savior was being grilled. "So,"
said Masterplan Lad, metaphorically gripping PS's nonexistent
Wow, that sounds filthy in a modern context. To clarify, to "buttonhole"
someone is to accost and detain someone in conversation - getting their
attention, keeping it, and not letting go.
"Anyway," said Masterplan Lad, "hello there. I hear you're planning to
save the universe by destroying the world, et cetera."
"..." PS turned away. "You don't understand. It's necessary to--"
"Yes, yes, necessity of the multiverse-level greater good, a fairly
standard cosmic-level conflict. However, I believe you're making the
rookie mistake of assuming that alternative perspectives won't be useful
in introducing third- and fourth-level choices into a binary decision,
c.f. 'The Beast Below', Pond et al. I think that with a bit of
discussion and, perhaps, the careful introduction of guardedly
optimistic innately good-hearted individuals, we can come to an
alterna... wait a moment. Weren't there five of you?"
Irony Monger had assumed stealth mode, Dramatic Irony Field letting only
the audience know he was there. He crept towards his destination - room
58008, the location of the fearsome Ultra-Mega-BIGGUN. He could see it,
just down the hall...
There was a tap on his shoulder. He pondered that information for a
fraction of a second, then spun around.
A pale, dark-haired woman was standing there, looking straight at him
despite the Irony Field. For a few moments, she seemed to be a normal
human, and then he sensed a constant stream of irony emanating from the
fact that she was anything but normal. She looked mildly embarassed.
"Sorry," said Lydia Devin, "but I one of my contacts fell out and I
think it's sticking to your boot."
The demonically-possessed cyborg duck known as Psychovant floomped into
existence holding one of the cosmic artifacts known as Kubrik's Kubes.
Now that he'd taken care of the important business of hedonism and
sarcasm, he could finally get down to...
Whatever it was the Council wanted him to do. Eh, he'd remember
He shook the Kube. Now why the hell had it put him down in some random
field? He was supposed to be in the Greater Espanola All-You-Can-Eat
Bouncing Beauty Boulangerie, with a Negra Modelo in one wing and one of
the aforementioned beauties in the other!
Then the Duck of Debauchery heard a whistling noise from overhead. He
looked up as a long, thin, cylindrical object blasted through the
atmosphere, plumes of steam coming off the overheated nosecone, until it
crashed with an echoing rumble, kicking up a long furrow in the grassy
Finally, something interesting! Psychovant flapped over to the mass of
cooling metal and eyed it speculatively. Maybe it'd be worth something
on the intergalactic scrap market...
With a WRUNCH!, a circle of metal exploded out from the crashed
spaceship. A shape dropped out - a black rabbit, mildly anthropomorphic,
with a cape and the letters "AR" on its chest. It rolled on the dirt and
grass, and came up in a defensive pose. Its eyes locked on Psychovant.
"Yeah, me! What's up, dork?" Boy, who was this joker? Psychovant had
never seen him before in his life!
...or had he?
The rabbit was saying something. "Psychovant the Duck. I am here to
bring you to justice."
"What, just you?" Psychovant quacked sarcastically. "I swear, ossifer, I
ain't done nothin'."
He smirked. "That's right. Deny it. Show your fear of the fastest and
most powerful crusader for law and order in the world - Atomic Rabbit!"
Psychovant fell over laughing. "Atomic Rabbit? Seriously, Atomic
Rabbit!? What, are you going to team up against me with Jet Age Pigeon
and McCarthyist Hamster?"
Atomic Rabbit put his hands on his hips. "I knew you would be
unrepentant, but making a joke of forgetting your victims - how low can
The duck managed to stop guffawing long enough to push up on one wing.
"Ahhhh, that's rich... Y'know, I'd like to screw around more, but I
thought'cha should know - I got *no* idea what you're talking about."
Atomic Rabbit clenched his fists. For a moment, atomic fire crackled
around them. "RrrrrrrPSYCHOVANT!" He pointed at the duck. "The
Tooniverse bleeds, because of you! You and your tourism - your 'super
important expeditionary mission'! You wanted to see the three ancient
statues that sustain our world - The Rabbit, the Sentinel, and the
Barbarian. And you... and you..." He held a hand over his face, holding
back tears. "You... drew MOUSTACHES on them!"
When he looked up, Psychovant was munching a bag of popcorn. "Hey hey,
don't stop on my account! This is fine drama!"
Atomic Rabbit's eyes narrowed. Then he did something Psychovant didn't
expect - he threw back his head and laughed. "You're right! That's
exactly what it is!" The laughter got, Psychovant thought, just a li'l
crazed. "What you did wasn't just stupid and mean. You disrupted the
balance of Comedy and Drama!"
That explains a lot, Psychovant thought, but, for some reason, didn't
"The fundamental force of Comedy overran the world, changing and
disrupting life as we knew it! Life was turned into a series of wacky
shenanigans! It was... the Gagpocalypse." Atomic Rabbit shook his head,
apparently unaware of how silly he sounded. "A few of us... we took the
Drama into ourselves. To protect it. But we were warped as well." He
reached into his belt, pulled out a glowing carrot. "Once, my U-235
carrots gave me power. But now... they are slowly, *dramatically*,
Jeez, even Psychovant had to admit that that was serious. Maybe he ought
to say he was sorry and--
Wait. He wasn't sorry! He was never sorry!
Something was *off*. All at once, the cyborg duck realized - he wasn't
being written by his creator!
He had to be careful - he knew how much over-the-top ridiculous
characters like Ambush Bug and Lobo got twisted around by being part of
a larger universe. Soon he'd be introspecting, and then angsting, and at
that point it would be all over except for the part where he got
rebooted with a committee-approved generically threatening design.
Well, he wasn't going to end up like Ultimate Deadpool! Psychovant
gripped the Kubrik's Kube. "That's a great story. I'll be sure to tell
it to the kids." He planted one webbed foot on the ground. "But now..."
He raised the Kube. "It's rabbit season."
And Atomic Rabbit *grinned*. "But that's where you're wrong." He opened
up his trusty belt buckle and pulled out a six-sided shape, glowing with
immanent power. "It's duck season."
Psychovant let out a cloud of profanity that turned the air blue. Oh,
great - this moron had his *own* Kubrik's Kube!
"The force that created our civilization, that raised us up from mere
animals - how appropriate to use it to stop the one who betrayed us!"
Atomic Rabbit pointed the Kube at Psychovant, and the irresistable force
pulled at his feathers.
Well, if this guy thought that just because he had a shiny toy, he could
take out the Scourge of Seventy-Six Salons, he had another think coming!
Power blasted out of his own Kube.
The cosmic forces at work twisted and curled in the shimmering air,
particles so exotic they could win half a dozen Nobel prizes spitting
from the force of the confrontation. Thoughts bled through the burning
ropes of light, memories, fictions, half-real dreams. Neither of the
contestants would be the first to break, urging the power to greater and
greater heights, overwhelming, blinding...
And suddenly the light was gone.
The cosmic power was gone.
The contestants in the battle of strength were gone.
The field was quiet and peaceful. A butterfly winged lazily through the
air, neither knowing nor caring what strange event had just taken place.
And at the point where the power had met most furiously, motes of blue-
green light streamed from a crack...
Punctual Death Lad sighed. It was a heavy sigh, a sigh that indicated a
quite distressing burden on the sigher's part, a regrettable sigh that
could simply not be held back any longer.
A sigh that was met with a glare from his four teammates, sitting around
on the magnificent legendary ship known as the Argo as it was pulled
through space, destination unknown, by flying saucers shaped like
"Well, I'm just saying," said PDL, adjusting his bowtie.
"Yeah, well, stop sayin' it," muttered Cheesecake Lass. "We screwed up,
okay? We blew it."
"Look, don't worry too much, okay?" said Captain Pulls-Rabbits-Out-of-
Hats. "I'm sure that whatever situation we get into, it'll help us stop
the rifts. You guys know how these big crossovers are - you have to have
a lot going on. You can't focus on the main characters *all* the time."
"That is assuming that we are the main characters," intoned Irony
"Alas~!" cried a voice from nearby. The LNH3k turned to see a man with a
truly ridiculous helmet make a truly ridiculous gesture of shared pain.
"For we too have been caught up in this perfidious plot, wrenched from
our common goal!"
Burning Bra Lass and Dr. Turn-On-Tune-In-Drop-Out walked up behind.
"Truthfully, my man, wasn't our goal mostly 'explore the future'?" said
Dr. TO-TI-DO. "I mean, this still counts."
"Right on," said Burning Bra Lass. "Savin' the universe, that's bigger
than anything back in our day."
"Ay," cried Anti-Christ Lad, "but what good does it do a man to save the
universe - when he lose his heart!?"
The LNH3k looked at each other and sighed.
"You ever get the feeling you're stuck in the B-plot?" said Kid
Merissa narrowed her eyes. A really cool person had just disappeared
before her. All that was left was her only-kind-of-cool followers, a
not-nearly-as-cool girl who was way too colorful, and a bunch of randoms
Oh, and the woman in combat gear who had kicked down the door. She
probably wasn't important, though.
"Hey!" said Agent Susan Susannah, who had just been standing around
dramatically while Forsaken Lass and Manga Girl had confronted Merissa.
"You just made it so there's even *more* stuff going on in this
cascade!" She pointed the barrel of her Mostly-Nonlethal-BIGGUN at
Merissa's head. "Stand down!"
Ugh, what a poser. Merissa held up a hand, ready to sic her goth
followers on the interloper, when suddenly she sensed it. A really,
really, REALLY cool presence - someone who was goth without even trying,
someone who would infuriate her parents if she hung out with them. WOW.
She immediately disappeared in a flash of swirling dark energy. Her
followers cried out, Agent Susannah started shouting, and confusion
"You know, she's right - there *is* a lot of stuff going on in this
cascade," said Cameo Gonzaga of the Legion of Young.Heroes, all of whom
had stayed in the background, watching, waiting for the right moment to
join in. "I mean, we didn't even get to do anything."
"Maybe next issue," the Green Knight sighed.
Irony Monger was kneeling on the floor as Lydia peered at the sole of
his polymetal boot. "Sorry about this."
"Quite all right." He would let her finish what she was doing before
going into the room - it wasn't like a few moments would matter, once
they had the Mega-Ultra-BIGGUN...
Irony Monger realized the ironic potential of that thought thirteen
microseconds before dark energy swirled and Merissa appeared.
"YOU!" Merissa pointed at Lydia, then realized what she was doing and
put her hands behind her back. "I-- I mean, hi! I mean... 'sup?" Merissa
kind of... half-leaned against the door of room 58008.
"Er... hi. What's up?" Lydia straightened up. "Were you... looking for
"Well like." Merissa fiddled with one of the chains hanging off her
pants. "Just, y'know. You're one of those people who, like. Really knows
what they're doing. And, y'know. I thought it might be, like, cool and
all if, y'know, you wanted to... hang out?"
Lydia twitched slightly. It wasn't the girl's mysterious viral ability
to get people to follow her - Lydia was several orders of magnitude too
powerful to be affected by something like that. It was the puppy dog
"Well, um, that's very kind of you to say, but really, I'm really not as
cool or together as I look." She shrugged. "Actually, I'm kind of a
"No way!" Merissa straightened up, then, realizing she should be cool,
leaned back again and kinda halfway shook her head. "Nah. I could tell
from the moment you stepped into this continuum. You're not a poser.
You've got *pain*. You're *real*."
Lydia was struck by waves of secondhand embarrassment. Merissa was
reminding her uncomfortably of her seventh-grade year, but warped and
exaggerated. ...well, a *little* exaggerated. "Look, that's not-- I
mean, that's true, but that's not-- None of that makes you, or makes me,
Merissa looked confused. "I don't get it... are you saying that goths
"No! No, that's not what I'm trying to... rrgh..." Lydia rubbed her
temple. "What I mean is, cool is... it isn't just something you get
Irony Monger stepped forward. "If I might--"
Marissa turned, filled with sudden rage. "You keep out of this!" She
reached out and shadowflame blasted IM halfway down the corridor.
"HEY!" Lydia stepped inbetween them. "Get away from him, you bitch!"
Immediately, Lydia regretted it, but it was too late. Merissa's eyes
filled with tears. "B-- B--"
"Uh--" Lydia started to reach out--
Wailing, Merissa turned and threw open the door to room 58008, slamming
it behind her.
Lydia's hand hovered in the air a moment, then dropped. "...aw, shit."
She looked at Irony Mantis, sitting, slightly steaming, in the corner,
then looked away.. "I should... probably go. Um... you can keep the
contact." She balled up her fist and disappeared.
Irony Monger sat, staring in shock at the door. Slowly, he became aware
of a rush of footsteps behind him as Masterplan Lad ran up.
"Get away from the--" MPL stopped short, looking down at Irony Monger
and up at the door. "Er... what's going on?"
Irony Monger stared. "I don't even know anymore..."
Merissa flung herself to the bed. Energy flung out from her body,
sealing the walls and the door so tightly that a railgun would've
bounced off. She curled up in a tight ball and let out huge, shuddering
After a while, she just lay there, cybernetic mind going around and
around in circles. Goth wasn't cool. No. Goth sucked. She wasn't going
to be goth anymore.
But what *was* she going to be? Without some example data, without
someone to follow, her role was... undefined. Error.
Something was poking at the recurring loop of her thoughts. Not another
thought so much as a sensation. A smell.
Nose wrinkling, she quickly sat up. This whole place smelled like old
sweat and gym socks. Actually... where was she?
She had been briefed on the LNHQ, and she was pretty sure this was one
of the LNHers' dorm rooms. It *looked* messy and lived-in, but it was
quiet and still.
Merissa stood up and her foot hit something in a pile of dirty clothes
that rang like metal. Curious, she nudged the clothes away with a toe,
revealing a perfect chrome finish. She reached down and lifted up the
It was an enormous gun, bigger than her entire body. It was mostly long
chrome barrel, with, oddly enough, two rectangular holes at the end. It
had a shoulder rest and, oddly enough, no trigger.
She lifted it to her shoulder and set it in place. As she did so, a
holographic display suddenly appeared in front of her face. Target,
intensity, rate of fire - there were settings for all of these things,
and the upper ends went off the scale. It could do anything from
swatting a fly off a glass without spilling your drink to completely
The display responded to her thoughts. She scrolled through the
information, eyes wide, fascinated. This was *really* cool...
A preliminary roster entry for Mashup Laq, to make them more usable:
NAME: Mashup Laq
ALTER EGO: Unknown
STATUS: Member of the LNH
USABILITY: Free For Use
HISTORY: Medical student specializing in the pseudoscientific arts,
training under Dr. Stomper.
POWERS: Can combine the powers of any two people in their "database",
often with unpredictable results.
APPEARANCE: See the first part of this issue!
And since I keep forgetting this part:
* Non-Judgmental Agnostic, Foreshadowing Lad, and the Legion of Net.
Hippies created by Arthur Spitzer, and are all Free For Use.
* Pliable Lad created by Mike Escutia, used with permission.
* Penultimate Savior, the alternate-future Saviors of the Net, and
Masterplan Lad created by Adrian McClure.
* Lydia Devin created by Andrew Foltz, used with permission.
* Psychovant created by Scott Eiler.
* Atomic Rabbit is originally a public domain character; this version
created by Adrian McClure, and is Free For Use.
* Merissa created by Saxon Brenton, based on Vector, created by Rob
Rogers. She is... actually, I'm not sure how she's set with respect
to usability. Saxon?
* Everybody else created by me, I think? Did I miss anyone? Holy Gamer
Boy, this cascade has a lot of characters.
Andrew "NO .SIG MAN" "Juan" Perron, trying a new newsreader, let's see
if it works...
More information about the racc