ASH/HCC: Coherent Super Stories #36 - Time Critical Mission

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at
Sun Oct 12 13:19:42 PDT 2014

     [The cover shows a pair of heroes, Paladin and Rad, as seen through a
targeting display, with various ominous readouts such as "Time to Target" and
"Priority Assignment" scattered about the display.]

 .|, COHERENT                                            An ASHistory Series
 '|` SUPER STORIES                        #36 - Time Critical Mission
        Featuring Paladin and Rad         copyright 2014 by Dave Van Domelen

     Camera angle: Crane shot.  DEATHBOT X-90 picks its way across an urban
landscape, its six heavily armored legs lending it an unexpected grace and
stealth.  Several cars are flipped over and smouldering, and there are
multiple signs of a recent battle.  It's not a post-apocalyptic wasteland,
though, just the site of a recent conflict.  The music is generally ominous. 

     Camera angle: DEATHBOT X-90's POV, use steadicam to represent the death
machine's internal stabilization and image processing abilities.

DEATHBOT (VOICEOVER, metallic, typical robotic monotone): Primary target
sighted.  Estimated distance, 45 meters.  323 seconds remain before mission
failure point, successful completion prior to failure point rated at 99%
probability.  Begin final approach.

     POV camera zooms in on PALADIN and RAD, who are sitting on a bench that
has miraculously escaped the destruction around it.  PALADIN wears a blue and
white bodysuit with a white tabard bearing his trademark golden castle
symbol, RAD wears day-glo skateboarder fashions.  They're chatting, and an
"ENHANCE AUDIO PICKUP" display pops up on DEATHBOT's view.

PALADIN (faintly echoing as if through a parabolic mike):, I get it,
really.  It's weird how we used to be considered powerhouses, and now we're
second string.

RAD (similarly echoing, but clearing up as DEATHBOT gets closer): If that!
With all the avatars and so forth popping up, it's getting so having the
ability to blast through a main battle tank's armor isn't even impressive
anymore.  I'm thinking of retiring.

     The "RANGE" display in one corner has reduced to nearly zero.  Music
starts to rise to a crescendo.

PALADIN (now quite clear): Well, you could always take up act... (startled,
turns to face DEATHBOT)

     Camera is now looking past PALADIN and RAD and at DEATHBOT X-90.  An
ominous port snickts open below DEATHBOT's primary visual array.

DEATHBOT: Paladin, you will now pay.

     The music ceases.  There is a moment of nearly complete silence, broken
only by the distant sound of a police siren.

PALADIN: Oh, right.  The Mega Meat Special is $10.99, right?  And,
here's a twenty.  (pulls wallet out from one of his belt pouches and places a
bill in the chest port, where it is sucked inward.)

     Music resumes, but a much more light-hearted variation on the initial

DEATHBOT: Thank you very much, sir.  And you'll find my internal reactor has
kept your pie nice and hot.

RAD (embarrassed looking): Oh, hey, DBX.  No hard feelings over that time in

     DEATHBOT extends a PIZZA CASTLE delivery box on a secondary arm that
unfolds from inside its body.

DEATHBOT: None at all, Mister Rad.  My defeat at your hands put me on the path
to rehabilitation.  I am now a useful and productive member of society.

     The camera angle shifts so that while PALADIN is looking at RAD, he's
also looking almost directly into the camera.

PALADIN: Isn't it nice to know that, no matter how crazy the world gets, you
can still count on Pizza Castle to deliver a fresh pie in a timely manner?

DEATHBOT (off-screen): Be sure to tip your driver.

     Camera pulls back to crane shot, slowly rising into the air and taking
in the chaos of the recently-ended battle, while the PIZZA CASTLE logo from
the delivery box grows to fill the screen.

OMNES: (laughter)

               *              *              *              *

     If you were watching the big football game in early 1998 that we can't
actually name without getting hit by a Cease & Desist wouldn't
have seen that ad.  Pizza Castle was still mostly a regional company at that
point, could only afford a spot in the overtime block, and their ad didn't
make it on air.  But it did show quite a bit throughout the rest of that year
in markets where Pizza Castle had stores, and probably marked the high point
of their licensing deal with Coherent Comics.  
     If you grew up in the right part of the country in the 1970s or 1980s,
you probably read at least one of the Paladin comics that Coherent produced
under license for Pizza Castle to use in their "Kids' Tower" promotions.
Regular Coherent characters sometimes appeared in those comics, and got toys
made for Pizza Castle promotions, but Paladin never appeared in a regular
Coherent book.
     Well, let me qualify that.  Sometimes Pizza Castle would pay to have
product placement in the comics, at which point Paladin might appear as an
advertising mascot in the background.  On one occasion, Brightsword II saved
a man who was dressed up as Paladin for a publicity stunt but was mistaken
for a real superhero.  On another, Scriptalicious (descendant of the First
Age villain Malscripto) brought several advertising mascots to life as part
of one of her more outre plots.  But "Paladin as a real person with real
powers" never showed up in the regular Coherent books.  
     This ad was also notable as being the first use of the meme complaining
how "obscure character gets TV show/movie" before a particular major female
hero at one of our competitors.


Author's Notes:

     Yay, nested notes!  This was written for High Concept Challenge #49, "A
Slice of Life."  Genre characters sharing a pizza and talking about stuff,
but Nothing Happens.  I just cheated a bit and made it look like something
was about to happen, but then nothing happened anyway.  The challenge
specified that the pizza delivery person shouldn't turn into a death machine,
which immiedately got me thinking, "What if the pizza deliverer is already a
death machine?"  From there, it was just a matter of pondering for a couple
of days what situation I'd have develop after the reveal.  (I'm sure Brian
Freesh will see plenty of places where this doesn't actually match a real
shooting script, of course.)

     This issue is one of the CSS installments that uses the conceit that
there's a reality out there where Coherent Comics really published books,
maintaining a strong second tier presence along the lines of Archie Comics or
Dark Horse Comics.  It stands to reason that they might manage to get some
merchandising deals going with similarly positioned second tier national or
major regional companies.  Pizza Castle is meant to be a fictional version of
Pizza Hut, in case anyone didn't catch that.  And Paladin is one of the few
characters I've drawn multiple times in my life who isn't part of ASH already
(my most recent use of him was as Pala-Dyne, an Energy/Energy Blaster on City
of Heroes, and I did consider making him one of the refugees).

     Somewhere, in another reality, another writer is about to append a third
set of notes explaining the preceding two sets....


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