REPOST: RAC Challenge! Ch. 1

Arthur Spitzer arspitzer at
Tue Aug 4 17:52:54 PDT 2015

Was looking through RACC archives for something to
read (or reread) and stumbled upon that RAC Challenge
folder and then thought to myself that I should really
repost these to RACC so those people who weren't around
in 1995 can gasp in wonderment over this completely insane

There was some really fun stuff here by various RACC writers
like Marc Singer and Rob Rogers.  My favorite probably being
the issue that Matt "Badger" Rossi wrote.

So, I'll repost an issue every week or so (unless someone objects).

If you can't wait a week for the next issue here's where they
are in the archive.

Here's the first issue by Henry Broaddus -- Enjoy!

From: franke at (Jerry L Franke)
Newsgroups: rec.arts.comics.creative
Subject: REPOST: RAC Challenge! Ch. 1
Date: 1 Nov 1995 20:52:46 GMT

We are counting down to the big *Special Event* wrap-up to the
rec.arts.comics Challenge!  That was held over the spring and summer.  I
will be posting (er, reposting) the Challenge! in its entirety at a rate of
one chapter per day.  The big wrap-up special, authored by many of the
Challenge! authors, will be posted Dec. 6th (mark your calendars!).

Henry Broaddus is posting an informational message seperately explaining the
Challenge! and its history.  Look for it at a rec.arts.comics.creative
newsgroup near you!

And on with the show...


RAC Challenge

Chapter 1: A Fistful of Spandex

by Henry R. Broaddus
title by Daniel J. Sikorski
People have often said that the waiting is the hardest part. Dirk Darringer
agreed with them at the moment. He agreed in part simply because the confined
quarters of a five foot square crate didn't exactly facilitate comfort. He also
agreed in part because this abandoned warehouse featured no temperature
control--and Dirk wasn't wearing his thermal costume. In truth, however,
neither of these were the main reason Dirk hated the waiting. The real problem
was that Dirk Darringer was a man of action, and right now he was bored.

He occupied himself by reconstructing the events which had led him to this
crate inside of this warehouse. It had all started with a kid toting a ray gun.
Punks in this city didn't normally mess with anything more sophisticated than
switchblades, so the sudden emergence of hi-tech weaponry naturally disturbed
Dirk. After all, the well-being of the city was Dirk's business. He was its
self-appointed protector: Paragon, the Ultimate Man!

Fortunately that kid had been easy enough to stop. Despite his formidable
firepower, he was still relatively unskilled. The five shots he squeezed off
before Paragon punched his lights out did little more than to rearrange the
garbage cans of an alley. Nonetheless, the thought of such awesome weaponry in
the wrong hands sent a chill down Paragon's spine. He had no desire to test his
near invulnerability against lasers.

Fortunately for Dirk, the kid scared easily. Paragon offered the boy two
alternatives. The first option involved telling Dirk where one obtained an
oversized pop gun like that. Paragon promised that the source of the tip would
remain anonymous. The boy's other option involved being dragged along for a few
of Paragon's missions until the criminal hierarchy of the city began to
question the punk's loyalty. It boiled down to a question of whether the kid
preferred being a traitor perceived as a loyalist or being a loyalist perceived
as a traitor. Like so many of his kind, he chose image over substance. Of
course, this pleased Paragon because he knew damn well that the second
alternative wasn't really feasible anyway.

Apparently the boy hadn't lied either. Dirk noticed more gadgetry in and around
this supposedly abandoned warehouse than one was likely to encounter at a
science fair. Although Paragon could not discern the function of the devices,
they appeared particularly ominous. Furthermore, the walls of the building
consisted of reinforced concrete, an unlikely material for the housing of
innocuous freight.

Several days of surveillance indicated a clear pattern of activity at the
warehouse. Clients such as the youth he interrogated made nightly visits to the
place at 3am. Dirk seriously doubted that they arranged such a time in order
not to miss their cartoons. No, there were definitely some shady dealings
taking place in the warehouse, and someone was taking measures to prevent
anyone from noticing. After all, only two types of people were still awake at
three in the morning: thugs and the vigilantes who pursued them.

Still crouched in the crate, Dirk pulled his arm up in front of his face. The
light on his watch showed him that it was 2:54am; only six minutes until show
time. Paragon adjusted his mask as he began to wonder about a final puzzling
detail. Although he had seen young toughs entering and leaving the warehouse,
he never saw another party come or go. Who was supplying the criminals, and how
did they remain undetected? There was only one way for Paragon to find out.

That's how he ended up in the crate. As Dirk had suspected, the warehouse saw
little to no activity during the day. Breaking in this afternoon had proved to
be a relatively easy task. Next Paragon required a central hiding place to
eavesdrop from. What could be more convenient than one of the many crates
stacked inside? From here Dirk would be able to establish the identity of the
second party to the transactions. Paragon had little time to continue reveling
in his cleverness, however, before he began to hear voices.

"It time yet?" asked a young voice.

"Couple more minutes," replied a husky monotone.

"It kinda freaks me out the way he handles this. Why don't he just face us in
person?" inquired the first.

"For the kinda deal he's givin' us, he can handle this however he wants,"
responded the second.

"Yeah, but that's the thing," said the first. "Don't you ever wonder if we're
gettin' too good a deal?"

At that moment Paragon heard a new sound. The creaking of cables and the
straining of pulleys preceded a booming loudspeaker which spoke in a tone
familiar to Paragon.

"Good evening, gentlemen," roared the loudspeaker. "Welcome back."

"What kinda deal you got for us tonight?" asked the husky voice.

"Ah...Tonight is when you finally pay me for what I have given you." observed
the loudspeaker.

"But, we already paid you." declared the monotone.

"If you refer to the paltry sum of money I received, I hope that you jest. That
was merely a formality. Your true payment comes in the form of a service" said
the loudspeaker in a matter-of-fact way.

"What are you asking us to do?" asked the monotone, audibly disturbed by this
turn of events.

"Why nothing. You have already performed the service to my satisfaction. You
see, you pawns were little more than bait. I knew it was only a matter of time
before you brought my quarry to me as you have tonight."

"I don't think I understand."

"Of course you don't. It's not your role to understand. The point is that
Paragon is here now, as I expected him to be. My cameras indicate that he
infiltrated this building earlier this afternoon."

"Paragon!" exclaimed the monotone, even more shaken than before. "As in, the
Ultimate Man?!"

Before the conversation could proceed, Paragon burst from the crate, his cover
blown. As soon as he arose he saw the source of the creaking cables and
straining pulleys--a large screen had been lowered at the front of the
warehouse. Projected onto the screen was the source of the voice being
transmitted through the loudspeaker...the nefarious Doctor Malevo!

"Nice to see you again, Doc," shouted Paragon. "I'm honored to see the trouble
you took to get me here. You could have just thrown a Tupperware party."

"And so the Fates once more pit the ultimate man against the ultimate mind!"
exclaimed Doctor Malevo. "This will be the endgame, Paragon, for with you out
of my way, no obstacles remain to hinder my master plan."

"Looks like you better check your dictionary, Doctor. The ultimate man includes
the ultimate mind! And if you hoped to stop me with these two bozos, I'm
surprised you made it past Kindergarten."

"No, Paragon. I've made special preparations for your demise..."

At that point a towering crate near Dirk literally splintered before his eyes.
Where the crate once was stood an impressive robot. It did not look friendly.

"Meet my Malevo-bot, fool! Right now there is only one thing on his mind...a
fistful of spandex! Bwahahahahahaha!"

Dirk wanted to retort. If there was one situation that really angered him it
was when maniacal geniuses laughed at him like that. Paragon wanted desperately
to say something which illustrated his coolness under fire, but somehow the
only word which came to mind didn't really fit the bill. "Uh-oh" was definitely
not a remark which demonstrated any level of confidence.

Fortunately he didn't have time to say anything at all, because the giant robot
immediately lunged toward him. For a machine so large, it certainly moved fast.
Paragon's heightened reflexes barely enabled him to dodge in time. Dirk issued
a swift kick to the back of the android, denting its armor. In response the
robot swiveled at the waist and immediately grabbed Dirk around his neck. Like
a vice grip the metal hand began to contract.

Paragon dropped to a sitting position, throwing the machine off balance. Then
using his momentum to propel his body into the motion for a backwards roll, he
brought his legs up into the falling robot's chest plate. With a powerful mule
kick Paragon launched the robot into the air, breaking its asphyxiating grip.
The android impacted against the concrete wall with a loud crash. Nuts and
bolts scattered across the room as scraps of metal flew in all directions.

"Looks like I broke your toy," said Paragon defiantly.

"Not a toy, my self-righteous friend," corrected Doctor Malevo. "A diversion!
If you look around you will observe that all of the exits from have been
sealed. I needed to occupy you during the interval necessary to make this
building inescapable. You see, Paragon, this is not a warehouse. It's a tomb.
The vast majority of devices you saw on both the outside and inside are little
more than dressed up explosives.

"Now, my old enemy, as I watch from the safe distance of my broadcasting
location, I will detonate those explosives. I will end your meddlesome
existence once and for all!"

"He's not kidding!" cried the younger of the two toughs as he vainly struggled
with a now vault-like door. "We're doomed!"

Dirk scanned the room. Even in this moment of desperation he had to admire
Doctor Malevo's thoroughness. Trap doors had concealed vault encasements which
now blocked every exit. Dirk supposed that these encasements were made of the
same reinforced concrete as the walls. He knew that not even his super-human
strength would enable him to force an opening. Dirk saw no windows or vents

Doctor Malevo must have perceived Dirk's alarm, because once again he began to
laugh. "God, I hate that laugh," said Dirk quietly to himself. Yet at the
moment it looked like the sinister cackle would be the last thing that Paragon
ever heard.

   * Next issue: Chapter 2: Gunshots and Grapefruits by Daniel Warren


I admit it--I am truly a bastard. Not only did I not have a cliffhanger to
resolve, but Daniel was relatively kind to me with his title. How did I repay
such kindness? I did my best to screw over the next author, WarDan. Not only
did I leave him with a problematic ending, but I also gave him one very crazy
title! Before you heave a sigh of relief because you're not WarDan, just
remember that once he resolves this mess in his chapter, he's probably going to
be feeling rather vindictive. I hope writer number three is up to the




Jerry L. Franke                        franke at
Computer Science Dept.                 Indiana University
formerly from Florida State University

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