REPOST: RAC Challenge! #4

Arthur Spitzer arspitzer at
Tue Aug 25 17:08:39 PDT 2015

Chapter Four by Jerry Franke..

From: franke at (Jerry L Franke)
Newsgroups: rec.arts.comics.creative
Subject: REPOST: RAC Challenge! Ch. 4
Date: 4 Nov 1995 16:25:20 GMT

Chapter 4 of our rec.arts.comics Challenge! retrospective.  See Henry
Broaddus' informational post somewhere else in this newsgroup for more


                                 RAC CHALLENGE
Chapter 4: Thrown Out Stealing

   by Jerry Franke
   title by Michael Kelly
   Dirk Darringer, better known to the citizens of Dixon City as Paragon,
   the Ultimate Man!, barely escaped entombment by the evil Dr. Malevo.
   By negotiating with the arch-villain over the fate of Malevo's beloved
   Jas Rswert, Paragon was able to secure his release from the deathtrap,
   swearing to make him pay in the meantime.
   Discovering the fiend's secret lair, Paragon charged in to make his
   arrest, only to find himself in yet another dastardly trap. Rendered
   apparently powerless by the presence of grapefruit, our hero proved no
   match for the deadly bullets unleashed his way. Only the timely
   interference of Tito and Tina, the Ultimate Twins! saved him from
   certain death.
   The twins managed to carry the wounded Paragon to the Ultimate-Mobile,
   which suddenly sped off into the night. Dirk witnessed a nightmare
   collage of images, mostly from his past, then awoke healed and whole
   in front of the Morning Herald, where he works in his civilian
   identity as a mild mannered reporter. Now, after accompanying
   sportswriter Myrna Maple to an announcement of a new manager for the
   Dixon City Dodgers, Dirk finds himself in battle with Spurgo, the
   Conquestor in...
   thwang! thwang!
   It seemed no matter where Paragon pummeled the giant alien, all his
   blows simply bounced off the villain's incredible armor. Even worse,
   the behemoth seemed to grow larger with each blow.
   "This is not going well," he thought to himself. "This guy's just too
   tough. And I have to hold back or some of those people down there
   might be hurt seriously during the battle."
   Seven hundred feet below the fight, Myrna Maples was sticking a
   microrecorder in the face of a very incredulous and worried looking
   "Jorge Steinhoofer, how does it feel to be responsible for the city's
   imminent doom? Is Spurgo now on the managerial hotseat?"
   "I just don't understand," replied the team owner. "He's so big now,
   and what happened to his mustache...?"
   thwang! Paragon was beginning to tire, and he hadn't even made a dent
   in his opponent's armor. He'd better find a way to end this soon, or
   he wouldn't like the finale. As if reading his thoughts, the monster
   turned slightly and let loose a mighty backhand blow that sent Paragon
   crashing to the street.
   Dirk tried to get up, but lacked the strength to do so. His chest was
   on fire. He looked down to find... blood? The world began to cloud
   over. "But I thought I'd healed..." he thought. His senses had
   narrowed to a single, distant dot of light when he heard a reassuring
   voice say "Don't worry son, you're with us now." Then it was dark.
   It was a cold October day. The leaves had mostly fallen from the
   trees, leaving them bare to the chilly touch of winter. These were the
   times Merton Flagler relished. He took a sip from his coffee mug, then
   slowly breathed out, watching the wisps of mist climb from his lips.
   "If only it could always be like this," thought Merton, "all dead,
   calm, and quiet."
   "Dr. Flagler!"
   He started at the sudden interruption. He glanced over his shoulder
   and immediately regretted it. "Damn!" he thought. "It's those annoying
   Ultimate brats! I told Paragon to leave those two at home!" He paused,
   composed what he hoped was a sufficiently friendly expression, then
   turned back to face the interlopers. "What can I do for you kids?" he
   asked, in a hopefully satisfactory manner.
   "It's Paragon!" panted Tito as he came to an abrupt halt in front of
   the doctor. "He was shot by Dr. Malevo and we put him into the
   Ultimate-Mobile to take him to help but it suddenly took off without
   us and it shot straight up into the sky and..."
   "Hold it kid!" Merton shook the Ultimate Kid. "You've got to get a
   grip on yourself. Sure, Paragon may have been shot, but with all his
   powers I can't imagine what could be so seriou..."
   "But Dr. Flagler!" interrupted Tina. "We found this on the floor while
   we were leaving!" She presented a small, multi-colored orb.
   "So?" retorted Merton. "It's a superball. I had one when I was a kid."
   "But it's not a ball. Look." She handed it to him. It was very warm,
   and felt like polished stone. "And we've never seen Paragon without
   it. It's usually in the amulet attached to his cloak. We're worried
   about him, and we thought that DIOS could help."
   "Well, if it involves mysterious forces, then you did the right thing
   coming here to the Dixon Institute of Orthogonal Studies. Hm. Come on
   inside. I'll have one of the staff fix you some cocoa while I examine
   this thing."
   Dirk Darringer.
   "Huh?" thought Dirk for the first time in hours. "Wha-?" Consciousness
   was slow in returning to him.
   Dirk Darringer. You must awaken now.
   The voices rattled in his head. It was so hard to concentrate. Some
   strong hands helped him up and smoothed down his clothes a bit. "You
   gonna be okay, kid?" The voice was familiar, but from where? He
   followed that thought back to full awareness.
   He knew instantly where he was. This was The Chamber, domicile of the
   Ultimate Collective. And the hands that held him were attached to a
   body that wore almost the same stylized costume as Dirk did.
   "Rex Reeves, the Pen-Ultimate Man?! What am I doing here?"
   "Well, kid, I..."
   When the masters speak, every sane man listens. The room was
   immediately quiet.
   Dirk Darringer, you are a failure.
   "If you're talking about the gunshot, I can explain. You never told me
   I was vulnerable in the presence of grapefruit..."
   That was a lie. We took your powers.
   "You did it?! But, why?"
   You have failed your teaching. You ransomed your life using a man's
   stolen possession. You bargained with evil. Your training and the
   sacrifices made for it have gone for naught.
   "Now look, it was a desperate situation. I didn't have a choice. I--"
   That is no excuse. You also allowed your token of power to escape you.
   Dirk looked down. They were right. The Ultimate Marble, from which he
   drew his power, was gone. "But I didn't--"
   Your excuses are irrelevant. You will be replaced.
   A door to the left slid silently open, revealing a small, muscular
   woman. "I am here to serve the good of the universe, masters," she
   stated in a calm voice.
   Good. You shall journey to earth to become their new guardian.
   "No! You can't do this! I'll...I'll..." Dirk stopped.
   You'll do what?
   "I'll..." he had a sudden inspiration. "I'll join a higher power! I'll
   remake the universe! I'll hold my breath! I'll... I'll... I'll bite
   off my hand! I' something..." Dirk knew a losing situation. He
   let this last sentence trail off into nothing.
   The Collective ignored him. Go now, Mary Lu of earth. Go and become a
   Champion. White light bathed the area of The Chambers where the new
   Ultimate Woman stood, and soon she faded out of sight.
   Dirk swallowed his anger. He had trusted the masters this far. He must
   wait and see where they were going with all this. Surely they must
   understand the stories behind his recent mishaps. They must
   understand, or he must make them understand before it became too late.
   The Collective turned their attention to him. Dirk Darringer. You Have
   some old business to finish.
   Suddenly light bathed his section of The Chambers. He felt a tingling
   sensation across his entire body, and a slight buzzing tickled his
   ears. The room faded, to be replaced by another, even more barren than
   The Chambers. He sensed a presence to his right, and turned to face
   this other.
   He was not prepared for what he saw.
   At almost the same moment, Merton Flagler was bent over a desk in the
   darkened stacks of the DIOS library, a lamp shining on a musty tome
   which lay open before him. He barely breathed as he hurriedly
   scribbled some notes. He glanced at the page, then glanced again. His
   breath caught.
   "I've got it!" he exclaimed, jumping up from the table and grabbing
   the Marble of Power. "I know the secret!"
   In all his excitement, he was quite unaware of the being behind him,
   fist upraised, holding a curved blade that gleamed slightly in the
   weak light. The hand reached its appropriate height, then danced
   forward and down in one smooth motion.
     * Next issue: Chapter 5: Into the Swamp, or How Can I Love You When
       You Killed Me Last Night? by Aaron Levitz
   Some notes from the author: Thanks should go to Mike Kelly for giving
   us that really nifty dream sequence to play with. As indicated here,
   Spurgo was just a continuation of that dream, but the images presented
   before it are playing an important part in the story now. Daniel
   Warren said it was o.k. to retcon the grapefruit thang, so there you
   go, Dan. 8^) Good luck to Aaron Levitz, who inherits more than one
   hero in peril.


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

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