LNH/LUNA/SW10: WikiLull After #1: "Feet of Clay"
pwerdna at gmail.com
Wed Dec 7 18:18:35 PST 2016
You feel like venting? I feel like venting. Let's do some venting!
--A F T E R
Issue #1: "Feet of Clay"
by Drew Perron
"You see?" grinned the menacing, painted face. "We were right all along. You may as well give in."
The woman before him spat right in that face. "Fuck that! The LNH will never stop fighting you until the last of us is dead - and then, the idea of us will live on, and outlast the idea of you!"
[November 9th, 2066.]
He reached up with a huge, robotic hand hand and used a napkin to wipe the gob of spittle off his tiny face. "Well, then. Let's hurry things along and kill you first." He snapped his figures and gestured to his guards, themselves large robots with tiny heads. "Take her to-- THE PIT!"
[The former site of the Pizza Pit.]
The guards dragged her to a churning, bubbling, boiling vat of tomato sauce, heated until it was glowing cherry-tomato-red. Their leader stopped in front of it and turned towards her, hands clasped behind his back, backlit by the sauce. "As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, miss - what was your name?" He made a big show of thinking about it, leaning down and peering on the big yellow U on her ragged, torn spandex outfit, and she rolled her eyes. "That's it, Uncapturable Lass. As you see, we've captured you handily. Another proof of the sheer greatness of - Antiochus XXVIII, the Great Justifier, leader of the AfterMACs!"
She barked with laughter. "Oh, *please*. No matter how many stupid titles you give yourself, you're still the MicroMACs!"
His robotic optics narrowed. "Watch yourself, girl. We *earned* this title, by right of conquest."
"What'cha gonna do, kill me?" She smirked. "Your 'conquest' is as fake as your name. After the Day of Wrongness, you got the Takedown Bots, the Spambots, and any other bots you could get to follow you, promising to rebuild the world. Then you cannibalized them to build up your own sad little cadre!" Her voice built in volume and in anger. "You sacrificed an army and you sacrificed the world just to have a bunch of pathetic stooges!"
"YOU!" He grabbed her by the throat, his great fingers barely fitting around her neck, forcing her chin up. She choked in pain, and he looked into her eyes as she struggled to breathe, struggled to live, against his pitiless grip. Just as awareness started to fade from her eyes, his hand relaxed, and she slumped to her knees.
"No." He turned away. "You do not *deserve* to die at my hand. Besides, now that I have one of you damned LNHers helpless in my power, you *will* listen to me, and you *will* see how we turn this world into a paradise - with *this*!" He snapped his fingers.
Another guard brought out a rectangular case, and opened it. From the case, Antiochus XXVIII drew a dry-cleaning bag on a hanger. "Behold, our power and our tool, by right of conquest!" He ripped the bag open. Inside was a coat, black leather in a classic '80s style. "The Last Trenchcoat!"
She swallowed, roughly, licking her lips. "Ah. ...I have a question."
He smiled, smug, triumphant. "How we were able to obtain this long-lost artifact? How we plan to use it to remake the world."
She licked her lips again, took a deep breath... smiled. "Who told you my name was Uncapturable Lass?"
Antiochus XXVIII paused. He looked around, looked at his guards, who looked at each other, looked at him. "I, wh... what do you mean?"
"Well. If you're one of the Legacy of Newfangled Hierophants, you can't lie about your name. But other people can! And--" Her ragged spandex burned with eldritch flame, and the guards sprang back. "You can wear a different costume!" The flames swirled around her body and reformed, into something like an electric blue straitjacket cut down to short sleeves. Around her neck, she wore a pendant of a broken padlock.
His robotic eyebrows went up. "No! Not you again, Can-Escape-From-Any-Situation-So-Easily-You-Don't-Know-It-Until-She's-Gone Lass!"
She grinned. "Close, but you're thinking of my mom. You can just call me Escape Lass." She sprang forward, and he flinched back; and like that, the Last Trenchcoat was off the hanger and she was gone.
"What-- No! You can't-- she couldn't!" Antiochus XXVIII threw back his head and roared, "THIS CAN'T BE HAPPENING!
[November 1st, 2016.]
[Not too far from the current site of the Pizza Pit.]
Deathspork: the Terminator watched WikiCide, his unreliable employer, run away. [ In WikiLull #13 - Footnote Girl ] He turned back to the duo of Amnesiac Brad Pitt and Kristen Stewart, the latter of whom was holding her crossbow on him, and cursed. "Fine!" he said. "I'll be back for you when I get a paycheck!" He threw down a smoke bomb, and there was a faint sound like Ultimate Mercenary groaning; and he was gone.
"Well. Could've gone worse," Kristen shrugged, and holstered the crossbow. "When's lunch?"
"Uh..." Brad gestured to the Pizza Pit, and Kristen nodded. They crossed the grassy median, wound around the cars in the parking lot, and went in, the bell above the door dinging cheerfully. At the closest table, someone was making a speech.
"...examples such as him and her!" Kid Occultism Kid, AKA the Not-Yet-Ancient One, rose from the table and pointed at Kristen and Brad. Three of the six seats were still occupied, by Merissa (who was still dressed as Major Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell), Token Girl (who was still baffled to find herself taking on the role of the mom friend), and WikiBoy (who was no longer a Tachikoma, because Drew still hasn't actually *seen* Ghost in the Shell). In the middle of the table were two pizzas, one cheese, one pepperoni. Merissa had her own personal pan pizza, which had a number of fascinating and highly questionable toppings on it.
Brad's rugged eyebrow went up. "Uh, examples of what, exactly?"
"Of hungry people, I bet." Kristen was already sitting down between Merissa and Token Girl, and checking out Merissa's outfit. "Nice jacket!"
Merissa grinned. "Same to you!"
"Of the threat and the opportunity we face," said Kid Occultism Kid, sitting down and taking a draw from their Cherry Vanilla Pistachio Mr. Paprika. "Of the Idolon."
Brad looked around, noticed he was the only one still standing, and sat. "The who now?"
"Yeah," said Token Girl. "You said a lot of vague and mysterious stuff and then didn't follow up on it."
"Dramatic timing is part of my apprenticeship! All shall be revealed in its proper time!!" Kid Occultism Kid flung their arms out grandly.
"...and when is that time?" said WikiBoy, leaning on one arm and nibbling a slice.
Kid Occultism Kid pulled out their smartphone. "4:27 PM and thirty-two seconds!!" They gestured in a Hamlet-holding-the-skull-esque way. "The Idolon - a being who represents the concept of a famous person, separate from the real-life being who inspired them. In fictive worlds such as our own, there are many of these. Some have fully evolved into characters distinct from the original. As you can see, neither of our esteemed guests is intended as a perfect simulation. Miss Stewart is based off her real-world equivalent's public persona - badass, stylish, and willing to call out bullshit. Mister Pitt is even further from his equivalent, taking that public persona and adding a layer of abstraction."
Kristen chuckled. "I don't mind being even more badass than a badass person."
"But why do it that way?" said Merissa. "If you really like someone, and you want to be like them--" She coughed on her drink. "I mean uh! If you want to *make something* like them... you should try to be as faithful as you can at all times, right?"
Kid Occultism Kid shrugged. "Why value a celebrity at all? You will likely never meet the real thing. It is the version of them who exists in your head who is valuable to you."
Amnesiac Brad Pitt hmmed, rubbing his perpetual five-o'-clock shadow. "But..." He frowned. "Am *I* really valuable, that way?"
All heads turned to him. Kristen touched his arm. "You okay?"
"Yeah, just... I don't know the whole story, but it seems like the real-world equivalent of me probably did some rather awful things. I don't know if it's worth having *anything* to do with someone like that."
Kid Occultism Kid leapt to their feet and pounded on the table. "And that is PRECISELY why you deserve to exist!!"
A server came over to their table. "Pardon me, but you're disturbing the other guests."
"APOLO-- er. Apologies." They sat back down. "But the point stands. You are a symbol, an idea that can be held on to, allowing one to let go of the real person who inspired you. To critique them, to take them justly to task for their actions."
Merissa nodded enthusiastically. "I get it! It's like all of those online debates I won, about Real Person Fanfics. You've got the person, and you've got, like, the *story* of the person."
"And the interaction between those things is powerful... but there has to be something to mediate it." WikiBoy looked up at Amnesiac Brad Pitt. "That's you, I guess."
Brad nodded, slowly, rubbing his well-toned upper arm. "So I'm a symbol, made of all the stuff people value. A story."
Kid Occultism Kid nodded. "If one cannot distinguish between the individual and the story, one cannot maintain perspective. If the individual makes a mistake, clashes with the story, one may become disaffected, lose faith in art and humanity. Or one may cling tighter to one's idols, denying that they've *ever* made *any* mistakes, and lash out, willing to destroy the world whole just to hang on to one's emotional investment."
"Speaking of mass destruction," said Token Girl, grabbing the topic with both metaphorical hands. "That's why you brought us here in the first place, right?"
"Yes! Let us feed this philosophical conversation back into the adventure plot!" Kid Occultism Kid stood up halfway, received a Look from their server as she passed by, and sat down. "As I said before [ in WikiLull #13 - Footnote Girl ], there are four Hillary Clintons currently running for the office of President of the Loonited States. Each one is an Idolon, and each one represents a different viewpoint on Mrs. Clinton. But one of them is made of twenty-five years' worth of cultural hatred - a representation of the pure evil some see as her story!"
"And we'd better hurry," said WikiBoy. "We started this conversation when she got nominated, but according to that date stamp above, we've got less than a week 'til the election."
Token Girl sighed. "Dammit, I missed Halloween again. Catalyst Lass and I were going to cosplay with Hooded Ho'od Win and Organic Lass as the Knight Sabers."
Merissa pulled out her Ultra-Mega-BIGGUN. "So we figure out which Hillary is evil, blow *her* up, and then the LNHQ will stop exploding!"
"No, actually. That is unrelated."
Kristen Stewart sighed. "Really? I just signed up for magical shitkicking, not a mess of subplots and B-plots and ridiculous complication."
Kid Occultism Kid shrugged. "I mean, I suppose that it *could* be related, in some complex way. But I would not count on it."
[November 9th, 2066.]
[Not far from the former site of the Pizza Pit. Almost to the former site of the LNHQ.]
Escape Lass ran across the cracked and pitted street, the Last Trenchcoat clutched tight in her grip. She could hear the faraway clang and rumble of the AfterMACs. But she knew that if they managed to get her in their sights before she got across, the distance wouldn't matter at all.
Her escape-senses told her which way to go, letting her weave back and forth while running full-tilt. She could see the shimmering blue wall before her, but she could also hear the sizzle of laserbolts from overeager sentries. Back and forth and back and forth and jump and *through*--
She landed on the other side in a roll, panting, lying on the green grass, under a holographic but blessedly bright blue sky. Whew.
The former site of the LNHQ was a mass of machinery, maintaining the holographic environment and the selectively permeable shields - among other tricks to keep the dangers of the environment out. She walked around the machines and knocked on the door in the center. She knew she'd been spotted and scanned long before she'd gone through the shields - else she *couldn't* have gotten through - but being polite helped encourage the sense of community they'd worked so long to build.
Captain Multitask let her in. She went down the flight of steps, down into the first of the sub-basements - down into her home.
She could hear a class being held in the Purple Room. She lingered by the doorway for a moment, peeking in on it. There he was - the leader of the LNH. The one who'd kept them together for so long. WikiMan.
"Fifty years ago it happened!" said WikiMan, gesturing at the chalkboard, on which was drawn something between a firebird and a mushroom cloud. "The Deplorable Idolon, borne of hatred, rose up and spread its destructive wings across the world, leaving only - the Battlelands!"
The kids were spellbound, as he gestured dramatically. "Fifty years ago, the Great Darkness spread, and the nations of the world were broken from each other." He was great at this - she could remember him giving the same speech ten years ago, and being just as captivated.
"And fifty years ago, the Blue Area was created, in the place where it all began." He spun around, arms lifted to the world around them. "A bubble of peace and safety. And generations have grown in that bubble, in this maze of comfortable space. And the LNH are the ones who guard it."
The bell rang, breaking the spell. WikiMan clapped his hands. "Okay, kids, time to head home. Do your homework, brush your teeth, and remember, don't go below level 58.5. Also, the cyberkiwis are throwing a party on level 21. Have fun!"
The kids streamed out, still starry-eyed. Escape Lass chuckled as WikiMan came out. "Every time you tell that story, we get a new crop of wannabe LNHers."
"That's how you get reallyare LNHers." He smiled, the soft wrinkles around his eyes crinkling - an affectation, she knew, since he could be edited to whatever age he needed to be. "I see the mission went well." He gestured to the Last Trenchcoat.
"Just as we planned. The hardest part was not bugging out too early." She rubbed her throat ruefully.
WikiMan took a deep breath, let it out through his nose. "I'm not going to say I should have gone."
"That's right, because you respect my abilities, and because we keep editing out that self-sacrificing streak even though it keeps popping up."
He nodded. "Just making it clear that I am specifically not saying that."
She grinned and started walking down the hall. "So how's Project Alt.ernity going? Have we had any progress on contacting the LNH of the past?"
He kept stride with her. "No. We've been trying to send temporal signals through the higher-dimensional infrastructure of the LNHQ, but it ended up overwhelming and DDoSing the entire building, every time."
She nodded. "Yeah, well, that's what plan B was for." She threw the jacket over her shoulder. "So d'you think we can do it? Travel back in time and create a world where the Great Darkness never happened?"
He nodded. "I mean, the LNH was in contact with plenty of futures like that, back then. But we seem to be cut off, now. None of the big cosmic powers have bothered us since the Day of Wrongness. Not Master Workload, not the RACelsestials, not even weirdos like the Crossover Queen or the Time Crappers, who'd love to come in and conquer a destroyed world." He shrugged. "The only conclusion: We're on the wrong branch of history."
"Right... tho, from here, it's hard not to think of it as the only possible branch." She shook her head. "But if we can make it so a better world *can* exist, then we can reach it."
"Yes. It wouldn't erase this darkness, but we'd be have a way out - the ability to emigrate to other timelines, other worlds, through the multidimensional nature of the LNHQ." He reached a heavy metal door with 'SENIOR LNHERS ONLY' stenciled on it, and knocked three times.
A voice boomed out from behind the door. "Who dares to disturb the Ancient-Before-Their-Time One?"
Escape Lass giggled, and WikiMan leaned in. "A pair of humble petitioners, O fount of wisdom."
The door creaked open. "Yes, yes, come in and receive the wisdom of the ages, et cetera, et cetera..." The former Kid Occultism Kid had inscribed a mystic circle on the floor of the laboratory, and it was glowing and thrumming softly. They were holding a tablet and poking at it, and the symbols on the circle shifted in response. "I've got it ready to harmonize with the magiquantum frequency of the Last Trenchcoat."
"Right here." Escape Lass held it up. "How much can we bring with us?"
The ABTTOne waved the tablet at it. "Mmmm... not much. Your costumes, and whatever you can fit into the pockets."
"Right." She opened a suitcase on the counter labeled 'For Time Travel Purposes Only' and started picking out the most necessary bits.
"How far before the Day of Wrongness can we arrive?" said WikiMan. "I'd been hoping for six months, at least."
The ABTTOne laughed. "You're forgetting magic's sense of drama. You get a little less than a week."
WikiMan shook his head. "Of course." He looked down at the circle pensively, stroking his beard.
Escape Lass, wearing the Trenchcoat and pockets stuffed full of stuff, put her hand on his shoulder. "What's up?"
"Mmmm... just that same worry. That someone else is going to interfere, some... some other faction trying to get their own angle on this, something we can't see from here."
She nodded. "Yeah. Well... if they do, they do, and we'll deal with it. All we can do is our best, right?"
He smiled. "Right."
The two of them stepped into the circle. The ABTTOne sat cross-legged with the tablet on their lap and started chanting.
"Besides," said Escape Lass, as the sparkling energies rose around them. "How many different factions could there possibly be?"
WikiMan facepalmed. "Oh, I wish you hadn't said that..."
[The Council of Ordered Realities Defense Force staging site WSL-09XB]
[Time index 16:20:08:11]
On the city-block-sized platform, surrounded by continuum definition engines and spacetime address registers, stood two figures. The first was in a neat military uniform of a style respected and/or feared on hundreds of variations of Earth. He was adjusting the outfit of the other - a blue-and-yellow jumpsuit with a gunmetal chestplate, on which there were four crystal rectangles.
"Remember," said the first one, "this is an unregistered Superhuman World. It's chaotic, uncivilized - without the safeguards that come from being a part of the Ordered Realities. Your job is *not* to interfere in local affairs, it's to bring back the evidence necessary to convince Congress to allow us to move forward."
"But Ministrowie Sikorski," said the other. "Why this world? I know our mission is to bring order to the multiverse, but why an Earth that hasn't reached out to us?"
Sikorski frowned with the edge of his mouth. He let out a long breath, stood up straight, and smiled. "Well, Porucznik Mazur. *Officially*, these worlds are a source of multiversal chaos, causing chaotic incursions on the Ordered Realities. We have interest in proactively providing an ordering factor."
"Unofficially - and this is off the record, my protege, my son-that-I-never-had, my junior in rank who knows how he got here - they've got something we need, and they're not using it." Sikorski smirked. "Everything else is just politics."
Mazur ran his nails through his long hair, dyed bright blue to fit in better with the natives in some way he didn't understand. He trusted Sikorski - he'd always had his back, always been straight with him. They were both members of the Bricklayers, one of the purely unofficial cultural parties within the structure of Ordered Realities, and he was proud of that. But this didn't feel right. "What's that?"
"You've heard of Metatronium, right? It's an eight-dimensional kubikal substance created by the mental energy of one universe impacting another."
He nodded. "Everyone's talking about it as some kind of amazing infinite power source."
"Right. Even if only a tenth of the hype is true, whoever gets control of a source of it will be in prime position to point the way forward for the Ordered Realities. And according to our previous observers, this world is not only chock-full of it, it's an ideal beachhead into the rest of its Metatronium-laced multiversal segment."
"So..." His throat tightened. "I'm going in so we can exploit this place?"
Sikorski's face darkened... then relaxed. "Heh, really sounds like it, doesn't it? But all worlds sacrifice for the greater good. I mean, our world did! This very city - Warsaw-St. Lawrence, the very headquarters of the Ordered Realities - was plucked from our home world, back in the old days, when we had an expanding empire of Earths. And Ordered Realities right now is far bigger and more orderly than it ever could have been back then... even if some of us think that, well, having that cultural experience in multiversal politics, our world should have a larger say in how things go."
"And... that's why the Bricklayers are around!" said Mazur. "To advocate for us!"
"That's right," said Sikorski. "And now it's this world's turn to give what it's got for the good of all."
Mazur nodded. "That's an excellent point, sir. Apologies for my doubt."
Sikorski waved his hand. "Don't worry about it. We're both Bricklayers, right? We're part of the same wall, glued with the same mortar. We support each other and we protect each other, from whatever threat might get in."
Mazur smiled. "Yes, sir!"
Sikorski took a step back. "Now, you understand how your suit works?"
Mazur took a deep breath, let it out, recited the summary from the technical manual. "It's powered by four Idoloid Powerbars, multidimensional computers each simulating an artificial Powernaut identity. They're mentally keyed to four different definitions of the word 'power', and as long as I can emotionally engage with those definitions, I can use those powers."
"And you've got your cover story in place?"
"I've come from another world, to see if the peoples of this world are ready to join a multiversal league of Earths. My codename is..." He hesitated.
"I know, I know," commiserated Sikorski. "It's... unprofessional. But everyone over there has names like that." He shook his head. "Just another part of that chaos. We'll be doing them a favor by coming in and getting rid of all that."
Mazur nodded. "My codename is... Skrajny the Multinaut!"
"See? And it's not even really lying." Sikorski slapped him on the shoulder and walked towards the edge of the platform. "Readying for insertion."
Mazur breathed slowly and evenly. Power, he thought. The ability or official capacity to exercise control; authority. Power. Effectiveness at moving one's emotions or changing how one thinks. Power. Physical strength or force exerted or capable of being exerted. Power. The ability or capacity to act or do something effectively.
One by one, the crystal rectangles lit up. He felt power seeping through his veins, power filling his limbs. He knew what he had to do. He was ready.
[November 1st, 2016]
[The moment the future enters the past.]
[The moment one world steps into another.]
Author's Notes: Please, follow up on this however you want! Even with a short silly random bit! That is what it is for! <3
The Ordered Realities bit was edited based on suggestions and backstory clarifications from Scott. The Polish ranks ("Ministrowie" is the equivalent of "Minister", and "Porucznik" is a first lieutenant in the army) and names are based on the fact that, in the original incarnation of Ordered Realities mentioned here, it was Poland who ruled the world and was conquering worlds. "Skrajny" is a word meaning "extreme, utmost, ultra".
Definitions of "power" taken from the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition.
Drew "seriously, whatever you want to throw in, it's all good" Perron
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