REPOST: RAC Challenge! Annual #1

Arthur Spitzer arspitzer at
Wed Jan 13 18:30:10 PST 2016

And the final chapter the RACChallenge Annual written by
a number of different writers..

This is the end of the first RACChallenge.  If you want to read
the second or third RACChallenge go here:

From: Henry.R.Broaddus at (Henry R. Broaddus)
Newsgroups: rec.arts.comics.creative
Subject: RAC Challenge! Annual (1/4)
Date: 4 Dec 1995 10:58:37 GMT

RAC Challenge! Annual 1 -- The Ultimate Chapter in the First RAC Challenge

"Newt Gingrich's Hot Tub Vigilantes and Devils Do Somebody Unimportant
the Ultimate Indignity and Then Some.  Justice, Justice Once Upon a
Timewarp Unto Death."

Paragon lay face down, burning on the floor of the Candy Commando's
secret bunker, miles below Washington D.C.  The smoke he produced
activated the sprinklers, which doused Paragon.

Over him towered the maniacal Enthropy, the universal embodiment of chaos and

"Your Omniversal Composite body has warped reality to the breaking
point," Enthropy said.  "I was going to kill you before.  But you had
retired, and I hoped that you would refrain from the ridiculous
reality-straining crimefighting.  But here you are, back in that silly
costume of yours, surrounded by silly Candy Commandos.  I guess you'll
never learn."

"Wait a minute," interjected Paragon.  "If you're really the embodiment
of chaos and entropy, like I've heard in the legends, wouldn't you
approve of the chaos I'm creating?"

"Of course not!  I've got a hell of a racket here, and the last thing I
need is competition from the Ultimate Entropic Engine!"

Then, the remaining Power Enforcement Ziggarauts launched a  missile
attack on Enthropy.  He snapped his fingers, and the  hamsters which
powered the robots' engines all suffered heart attacks.  The robots fell

Paragon's mechanical limbs still needed oil, so he remained on the ground
as he spoke.  "You don't have to do this, Enthropy.  I know how to repair
reality!  I have to break my body apart, so that each Dirk Darrenger which
comprises me can return to his home dimension!"

"Oh yes," Enthropy said, dripping with sarcasm, "I suppose you learned
that from your Ultimate connection to the Universal Wide Web.  The
connection that's supposed to give you Ultimate knowledge.  Yet, you had
no idea that I was responsible for the sun's instability."

"How did you know that?"

"Link into the UWW.  Tell me what happens five minutes from now."

Paragon closed his eyes and used the power of the Ultimate Marble, which
was now infused into him, and connected to the Web.  "Five minutes from
now... a strikeforce of bikini-clad babes rescues me.  Oh, and Newt
Gingrich will be leading them."

"See!" mocked Enthropy.  "Your ability to see the future is totally
unreliable!  And how could a Universal Wide Web allow you to see the
future in the first place?  It can't!  It's just another symptom of this
reality's fracturing!

"I'm afraid you've spread this paradox infection to all Earthlings,
Dirk.  For example, look at these Settlers."  Enthropy pointed at
Aridalla, Midge, Masheik, and Torbin (the other Settlers were still
unconscious).  "The Settlers claim to be from the future, yet their
Gammani colony exists now.  They even took you there when they built
your mechanical body.  And they didn't travel through time to do it.

"Yes," continued Enthropy, "I'll have to kill you and wipe out the entire
solar system.  Can't risk any Earthlings running around causing further
paradoxes.  Then I'll have to destroy the PRICKworld and Gammani-"

"The hell you will!" shouted Midge.  He jumped onto Enthropy to pound the
living daylights out of him.  Unfortunately, Midge's luck power and
Enthropy's chaos power created an incredible energy feedback, which
threatened to destroy the entire city.

(by  Mike Mendoza -- november at

And that is when the proverbial shit hit the proverbial fan making a
proverbial splat. Midge wasn't the only Settler to take action. Torbin
had noticed that they were underpowered, so he decided to open up a couple
of portals. One was to the Delta Squadron's headquaters, another was to the
control room of Baron von Frankelin's castle and two others to places that
humans have never seen.

Malloc had regained conciousness and threw up a force field around Enthropy.

Enthropy laughed, "You'll have to do better than that! You can't stop me!"

"I don't have to stop you", stated Malloc as he concentrated with all of his
will, "only contain you."

Through one of the portals, four pairs of energy beams hit Enthropy and
knocked him to one knee. Out of that portal stepped two sets of blonde
bikini-wearing twin babes and one Newt Gingrich. The buxom babes kept up
their energy attack on Enthropy.

"I don't believe it!", cried Enthropy. "I'm being attacked by the Doublemint

"No, silly.", said one of the twins. "We are the grand-daughters of Law and
Order. I'm Buffy, and this is Candy, Peaches and Bunny."

"And I am Newt Gingrich!" screamed the male as he punched Enthropy across
the face.

"Newt Gingrich?", asked Malloc, exhausted from containing the backlash
produced by the unconcious Midge and Enthropy.

"No", said Pira. "It's only the Law, he just thinks that he's Newt Gingrich."

Law and his grand-daughters continue to pound the suprised Enthropy as a
extremely large being enters through one of the portals.

"It is now time for your demise, Enthropy", stated the newcomer as he raised
his huge fist to crush Enthropy.

"Spurgo?", said Enthropy as the giant fist started to come down on him.
Enthropy then raised himself up, spread his arms wide and screamed "Enough!"
as he let loose with a blast of dark energy that knocked everyone back and
caused Spurgo to land on Paragon.

Paragon, a little thinner than normal and still unmoving, realized that they
were still out-powered by Enthropy. Paragon linked up to the UWW and sent
out a distress e-mail to everyone on the local hub. Someone really important
responded and then teleported to the room.

"No. Not you.", cried Enthropy, "Anybody but you!"

(by Frank W. Patnaude, Jr. -- Frank_Patnaude at UMBCADMN.UMBC.EDU)

"That's right," the newcomer stated.  "It's me.  Mary Lu Retina Darringer
von Frankelin, the Ultimate Woman and Empress of Earth."

Enthropy was surprised.  The Settlers exchanged bewindered glances. Law and
his granddaughters were stunned speechless.  Dirk just groaned.

"Stay down, Dirk," she called, launching herself ito the air and blasting
twin eyebeams at Enthropy.  "I'll take care of Enthropy."

Mary Lu grabbed the staggering Enthropy by the neck, and launched herself
into the air.  Up into the upper ionosphere she carried him, then tossed him
in the general direction of a red super-giant star.

Mary Lu landed, wiping her hands.  "That takes care of Enthropy for the next
few years."

"Well done, my dear," stated Baron von Frankelin, stepping through one of
Torbin's portals.  "Now that that destructive brute is gone, my only real
resistance is gone."

"That 'destructive brute' is the only way the timestream would have been
fixed," Paragon stated, dusting himself off.

"And I think you miscalculated the strength of the Deltas, my love," Mary
Lu stated, indicating Blackfoot and company stepping through the fourth
portal.  One of them, someone Dirk hadn't seen before, carried a bottle
of champaign and two glasses.

"Nonsense," von Frankelin commented.  "My unwitting spies have relayed their
strengths to me already.  My Molevo-clone army is more than a match for
their pitiful band of so-called 'heroes'."

"In that case, how about a drink before the big fight," Roger Price stated,
pouring two glasses of champaign, and handing one to the Baron.  "Cheers."
With one gulp, he downed the clear bubbly liquid.

"I know not what you intend to gain, Price," von Frankelin chuckled sipping
his glass.  "Still, I commend your choice in wines."

Dirk approached Mary Lu.  "Look.  I know you want me dead.  In fact, I'm
not even going to try and stop you.  At least allow me to pick the way
you'll kill me."

"Go ahead.  This ought to be fun."

"Throw me into Enthropy, and let us both be consumed by a star."

"All right, Dirk.  Consider yourself killed."  She grabbed him by his
costume's shirt, and carried him into outer space.

(by Lone Warrior -- tabrock at

What he saw amazed him. The Earth was shaped like a donut. He vaguely
recalled from high school that the Earth was *supposed* to be shaped like
pear, or an apple, or some kind of fruit.

Still, this wouldn't be the first time that something he learned in high
school turned out to be absolutely wrong.

Dirk looked at Mary Lu. She didn't hit him.

"The Earth is now the center of both time and space," she said. "We,
Earthlings, are now the center of the universe."

"That's why it's shaped like a donut?" he asked.

"A *torus*."

"Looks like a donut to me," said Dirk, and his stomach rumbled. He realized
he hadn't had anything to eat since at least Chapter Eighteen, and that had
been just a glass of mango juice while he sojourned in hell after dying
from a nuclear explosion while trying to help his old friend, the Ultimate

Dirk forgot what he had been thinking about.

"Now," asked Mary Lu, "do you know what you must do?"

He thought for a moment. He felt lost again, which made him feel right at
home. He remembered that they'd been talking about donuts.

"Find some coffee?"

She sighed.

"I've got to remember that there are a billion twelve-year-olds trapped in
that metal body of yours."

"We planned this all out, Dirk, remember? You were hallucinating a bit from
the de-power ray that the Collective used on you, but you must recall
*something* about the plan."

"That was when Malevo used grapefruit to take away my powers."

"Your *uncle*, Dirk. Malevo is your uncle! He restored you to life with the
Ultimate Marble, using special incantations from the Book of Duck and
Candle. But you lost the Marble, weakening the bonds of time and space. The
Ultimate Twins were the first result. Malevo decided it was too dangerous
to be your sidekick, so he gave up the Ultimate Internship and became the
Ultimate Villain, Dr. Malevo. That kept you in line for a while."

Dirk's mind whirled, and stopped before incorporating everything.

"The Ultimate Twins were *my* fault?"

"Exactly. And we had to fix it. We manipulated Dr. Merton Flagler into
discovering what *he* called the Marble of Power, after you lost the
Ultimate Marble. That was step one. Now, you've got to travel throughout
time and fix everything that you broke."

"Seems like a lot of trouble just for a cup of coffee."

"Yes, Dirk. You must find some coffee. And there's a great Denny's just the
other side of the donut hole."

She slam-dunked him through the hole in the Earth.

"Now back to take care of the false Baron," she said, and dived back
towards Washington, D.C.

"Honey, I'm home!" she cried.

The Baron was drinking another glass of wine with Thanatos. Roger Price was
nowhere to be seen, and may have been just another in a long string of
authorial constructs.

"Love!" cried the Baron. "I've just made a great deal with this gentleman.
He came through Tobin's other portal."

Thanatos smirked.

The Ultimate Woman looked at the Baron. She looked at Thanatos.

"What did you get in return?"

"All the superheroes on the Earth are de-powered. Except you, of course.
We're set! No more Brussels Sprouts of Flemish Waffles... no more Candy


Thanatos waved his hand.

"Oh, any time. Just say the word."

"Do it. Do it now."

The rest of the heroes in the room laughed, and launched en-masse at
Thanatos. He just stepped back and disappeared, saying, "I have to submit
some paperwork, of course. Give it about five or ten minutes."

"Love, what are you giving him in return?"

"Oh, we haven't decided yet. But it's got to be just one thing, and I'm
sure I can afford anything--I own everything."

"Dear, you have nothing to sell."

"I'm the richest man on Earth. I *rule* the Earth. I can sell whatever I

"Not to him you can't. That's a third level Demon Bureaucrat. The only
thing he wants is your soul, and you don't have any."

"Look, I can jazz with the best--"

"No, you're a clone. The Baron died. The paperwork probably hasn't reached
what's-his-name here yet. I'd hate to be in your shoes when *he* finds out.
Demons don't usually take well to being swindled. Still, he'll being doing
a good job for us. It makes the Ultimate Collective's plan to restore Earth
that much easier."

The members of Delta Force, left with no one to fight and worried about
their impending loss of power, milled around uselessly. No one had the
strength of will to fight either the emperor or his queen.

Mary Lu kept looking from her watch, to Delta Force, to the Baron, who
finally walked dejectedly into a corner to finish off the bottle of wine.

"I'm not a clone," he said. "I'm the emperor of the Earth."

(by Jerry Stratton -- jerry at

"Come on, Jorge", thought Mary Lu. "It's now or never..."
Luckily, it was now.
Jorge Steinhoofer crashed through the wall. He was wearing a
white baseball cap and a black neckerchief tied over his eyes,
which peeped out through custom-made neckerchief-holes.
"Steinhoofer!?!" gasped the cloned Baron von Frankelin.
"That's right, I wasn't killed in that explosion of Malevo's
office hide-out in Tampa Bay after all. Far from it, I gained a
sense of morality and a strange new superpower..." exposited
"Ah-hah hah hah HAH!", laughed von Frankelin's clone. "New
superpower or not, it will vanish in..." (he checked his watch)
"six and a half minutes from now!"
"That's plenty of time to take care of you, Frankelin, AND your
army of Malevo clones", snarled the baseball owner turned super-
hero, "for I am the Clone Deranger!!!"
He started to hum the William Tell Overture while his brow
"What? No! Stop... head spinning... room spinning contrariwise...
can't... stay... cognisant..." The clone dropped to the floor,
its clone-brain hopelessly mangled, as did every other clone on
the planet, irrevocably. Somewhere on the net, thousands cheered.
"Well, YOU took your sweet time getting here!" fumed Mary Lu.
"I couldn't leave the Dixon City Dodgers before they finished
winning the World Series, now could I? Hee hee! Who'd have
thought that Spurgo would have made such a *good* team manager?
Especially after he ran amok at that first press conference..."
replied Jorge, nonchalantly spitting out a stream of tobacco
"Anyway," he continued, "I still got here before Larry Lent did.
AND I had a USEFUL superpower as well. Just think if you had to
depend on that ex-insurance adjuster to save the world, heh
"Look, we don't have time to worry about the lameness of the
powers of the Loans Arranger now..." Mary Lu started to
"Oh, why not? I thought we'd done all we could here, and just had
to wait for Paragon to fix everything, and spread out across the
multi-omni-everi-verse as an infinite number of twelve year
olds..." interrupted the Most Powerful Baseball Team Owner on the
East Coast.
"But... but... actually, you're right. There's nothing more we
can do here except wait five minutes and see if he pulls it off"
opined the Ultimate Woman. "Hear that, all you strange characters
from other universes brought in from left field? 'Nothing more
we can do here', so get out of here already!!!"
Realising she was right, all the Settler/Omega/Conigli/Delta
interlopers picked themselves up and dissolved into thin air, or
their own universe elsewhere in RACC, as may be appropriate. And
stayed there...
Once again, at last, it was all up to Paragon - after all, wasn't
this his annual?
As he sped through the hole in the doughnut-shaped Earth, Dirk
realised that if he was going to expand out in a billion billion
dimensions, first everything here must be wound up as tight as
tight could be. And hot on the heels of that realisation, others
started cascading through his brain. 
"Of course!", he muttered, "It's all so clear now! Why didn't I
see before...?" And, like jigsaw pieces suddenly turned over so
the picture side was face up, he started to realise many things,
among them:
     That it hadn't really been Newt Gingrich, but a still
     transformed Matt Rossi III (now finished his honeymoon
     with London) who had charged in through the portal
     earlier... (Of course, it was an easy mistake to make,
     That in his world(s), Supreme Creative Power migrated
     from being to being, each of which was free to change
     the basic laws of physics, history and logic from those set by
     their predecessor - and many of them did just that,
     just because they could...
     That the reason his recent life and numerous deaths
     (each with their own unique version of an after- (or
     at least, between-)life) seemed to jump around so
     chaotically, is that his consciousness had roamed from
     universe to universe inhabiting similar, but not
     identical versions of himself, in similar, but not
     identical (and sometimes insanely different)
"Pontificating Pandas!" he puzzled over this last revelation, "So
that's why I only exclaim in animal imagery intermittently!"
He knew, somehow, he had to wrap it all up himself, so that it
all made sense. Now where was that Denny's?
(by Bill Keir -- bilkei at

Mary-Lu's toss not only propelled Paragon through the center of the 
torus that was planet Earth, it brought him in to a gentle landing on the 
other side.  Curiously, the other side wasn't rounded at all, but flat, 
except for a few stalagmites.  (Paragon supposed that in this particular 
reality, Columbus was only known as some idiot who'd fallen off the 
center of the Earth.  Or possibly as an even greater idiot who'd managed 
to fall off the *middle* of the Earth.)  The other side of the Earth was 
also very dark; there weren't even any stars in the sky.  But there was a 

Paragon wandered in.  He wasn't exactly sure how getting a cup of coffee 
would foster his spiritual illumination, shatter his body into millions of 
cross-temporal counterparts, or destroy the Earth's sun.  Then again, it 
was *Denny's* coffee.  He stepped up to the counter and placed his 
order.  Then he noticed the gorgeous woman sitting next to him.

"Say," Paragon said, hoping she wouldn't notice his horribly burned 
metallic robotic body, "don't I know you from somewhere?"

"Sure do," she said dejectedly.  "I used to write you."

Dirk checked her out a little more thoroughly.  "Wait a minute!  You're 
Doctor Mercedes Silver! But you're --"

"Dead?" she laughed bitterly.  "Only part of me -- the character part of 
me, that killed the original Baron von Frankelin.  The other part was a 

"Then shouldn't you be turned into Newt Gingrich like Rossi, or sent to 
hell and then brought back and then given massive super-powers and then 
forgotten about like Aaron Levitz?"

"No, that stuff only happened to *real* writers.  Even when I was a 
writer, I was just a character of some guy named Stratton.  So when I 
died, *none* of the Supreme Beings or Deaths or Thanatoses in *any* of 
the twenty-four different continuities' afterlives knew what to do with 
me.  So they sent me here.  Purgatory."

"Purgatory?"  Paragon looked around at the seventies decor and the 
languid waitresses.  And, come to think of it, the place was filled with 
all the forgotten characters who haven't previously been mentioned in this 
annual.  Even Aaron Levitz.  "It's all so obvious now... although really, 
I'd think Denny's would be more of a Hell."

"Only if they ever got around to bringing you the coffee."  Suddenly, 
Paragon's UWW uplink began humming ("When Johnny Comes 
Marching Home," if you must know) and sending him information.  
Apparently, Purgatory was reputed to be perched on the brink of the 
Ultimate Abyss... like any other Denny's.  Paragon asked Dr. Silver if 
she knew what that meant.

"I see and hear a lot of stuff from here, Dirk.  You see, as a temporary 
pseudo-writer, I had access to Baron von Frankelin's RACC Challenge! 
Homepage -- that stands for Radically Altering Countless Continuities, by 
the way -- and I got to read all the chapters, er, *continuities* that 
were created before I was."

Outside, something started rumbling.

"Back in the fifteenth continuity," Dr. Silver continued, with an added 
urgency in her voice, "your little friend Mary Lu had a chat with some of 
those losers from other imprints, where she revealed that two villains 
were masterminding the whole RACC project.  One of them, 'Franke,' 
was of course Baron von Frankelin, and he's been defeated.  But the 
other one... he's so damn powerful, Dirk..."

The rumbling grew louder.  Dr. Silver grabbed Paragon by his wide 
"Saturday Night Fever" lapels.

"Mary Lu doesn't want the Earth's sun destroyed, Dirk!  She'd rather rule 
Earth, with all the other menaces like von Frankelin and... *him*... out of
the way!  That's why she killed Enthropy, that's why she threw you here 
instead of the sun!  A supernova is the only thing that can kill this 
monster!  Nuclear weapons, Flemish superheroes, they're peanuts to him!  
Major uncalled-for retcons like that Rosendorf guy's, even they can't stop 
him!  He started it all!  And now your arrival has awakened him!  Mary 
Lu has pitted you against each other, and now he'll kill you before you 
can separate yourself!"

The whole Denny's started shaking, and Dr. Silver hugged Paragon for 
support.  "Who is this foul fiend?" Paragon screamed.

"He's been lurking on the fringes of every continuity... he was the one 
who made me retroactively give Tito brain damage... his psychic 
projections have been known to stand on mildly spooky asteroids and 
chat with Rex Reeves... but you know him as...

"Hold on a second," Dr. Silver said, adjusting her Jas Rswert.  "I had 
this thing set on 'Ellipsis.'  You know him as THE ULTIMATE MENACE!"

The ceiling of the Denny's started to cave in, and Paragon quickly 
whisked himself and Dr. Silver out of the Purgatory.  Seconds after they 
leapt out the front door, the entire structure collapsed on itself and then 
exploded, killing everyone within, although this in no way damaged any 
of the coffee.  As Paragon picked himself up off the ground, he realized 
why the other side of the Earth was so damp and featureless.  He even 
realized why there were no stars; something was blocking the view.  The 
Earth wasn't a torus at all, but a big round opening...

"THE LEVIATHAN IS A BROAD MONSTER," cried a huge voice 
from all around them.  There was a gust of air so strong, it knocked 
Paragon and Dr. Silver back to the 'ground.'  Paragon grabbed a 
stalagmite for support, though by now he knew it wasn't a stalagmite, but 
a giant tooth.  The entire Earth was nothing but the Ultimate Mouth of 
the Ultimate Menace.  But who could it be...?

"THE TIAMAT IS EVEN BROADER," said the voice.  Paragon still 
couldn't place it.  Was it Rex Reeves?  Myrna Malevo?  No, they 
would've been in Denny's...  Doctor Malevo?  But his clones were all 
gone...  Then the Ultimate Menace could only be...

"Oh no," Paragon whispered.  "Not *him*!"

"BUT I..." said the Menace... "I... AM THE BROADDUS!!!!!"

(by Marc Singer -- marcs at

Dirk clutched the Ultimate Incisor like his life depended on it, his 
fingernails somehow digging into the enamel like some desperate rock
climber.  Mercedes Silver clung to Dirk in a manner rarely seen 
outside the covers of romance novels.  All this barely saved them, 
however as the Broaddus drew in another breath and began 
ruminating upon the nature of puns.

Suddenly the devil appeared to Dirk.

Startled, the Ultimate Man gave him a questioning look, tilting his 
head like a confused dog.  "Uncle Horst?" sputtered Paragon.  Sure 
enough the Prince of Darkness did bear a striking resemblance to 
Malevo dressed in a poorly fitting red devil outfit replete with tail and 
a red plastic pitchfork that had blinking red Christmas lights at the end 
of each tine.

"No, I am just one of von Frankelin's clones," said the devil.  "After 
our destruction, we were put to work as Substitute Satans, 
Messengers of Malice, Harbingers of..."

"Sorta like Department Store Santa's?" queried Paragon.

"What do you think we do in December when everyone is on their 
best behavior?"

"I'm sorry."

"It beats being von Frankelin's lackey.  'Clean my toes, Nuke that 
European city-state, Rip off your arm and let Mary Lu play with it.'"
The devil/clone's surprisingly good impression of the Baron would've 
probably continued unabated had not the Broaddus paused in his 
ramblings to take in a deep breath that sucked Mercedes into the inky 
depths of the Ultimate Menace.  "Diiiiiiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!" 
she howled as she disappeared.

"That's got to be the Ultimate Indignity, to be inhaled by the 
Broaddus," said Dirk, who was in all likelihood talking to himself 

"No. Watch."  The devil/clone then snapped his fingers and three 
more red jumpsuited Malevo clones appeared.  They then began firing 
red beams from their pitchforks at what could only be described as the 
Broaddus' throat.The original clone spoke, "Cross the beams on my 
mark...Now!"  The resulting energy discharge triggered a gag reflex 
from the Broaddus, the end result of which was the ejection of Dr. 
Silver.  "Diiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!" she howled as she

"That is the Ultimate Indignity, being hacked up like a hairball in the 
nether reaches of the Universe," the original clone stated proudly.

"That's sick.  You really are Malevo's clones."

"Not the point, boy.  We are here to warn you that you cannot defeat 
the Broaddus.  *That* is what makes him the Ultimate Menace.  No 
matter what, when all is said and done, when all the histories have 
been written, ultimately it is the Broaddus who will have the final 
word.  He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Creator and the Destroyer, 
the Big Bang and the Final Implosion, the living personification of the 
RAC Challenge!, the..."

"Enough already.  You're definitely Malevo's clone.  But... what can 
I do?"

"This universe's only hope is if you can get the Broaddus to destroy 
Mary Lu *and* split you up into component parts.  He's the only 
force powerful enough to accomplish this.  This will smooth out the 
space-time paradoxes you created and remove the last Super Villain.
Even that may be all she wrote for this continuum.The Broaddus may 
allow us to start with a blank page or he may close the book on us 

"But how...?"

"Ask Arch-Wizard Tempo.  I'm just a measly exposition device."

"How do I find...?

"Teleport to the Lodge for Heaven's sake!  Ooops.  Poor choice of 
words," the clone remarked as he and his cohorts were consumed by 

Paragon was left alone in the mouth of the quietly snoring Broaddus.
"I guess even the Ultimate Menace has to sleep," thought Dirk.  "The 
Mount of Duck Lodge?  I haven't been there since my installation as 
the Ultimate Man.  And I still haven't learned how to teleport.  Or 
have I?  Hell, I don't remember anymore.  I guess I've died too many 
times.  Maybe a chocolate cream pie survived that Denny's collapse."

Dirk began to dig through the restaurant's remains.  He didn't find 
any edible pies (though not for lack of trying), but he did find the 
semi-conscious body of Aaron Levitz.  "Use the coffee, Dirk," were 
Levitz' strangled words.


Levitz held up a cracked mug seething with genuine, non-
biodegradable, asphalt grade Denny's coffee.  It sloshed over the 
sides causing Aaron's flesh to dissolve wherever it splattered.  " You 
came here for coffee, now use it."


"What about your UWW connection?"

"The moisture here seems to affect it."

"OK you'll have to pour it on the Broaddus' uvula."

'Hey!  I thought the Broaddus was a 'he.'  No uvulas there."

"Uvula, the fleshy thing that hangs down in the back of the mouth."

"You fool, even I know that's called 'The Fleshy Thing that Hangs 
Down in the Back of the Mouth.'  Anyway, what then?"

" Lodge...Tempo...Mary Lu...  If I survive long enough to write the 
next segment I'll help you, " Levitz croaked as he passed out from the 
pain of having his flesh boiled off.

"Wait I have more questions," Dirk pleaded with the non-responsive 
Levitz.When it became clear that forcing the coffee down Aaron's 
throat wasn't helping, Paragon took off with the only functioning 
appliance left in the rubble, the vat-sized coffee maker.  He then 
unceremoniously dumped hot black sludge over The Fleshy Thing that 
Hangs Down in the Back of the Mouth.


"Now would be a good time to teleport," thought Dirk

(by Kirk Ambrose -- kambrose at

Meanwhile, two figures stood outside the San Diego Convention Center of
Reality 17, watching the building strain against forces inside that were
trying to shake it apart.  

"Remind me never to invite a Flemish horde to a comic book convention," said
Merton Flagler, looking sideways at his companion.  "When is it supposed to

"Any minute now, according to my calculations.  The extra mass given the
Convention Center by the Flemish should be sufficient.  And if I placed that
wormhole properly, we should be getting the extra dash of cosmic creativity
needed to produce the reaction we want."  Baron Jarald von Frankelin looked
up from his watch.  "How's that new body fitting you?"

"Just fine, thanks.  What made you decide to get me out of the Web anyway?"

"Consider it a reward for discovering the secrets of the Marble.  Besides,
since I created you, I felt a certain obligation."

"But why am I here at all?  Aren't you dead?  Paragon swore Mercedes took
you out."

"Did you think even once that wasn't me?  I mean please -- setting up shop
in Georgia?  I wouldn't be caught dead in Georgia, so to speak."

"A clone?"

"Temporally displaced duplicate, actually.  The latest technology.  They're
all the rage these days."

"Oh," replied Merton, trying to make it sound like he understood.  "Hey,
here she comes!" 

"rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrk!" screamed Mercedes Silver, as she crashed from
the sky into the center of the San Diego Convention Center.  

"Good shot!" Merton exclaimed.

"Thanks.  I used to be a fairly decent basketball player, you know."

Lightning knifed from the roof of the Convention Center, a strange howling
scream accompanying it.  To the innocent passer-by, it seemed as though
Highlander IV was being filmed in the heart of downtown.  But then both
light and sound ended as the building began to suddenly collapse upon itself
and shrink.  It became the size of a townhome.  Then a Yugo.  Then a large
dog.  Then a hamster.  It continued shrinking until it was the size of a
small round stone.  Or a marble.

"To think that's how these suckers are made."  Merton gingerly reached down
and picked up the small orb.  With a flick of the wrist, he sent it flying
up against a nearby wall.  "And they bounce pretty well, too!"

"There's time for games later, Flagler!" von Frankelin growled.  "Right now,
Paragon needs some help dealing with the Broaddus, and I need to get back to

"So you're ending your association with all this, huh?"

"It's about time, isn't it?"

Merton looked down the page.  "Yeah, only a hundred lines or so left to go.
So how am I going to get there in time?"

"By taking the Ultimate Express, of course."  As the baron waved his hand, a
small portal formed beneath Flagler's feet.  Merton's universe faded from
view as he flew down through the newly created wormhole, leaving von
Frankelin alone on the now empty San Diego street.  "Maybe I'll catch a
Chargers game while I'm here," he thought, as he shuffled down the street.
"After all, now that I'm done, I have all the time in the world..."

Time was something Paragon didn't have.  "Why won't I teleport?!?" he
shouted to no one in particular as he dodged yet another blow from the
Broaddus.  He was beginning to weaken, and a burning sensation flared in his
chest.  He stopped to rest against a wall, exhausted beyond belief.

The Broaddus leered as he came in for the kill.  That expression faded
momentarily, however, when a hole appeared in the ceiling and Dr. Merton
Flagler crashed to the floor.  "Don't worry, Dirk!" the doctor exclaimed as
he jumped up and brushed himself off.  "I'm here to help!  This is the end!"

"Oh no," thought Dirk.  "This is the end."

"THIS IS THE END!" laughed the Broaddus, and continued his attack.

(by Jerry "The Baron" Franke -- franke at


"AND DID YOU," the Broaddus directed his attention to Dr. Merton Flagler

Dirk failed to see what was significant about being omniscient.  After
all, Dirk ate both meat and vegetables too.

"NO, YOU IDIOT!" roared the Broaddus.  Dirk suddenly remembered that the
Broaddus could read his thoughts.  "I AM OMNISCIENT -- I READ EVERYTHING

"What the heck is that?" asked Merton Flagler, uncertain about whether or
not he should still try using the Ultimate Marble to thwart this Ultimate


"Gallavanting guinea pigs!  Don't you believe in monogamy?" exclaimed Dirk.


Suddenly an apparition of Aaron Levitz appeared.  "Dirk, the coffee,"
wailed the ghost.  "Use the coffee!"

"Well, this stuff hurt you once before," said Dirk as he splashed what
remained of the Denny's coffee onto the Broaddus.  

"HA HA HA!!! PATHETIC!!!" mocked the Broaddus, unhurt by the java.  "THE

"I've had it with your arrogance.  Let's see if you really are
invulnerable," declared Merton Flagler as he hurled the new Ultimate
Marble at the Broaddus.  A small flash appeared where the tiny marble
impacted the enormous figure looming before the two men.  The Broaddus
looked down at the tiny speck of light, unconcerned.

Suddenly, the speck grew.  Giant flames swirled from its center.  The
marble became a star, and then it exploded!  

"NO!!!  NO!!!  IT'S NOT TRUE!!!  THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE!!!" whined the Broaddus
so loudly that he was audible over the din of the explosion. 

"Creeping Crayfish!" exclaimed Dirk "It's working!"  Merton Flagler and
Dirk Darringer watched in disbelief as the Broaddus was consumed by a
supernova.  The flames subsided as the massive form of their final enemy
faded into nothingness.

"We did it!  We did it!  We won!" cheered Dirk with the same emotion he
used whenever the Dixon City Dodgers won a game.

"Are you so sure?" asked Dr. Flagler.  If nothing else, he disputed Dirk's
choice of the word "we."  "Can we ever really defeat the Ultimate Menace? 
If that had been a bona fide supernova, would we still be alive?"

"Maybe the destruction of the Broaddus absorbed all of the thermal energy
of the blast?" suggested Dirk. 

OVERSIZED ANNUAL!" boomed a familiar voice from behind them.  The two
protagonists whirled around to behold the Broaddus unharmed.

IN THE PASSIVE VOICE?!"  The Broaddus bent over to show the two characters
his Powerbook.  Scrolling up, the Broaddus refered Flagler and Darringer
to the sentence where "the Broaddus was consumed by a supernova."

"But why did the ultimate marble cause you to utter despairing lines from
The Empire Strikes Back?" asked Merton.


"Sauntering Salamanders!  You really are evil!" exclaimed Dirk.

"Wait!  You don't need to do that to prove your power to us.  Why can't
you write us a happy ending?  Why don't you destroy Mary Lu and split
Paragon up into his component parts.  You can even include a "don't tamper
with nature" theme like the one Steinbeck used in The Pearl or Shakespeare
used in King Lear.  It would explain that Dirk's Uncle Malevo created all
of the conflict in this epic when he resurrected Paragon by using the
Ultimate Marble to combine all of the Dirk Darringers of alternate
universes into one being.  That was a violation of the natural order that
has resulted in this chaos.  Please have mercy," begged Flagler.

Dirk wondered to himself if being split up was his idea of a happy
ending.  He decided he'd prefer for everybody to simply end up at a Dunkin
Donuts.  They had better coffee there.

"IT'S TRUE THAT I COULD DO THAT IF I WANTED TO," responded the Broaddus. 

"Then I guess we really are doomed," lamented Flagler.  "We are the mere
playthings of gods who are oblivious to our suffering.

"BWAHAHAHAHAHAHHA!!!!!!!!" cackled the Broaddus.  "NOW I WILL DO THE DREAD
DEED!!!!!!!"  The Broaddus snapped his fingers.  

"You, Flagler, stop getting so damn existentential on me," commanded Dirk
suddenly.  "And you, Broaddus, stop using all caps like that.  There's no
need for you to yell.  And stop refering to yourself in the third person. 
It makes you sound like Bob Dole."

"Huh?" I asked, strangely compelled to follow Dirk's orders.  "You've
always been written as a dimwitted, weak willed, under-powered imbecile. 
The closest you ever came to saying anything pithy was when you made your
animal exclamations, and those were almost as petulant as Burt Ward's
'Holy Whatever! Batman.'  Why have you changed so suddenly?  What's going
on here?"

"What's going on is that I'm sick of jumping through hoops for you or
anyone else.  What kind of creator are you anyway?"  Dirk wiped off that
stupid expression he had worn on his face for at least twenty chapters and
pulled out a pack of cigarettes.  "At least when the creations of people
like Jack Kirby were screwed over it was because he lost control of his
creations to profit-driven companies who will prostitute their characters
for a buck!  You *willingly* turned me over to people you don't even
know!!!"  Dirk lit a cigarette and placed it between his teeth.  "This
annual may have an Image Comics style delay, but it has none of that Image
Comics drive for creator ownership!!!"  The cigarette wagged accusingly as
he spoke.  "And it's all YOUR fault!  Without a second thought you turned
me over to that band of hacks!"  Dirk pointed to the computer screen that
you are reading right now.

"But Dirk, think of what I've gone through!" I interjected.  When I was
away for the Spring I had to let Baron Jarald von Frankelin, er Jerry
Franke," I corrected myself, realizing that the charade was over now,
"take over my position.  I didn't even know if the RAC Challenge! was
continuing.  Look at me now, working on this in spite of the fact that I
have final exams to study for and final papers to write."

"Think of what you've been through?!" exclaimed Dirk in anger as the lit
cigarette fell from his mouth.  "Try going through what I've been
through!!!  Do you think I wanted to end up like Robocop?!!!"  He held up
a metallic hand.

"That's not my fault, Dirk.  Blame that on wReam and Frank Patnaude," I
said meekly.

"YOU LET THEM DO IT!!!" screamed Dirk, ignoring his admonition against all
caps.  "You created me, and then you abandoned me!"

"You're right, Dirk." chimed Merton Flagler.  "I've had enough of this
crap too.  Jerry Franke created me, extracted me from the Web, and then
sent me here to die with you."  Flagler rolled up his sleeves and made two
fists.  "I oughta  go show that guy a thing or two!"  

"Wait a minute, you guys," I said.  "We've all become a part of this --
the writers too.  Do you think I wanted to make myself the ultimate evil? 
Do you think Aaron Levitz expected to attend the picnic of the damned?  No
way!  But you know what?  It's been fun.  You can't say that you haven't
enjoyed yourself at all.  Look at all of the adventures you had.  Look at
all of the villains you vanquished -- Malevo, Spurgo, Mary Lu, Enthropy,
and Bloody Beth among others.  Look at all of the people you met -- Tito,
Tina, Dragonslayer, Omega, Mercedes..."

I proceeded to name every character that ever appeared in The Challenge!,
and all of them appeared as I mentioned their names.  Each one took his or
her proper place in the Ultimateverse, and for the moment at least, there
was peace and order.

"Don't you see?" I asked.  "When I started the RAC Challenge! I stipulated
that I would have the last word.  I am indeed the Alpha and the Omega.  I
sent my only son Paragon to save the world, and now-"

"Hold it!  You're going to turn this into Christian allegory now?!"
exclaimed Flagler in disgust.  "And you thought the nature theme was a

Dirk pulled out another cigarette.  "Yeah, well if I'm the Christ figure,
I suppose this is the part where I get split into my alternate selves," he
reasoned.  "I guess this is where I sacrifice myself to save the world,
right?  WRONG, bub!  I'm no martyr!  As of this moment Dirk Darringer is
his own man.  As of right now people are going to stop giving me all the
bad lines, misspelling my name with an "e," or pulling my strings in any
way, shape or form!  I'm a self-actualized individual, and if you mess
with me any more I'll make you wish you had never copied DC comics with
this little project in the first place!  Got that, Broaddus?"

"Don't worry, Dirk.  I have no intention of breaking you apart or
correcting all of the paradoxes.  You see, that's always been part of the
beauty of this epic.  Multiple, even contradictory realities *can*
coexist.  There's just too much room in the imaginations of twenty-three
writers for one cohesive continuity.  What we have synthesized here is a
creative utopia.  Anyone can write a chapter, and anything can happen.  I
mean, who's to say that mine is the last word?  I claim to be the Omega,
but not even I, the Ultimate Menace, have the power to end this with
ultimate finality."

"I still say that you're a dickhead," said Dirk.  He punched me in the nose.

"And I still say that this is a cheesy ending," said Merton.  "It's so
'happily ever after.'"

I wiped the blood from my nostrils, and a sinister smile crossed my lips. 
"Not exactly..."


   Dirk Darringer, retired super-hero, former buffoon, and born-again
badass, wakes up after another night of binge drinking undertaken in a
futile attempt to forget the last twenty-four chapters of of his life. 
Darringer fixes himself a cup of coffee and retrieves The Morning Herald. 
The headline of the Arts and Entertainment section reads, "Wham! Reunion
Album Outsells New Beatles!"  Dirk puts down the paper, pours out his
coffee, and looks for another bottle of Tequila.

(by Henry Broaddus -- Henry.R.Broaddus at

Some parting thoughts by Jerry Franke and Henry Broaddus...


Every once in awhile, when I find myself at home during actual daylight
hours, I'll engage in a little channel surfing.  It's truly amazing that
even with cable, there's so little on t.v.  One thing that does seem to be
on about half the channels on my television is a little overly-long lived
sitcom called Family Matters.  You may have seen this:  it features a little
geeky guy named Urkel who runs around causing all sorts of amazing events to
happen.  Once these events run their course, you can expect the little guy
to look up and whine "Did I do that?"

Well, now we're finishing up the rec.arts.comics Challenge!.  And I find
myself, like Urkel, examining the events that have unfolded and asking
myself the same thing.

It started so innocently.  It was an ordinary day when I stopped by to check
out the latest happenings on rec.arts.comics.misc.  A thread had started
about silly titles and stories.  Of course I had to put my own two cents
in.  "Anybody remember that old DC miniseries called the DC Challenge!?" I
asked.  "Now that was some pure clean, stupid fun!"  The next thing I know,
I've started a new thread, with people bringing their own remembrances of
the Challenge!.  And then Henry Broaddus pipes up, organizing what he calls
a rac Challenge!.  

Did I do that? 

It's been a long, wonderful road to this grand finale.  I'd like to thank
all the authors for their participation, for their hard work under deadline
pressure, and their mercy on me even after I became the major villain of the
thing.  I'd also like to thank Jerry Stratton for his wonderful web work in
helping me keep my archive afloat -- it would have died quite quickly were
it not for him.  And finally to Henry, father of the Challenge!, who I would
nominate for rac sainthood except for his decided lack of judgment in
leaving this inmate in charge of the asylum while he was gone.
Congratulations, everyone, we did it!

-- Jerry Franke
   Baron von Frankelin
   *Not* a clone!


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


I had not planned to compose any parting thoughts, because I wanted to
leave the editors plenty of room to respond to fan mail.  Then I
remembered that not only do we not have editors, not only do we not have
fan mail, but this whole thing is being distributed electronically, so
there's no space limit anyway!  You might regret that last part.

When you think about it, the whole concept of chain fiction is hardly a
novelty.  One writer devises a narrative structure that is continued by
another writer or writers for a variety of reasons.  Frequently the saga
even outlives its original creator.  For example, despite the fact that
Ian Fleming died in 1964, James Bond's adventures continue.  A mere two
weeks ago the latest cinematic installment of that saga, Golden Eye, met
receptive audiences at movie theatres everywhere.

Chain fiction pops up in many other places too.  It has become the modus
operandi of mainstream comic books.  Fans expect the rotation of creative
teams on their favorite titles.  Each new team changes, expands, and
reinterprets the mythos left by their predecessors.  It has even been said
that the United States Supreme Court works this way too.  American law is
merely a glorified RAC Challenge!.  Scary, huh?  I don't think so.   

Sure, it irritates the hell out of me when some hack replaces one of my
favorite writers and proceeds to undo everything good that was done. 
Sure, critics like Dave Simm are correct when they point out that
work-for-hire titles go nowhere; every change in creative personnel
produces a change in direction.  Sure, the success of chain fiction
diminishes respect for creators.  Sure, the increasingly conservative
composition of the Supreme Court threatens many of our individual
liberties.  All of this is true, and it is highly unfortunate.

Nonetheless, I'm fond of the concept of chain fiction.  I'm fond of it
because chain fiction demonstrates that people can share creative vision. 
It demonstrates that even though each contributor's vision may differ
dramatically, those contributors can collaborate in some fashion.  

Lucius Seneca said that "the best ideas are common property," and I think
the same is true of stories.  I'm sure that many of you remain
unconvinced.  Dirk certainly does at the conclusion of our annual.  Is the
RAC Challenge! a seamless story?  Not even close.  Is it still an
enjoyable story that is worthwhile?  I think so.  Of course, what I said
was that a common story is the best story.  Does the RAC Challenge!, most
of the crap being produced at Marvel and DC, or the entirety of the James
Bond epic rank among "the best stories"?  

That's unlikely, but consider the following examples.  Ralph Ellison's
Invisible Man may not explicitly be Albert Camus' Stranger, but he *is*
another interpretation of the same guy.  Shakespeare's Hamlet is another
version of a Saxo Grammaticus tale that was written four hundred years
earlier.  The Bible is a work of chain fiction.

Now, before I continue to bore you as much as many sections of the Bible
doubtlessly do, I'll say my thank you's and get back to my term paper. 
Thanks go, first of all, to Jerry Franke.  As my partner in crime Jerry
was acting moderator during my absence this Spring, and he is also the
diligent caretaker of the RAC Challenge! WWW Archive.  Furthermore, Jerry
started the thread which started my idea for this.  Thanks go to Mark
Evanier, who started the DC Challenge!, which started Jerry's thread,
which started my idea for this.  Finally, to every writer who participated
in the RAC Challenge!, thank you for making this so much fun.


Henry.R.Broaddus at

"The whole world is about three drinks behind." -- Humphrey Bogart

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