LNH: Classic LNH Adventures #18: The Omaha Project Part Five

Arthur Spitzer arspitzer at earthlink.net
Tue May 17 18:47:23 PDT 2016

In this weeks reposting of stuff you can find in the eyrie archive
we have part four of the infamous Omaha Project Cascade.

Chapter Fourteen and Fifteen are both by Mike Escutia.

Chapter Fifteen is the Pliable Lad Annual and has Pliable
Lad journeying through various other Universes and possible
futures.  (One of them being the Superguy imprint -- which
back when it was still alive was kind of a rival of the
LNH imprint.)

             | |      Classic			
             | |                      =
             | |      ____    ____    _    ____    ___
             | |__   | [] |  | [] |  | |  | [] |  | _ \  

             |____|   \__]    \__ |  |_|   \__/   |_|\_\
                                |_|  OF NET.HEROES

                                     ADVENTURES #18

                      The Omaha Project Part Five


                                 Chapter 14
                    "The light at the end of the desert"
                     Mike Escutia (mre at christa.unh.edu)
    and the little light on the terminal that tells you it's turned on.

     No one could see them, but they were there.  
     Beings of pure psychic form, possessing no bodies of their own.  What
they did possess, however, were incredible mental powers -- they could
probe all but the most resistant minds, and could possess most other
beings at will.  Until now, they had been confined to their native
dimension, a world of flat ground and blank-white sky.  Only now, there
was a doorway -- a doorway that connected their world with one teeming
with organic life.  Life that had physical form.  Life that was perfect
for takeover.
     Omaha.  The capital of Net.braska, and not too terribly far from the
doorway.  A teenage street hoodlum was currently in the middle of mugging
a young couple.
     "Gimme all yer money, pal!" the hoodlum ordered.
     "Please..." the young husband, barely seventy-two hours married, said
meekly, his mouth bleeding from where the punk had hit him.  "Take it.
Just don't hurt us..."  His wife stayed clings to his arm terrified.
     "Oh, I won't hurt ya," the youth smirked.  "But I might just decide
to do your lady."  The woman screamed in shock.
     The young punk was just about to tear the woman away from the man she
loved the most when all three of them felt something.  It was a feeling of
presence, of someone...some*thing* probing their minds and bodies.  And
then the feeling of losing control and blacking out, as if consciousness
was being overridden by a more powerful force.
     The young couple stood up straight while the teen put his gun away,
saving it for later.  All three were grinning evily from ear to ear.  They
were once normal, but now they were far from it.
     Just then, one of Omaha's finest came around the corner investigating
the screams of terror he had heard.  "Alright, what's going on--"
     He wasn't alive long enough to finish the sentence.
     Within minutes, Omaha was taken.
     The invasion had begun.

                    -=-=-=-=-                 -=-=-=-=-

     The land was flat for as far as they could see, with the occasional
tree dotting the horizon.  The sky was white, with no distinguishing
features or markings whatsoever.  There was no wind -- not even a breeze
-- and barely any moisture whatsoever.
     Pliable Lad and Tour Guide Girl walked hand-in-hand behind Drifter,
Easily-Discovered Man, Lite, Parking Karma Kid, Drifter, and Boy Lad.
Windrider circled above them, keeping an eye on the group and everything
around them.
     "...It seems so wierd," Touri was saying.  "A world like this.  Blank
sky, hardly anything on the ground....it seems lonely to me."
     "Yeah," Pli responded.
     "You've been quiet," Touri said.  "Is something wrong?"
     "You mean besides the fact that we're trapped in alien dimension
that's invading our own right now?"
     "Yeah, besides that."
     "Nothing really.  I've just been thinking," he told her.  "Trying to
figure this whole mess out."
     "Aren't we all?"
     "Yeah, I guess so."
     "Scared?" she asked him.
     "Yeah," he admitted.  "A little."  He put his arm around her shoul-
der, and she put her arm around his waist.  Together they walked, neither
one saying anything for a while.
     The group continued walking, heading towards a faint glow they had
seen off in the distance.  Boy Lad figured they wouldn't get anywhere by
just standing around, so he convinced them to investigate the light.  Lite
tried to crack some jokes and lighten the mood, but his efforts were was-
ted.  Boy Lad continued to lead the group, walking as if he knew *exactly*
where he was going.
     "Mind telling us why we're going to this light?" Drifter asked him.
     "That light," Boy Lad responded.  "is the center of the disturbance.
At least, it is on this side."
     "But I thought the center of the disturbance was the doorway," Park-
ing Karma Kid said.  
     "No, they are different," Boy Lad said simply.
     ==He's lying,== Windrider thought to Drifter.
     --What?  Are you sure?-- 
     ==Yes.  It's the same force wave we detected earlier.==
     Drifter closed his eyes and tracked the wave.  --You're right!--
he replied after a moment.  --The force wave must breached the dimensional
walls here, and possibly other realities, too.--
     ==That still doesn't explain why he lied to us.== Windrider pointed
     --You're right, it doesn't.  We should confer telepathically with 
the others.-- Drifter suggested.
     ==But only one of them.  We don't want to risk letting Boy Lad know
we're on to him.== Windrider thought back.
     --Okay.  Who's the most experienced of them?--
     ==Either Pliable Lad or Parking Karma Kid.  Parking Karma Kid's been
in the LNH just a bit longer, but Pliable Lad's more mature.==
     --Let's go with Pliable Lad.--
     ==Right.== Windrider concentrated, forming a mental link with the
shapeshifting hero.  ==Pliable Lad.==
     Pli heard his name and looked up.  He was certain he had heard his
name being called, but nobody was looking at him.  {Weird,} he thought.
{Did somebody call me?} he wondered.
     ==Yes.  I did.== came Windrider's voice in the back of his mind.  Pli
had almost forgotten about the eagle's telepathy.  {Don't say anything,
just speak with your mind.  There is something you need to know...}
     Within a few minutes, Drifter and Windrider had relayed what they
knew about Boy Lad and the disturbance to Pli, and he carefully thought it
     {So what are we going to do?} he thought to the other two, still
getting used to the telepathy.  It wasn't the same as the trick he could
pull in his own book with his supporting cast, but it was pretty close.
{We can't risk accusing him of lying -- we don't know how much power he
has.  Hrm.  Maybe that isn't even the real him.}
     ==Unfortunately, that's a *strong* possibility,== Windrider thought.
     --We're here.-- Drifter told the others.
     Indeed, they had arrived at the source of the light.  Whereas the
light coming from the crater was on the ground, this one was about six
feet above the ground, but still shimmering and shifting with the same
     Pli noticed that Boy Lad had moved to one side of the group,
seemingly to let the others get a better view.  But for just an instant,
there was a look on his face that betrayed to anyone watching that he knew
more than he was telling.
     "Okay, now what?" Lite asked from where he was standing next to his
mentor.  Amazingly, the light made Easily-Discovered Man's costume look
better than it was.
     ==Now Boy Lad tells us what *else* he knows.== Windrider broadcasted
telepathically.  ==We have to know,== he added, though only Drifter and
Pliable Lad could hear him say that.
     "You're holding something from us, Boy Lad," Pli, who was closest to
him, said.  "What is it?"
     Boy Lad sighed and put a hand on Pli's shoulder.  "Do you really want
to know?" he asked.
     "Yes," Pli said.
     Suddenly, Boy Lad's face split into a broad, maniacal grin.  "Then
find out for yourself," he said as he quickly picked Pli up and threw him
into the light.
     With a flash, Pli was gone.


From: mre at kepler.unh.edu (moving is hell)
Newsgroups: rec.arts.comics.creative
Subject: LNH: Omaha Project (6/8)/Pliable Lad Annual #1 (1/2):  Phantom
Date: 6 Sep 1994 04:00:41 GMT

                         Fourth Wall Press presents

                           Pliable Lad Annual #1
                            "Phantom Traveller"
                                Mike Escutia
                               with help from
                                Ken Schmidt
                               Doug Atkinson
                               Greg Fishbone
                              Dave Van Domelen

                                 Forward by
                                Russ Allbery

                          Inspired by the works of
             Ben Pierce, Russ Allbery, Chris Sypal, Rob Rogers,
          David Henry, Arthur Spitzer, K. M. Wilcox, Mike Escutia,
                      David Anastasion, Steinar Bergst

		       As I travel in space and time,
		       I want to stay, I want to go.
		     You see my face but it's not mine;
		   What you can't see, you'll never know.

		     How can we meet if I'm not there;
		  Our hearts may touch, our bodies close.
		   But time divides what we might share,
		    And sends us all where no one goes.

		     I'm just a traveler, upon the sea,
		  Of time, of life, of Fate's Wide Wheel.
		      Just a traveler in this mystery;
		   The me I am is all that's real to me.

                                    --Scott Bakula
                                      "Fate's Wide Wheel"

                *       *       *       *       *       *

        Pliable Lad opened his eyes to nothingness.
        Well, not quite nothingness.  Rather, it was more like a thick fog
surrounding him, making it impossible for him to see more than an arm's 
length away, and even that was iffy.  He seemed to be floating, but at the
same time, he had a vague feeling of standing on *something*, even though
there was definitely nothing tangible beneath his feet.
        He struggled to remember what had happened to him.  They -- Pli,
Touri, Parking Karma Kid, Easily-Discovered Man and Lite, Drifter,
Windrider, and Boy Lad -- had become trapped in another reality, and were
searching for a way to stop a race of beings of pure psychic energy from
invading the Looniverse.  Pli remembered them finding something -- a pocket
of reality distortion -- and himself and Drifter demanding that Boy Lad tell
them what *else* he knows.  And then, Boy Lad threw Pli into the distortion.
And the feeling it gave Pli was the same feeling he got when they fell
through the piece of scrambled reality....back in alt.comics.lnh.
        Pli's jaw dropped as the sudden realization dawned on him: he had
been travelling on the force wave.  The same force wave that had been
created in Net.braska and which was now travelling through the Net.
Windrider had explained it to him and the others while they were in that
weird reality.
        He remembered something else, the mental link Windrider had
established so that he and Drifter could communicate telepathically without
the others knowing about it.  Wondering if the connection was still there,
he concentrated for a moment.
        Nothing.  He couldn't feel the others' presence in the back of his
head like he could when they were conferring with him.  He concentrated some
more, hoping that Windrider would 'hear' him, but soon gave up when it was
painfully clear that it wasn't working.
        He wondered how Touri was taking his disappearance.  For all she
knew, he could have been dead.  No matter what she thought, tho, she was
most likely terrified, both for Pli and for herself.  And he couldn't blame
her, either.
        Suddenly, the fog seemed to lift, and the mists parted...

                *       *       *       *       *       *

        Pli slowly shook his head and let out a long breath.  He wasn't sure
if he passed out, or what.  His head was throbbing a bit and he couldn't
quite make out his surroundings.  He realized he was laying on the floor,
with a groan he stood up and blinked a few times to clear his eyes.  What he
saw made him blink more.
        "I'm in the LNHQ!"  Pli ran out to try and find some help, he had to
let Touri know he was not hurt.  Pli hurried to the monitor room, only to
find it empty.  'Weird.  I can't believe that neither Multi-Tasking Man or
wReamhack aren't here...'  He decided to head to the Peril Room, figuring
someone had to be there.
        Pli took the most direct path he could remember, when he realized
that things weren't exactly right.  He stopped short at the swinging doors
that lead to the cafeteria.  "Wait a minute here, I know that things have
shifted around at the HQ before, but the cafeteria?!  Here?!"  Pli was
talking aloud to himself.
        Without warning the door flew open at Pli, who instinctively covered
his head with his arms.  After a few seconds, Pli slowly peeked out from
between his arms.  Somehow, the door missed him.  He turned to see who left
and quickly ran after them, "Hey! Kid Chivalry!  Wait!"  Pli couldn't tell
who the other person was, but it was definately a she.
        The person who Pli thought was Kid Chivalry turned to his companion,
"Belle, what are you doing this weekend?  I was thinking we could take in a
        The female stopped and looked ready to punch him squarely in the
face, "Look, I have to lead this band. I don't have the time for
socializing, least of all with you!"
        Pli froze.  'No.'
        "Aw, come one.  Just one date."
        Pli said out loud, "No!"  He moved behind the male, intending to
turn him around.  Instead, he was caught off-balance.  He fell to the floor
and almost yelled, "NO!"
        He looked up in surprise.  Not only had they completely ignored him,
but his hand had passed through...
        "Kid Shiverly, leave me alone!"
        Pli buried his head in his hands, he wasn't home, he was in the
        The conversation in front of him was suddenly interupted by lots and
lots of...clucking?
        Kid Shiverly and Revely Belle exchanged glances and hurried away
from the sound.  Pli turned, and was happy he wasn't able to interact when
he saw...something...
        "Come back, you are gonna miss my intr...aw, shoot!  No one wants to
see the re-vamped me...Kid Poultry, Fowl crusader!"
        Pli didn't stick around very long, he had someone he wanted to look
for.  He tested a theory, and walked right through a wall, 'Well, I can get
around better now.'  His search did not take too long, and he found who he
was looking for.  Pli grinned when he realized who he was looking for was
being chewed out thoroughly by Penultimate Ninja.  Pli walked up behind him
and gave Liable Lad 'rabbit ears'.
        Liable Lad seemed to be defending himself, "But Penny!  It was all
true, I'm tellin-"
        Penultimate Ninja's TruEdge Katana blade was quickly in his hand,
"Don't call me Penny!"
        Pliable Lad busied himself making faces at Libale Lad and lost any
interest in their conversation.  Pli sighed in resignation at his futile
attempts to pick up a pen from Penultimate Ninja's desk to try and give
Liable Lad a mustache, when Pli realized his counterpart was near tears.
        "That's great, you never liked me, did you?!  I'll just go back to
that other place and live with the other LNH I found!"
        Pli felt something like a kick to his stomach, and at first thought
it was from the sheer ... oddballness of the situation, but he realized, the
grey mist was back.

                *       *       *       *       *       *

        Pli was seized with the feeling of rematerialization.  He was in a
placid setting; it looked like a television news studio.
        The man at the desk was wrapping up the sports scores when an
explosion tore open the studio wall.  All eyes turned to the man who burst
through; he was dressed in camos and wore some sort of strength- augmenting
exoskeleton. _Aw, no,_ thought Pli, _can't I go somewhere peaceful?  And
relatively normal?_
        Mr. Exoskeleton pointed a forearm at the sports commentator.  "All
right.  I've got an Uzi loaded in this arm, so no funny stuff."  The
commentator trembled. "I know the Sculptress has something to do with this
studio.  You've got five minutes to give me her real name or address, or I
start loosening heads."
        Pli started forward, then caught himself when he realized it
wouldn't do any good.  There seemed to be supers here; let them handle it,
'cause he sure couldn't.
        A tense three minutes passed before something decisive happened.
Through the hole in the wall flew another man, this one a young Hispanic man
dressed in leather.  His right hand caught Pli's attention; it looked like
it was made of silver.
        The exo-suited man thrust his arm further forward.  "You're Vargas,
right?  Back off or I drill him."
        "Hey, no problem." Vargas' English was very good, only slightly
tinted by an accent. "I don't want anyone to get hurt.  I give up.  At
least, until you realize that I don't need to point to stop you, and-- " the
exo-suited man's right forearm was encased in a yellow forcefield--"if you
can't fire your weapons, you're screwed, right?"
        Exo-suit cursed and swung his left arm around, but it, too, was
encased.  Vargas started forward--

        --And Pli felt himself pulled away again.  He strove briefly to
fight it, but gave up and went with the flow.  This didn't seem to be
something he could resist.
        He rematerialized in an apartment.  A small Japanese woman was...no,
not standing...hovering by the stove, cooking something (spaghetti, maybe?
Pli couldn't smell it very well).  Her left hand was made out of the same
silver stuff as Vargas' right.
        The door opened, and another young woman entered the kitchen,
carrying a sack of groceries. "Hi, Kelly, she said, kissing the other woman
on the cheek.  Pli was taken aback.  _Have I jumped from action flick to
porn flick?  If not, why am I watching something this domestic?_
        The phone rang, and the Caucasian woman grabbed it.  "'Lo.  Yeah,
I'll get her." She held out the phone. "It's for you, Kelly."
        Kelly floated over. "Hello.  Senorita Tanaka yourself.  What's up?"
        She listened, then her face grew grave. "He what?  Damn."
        The scene began to fade.  Pli held on, expecting the worst.  He was
ushered out by, "Well, fine.  I'll quit on Wednesday..."

                *       *       *       *       *       *

        Pli found himself on a street lined with houses in what must have
been the middle of the day.  The area was strangely quiet, save for the
occasional dog barking.  He found this rather odd, even for a neighborhood
such as this one.
        Quite suddenly, a human-shaped blurr zipped down the street, turning
effortlessly onto a driveway near Pli.  It quickly slipped through the door
of the house at the top of the driveway.  Pli, his curiosity piqued, decided
to follow.
        The blur turned out to be a young man with dark brown hair.  He
walked down the eight stairs from the door to the basement, where two others
were watching a TV station carrying what appeared to be a live simulcast of
        "Man, there's noone on the streets," the speedster said as he
plopped down on the couch next to Rob.
        "Really?  You should have invited him over," the younger-looking of
the others replied.
        The first tactfully ignored the quip.  "Where'd the girls go?"
        "They went to the mall," the third said.  "Bargain-shopping."
        "They'll be in luck, I'm sure."
        "I would think so.  Most of the stores there are trying to entice
people away from their radios and TVs with sales today.  Rather sleazy, but
it works."  He got up and got out a pair of sunglasses.  Pli noticed that he
was dressed in an al-black bodysuit.  A costume.
        "Going somewhere?" the speedster asked.
        "I'm going to go on patrol," the man in black replied.  "I need to
get my mind off the Revolution for a while."
        <Revolution?>, Pli thought.  <Don't tell me I've landed in the
middle of a war!>
        "Ah, so we're not getting involved in it, I take it," the other
young man said.
        "Not on the Revolutionaries' side, and only if we're called upon.
Sound good?"
        "Yup.  We're too young and innocent to go to war just now," 
        "My thoughts exactly," the man in black said.  "Later, guys," he
added as he left.
        As they heard motorcycle pull away from the house and head down the
street, the speedster turned to the other young man and asked "What do you
        "I think we should find something else to watch.  Hand me the
        Pli, meanwhile, stood dumbfounded.  What had he gotten into this
time?  Was he going to play invisible witness to a war?  He didn't even know
what was happening to him.  Why was he witnessing all this?  And what did
what he was seeing have to do with what was happening to him?
        He didn't have time to answer any of these questions, for the mists
appeared once again to take him away...

                *       *       *       *       *       *

        Another moment of disorientation, or a lifetime, and Pliable Lad
stepped out of the mists into yet another dimension.  He stood in a hallway
with linoleum floor and acoustic-foam ceiling.  To his immediate left was a
door with a dry-erase message board, several "Far Side" and "Calvin and
Hobbes" comics cut from newspapers, and a hand-printed sign that read, "Mark
and Kyle live here -- enter at your own risk!"
        "College dormitory," said Pli to himself, noting the loud strains of
Bangles music coming from within.  He turned to the other side of the
hallway, where the white plaster wall was decorated with an elaborate mural
depicting a red-haired girl in a Japanese school uniform engaged in a
sword-fight with a furry creature that slightly resembled an aardvark.
"A-ko versus Cerebus," was written at the top of the mural in stylized
letters, with smaller writing, "by Kyle Seamus, class of '97.  Thanks to
Tom, Laurel, Mark, Nick, Tracy, and Stacy."
        While Pli was admiring the artwork, a student came walking down the
hallway toward him, walking right past as if Pliable Lad did not exist,
stopping in front of Mark's and Kyle's door.  "Kyle!"  he shouted, while
pounding on the door.  "I know you're in there, Kyle!"
        Pli waved his hand in front of the boy's face, trying to attract his
attention, desperate to make contact of any kind with just one member of
just one of the dimensions he found himself in.  The boy remained oblivious,
even when Pli shouted in his ear and tried tapping him on the shoulder.
        The door opened, and the volume of the music increased to near
deafening levels.  "Nick?" asked another boy, most likely Kyle Seamus, from
inside the room.  "What's up?"
        "We were kind of wondering if you could do something about the
music..." said Nick, tentatively.
        "Too loud?"
        "No, it's just that you've been playing the same song over and over
again for two days straight!  We're all getting a little sick of 'Hero Takes
a Fall', especially Mark.  He's too polite to say anything, but he had to
sleep in the lounge last night to get away from your music!"
        "Oh.  No problem."  Nick followed Kyle into the room, with Pli
following them both, unseen by either one.  Kyle popped a CD out of the
stereo and carefully selected another from his large collection.  Soon, the
room was filled with the soulful voice of Tina Turner.
        "'We Don't Need Another Hero'," Nick noted.  "At least it's
something different..."  Kyle shrugged indifferently and sat down on his
bed, where he picked up a sketchpad and resumed the drawing he must have
been working on when Nick knocked.  Pli noticed that the walls on Kyle's
side of the room were covered floor to ceiling with artwork -- and the guy
was pretty talented.  Pli sat on the other bed in the room, resigned to the
fact that there was nothing he could do to make himself known to either of
these two.  All he could do was wait for his jump to the next dimensional
reality -- and hope that it would finally be alt.comics.lnh or some other
recognizable part of the Net, and he could figure out a way to *stay*
        Nick stood beside Kyle, looking over his shoulder as he drew.
"What--?  Who is *that* supposed to be?"
        "Nobody.  It's just something that came to me," Kyle told him.
"Pretty weird, huh?"
        "Yeah."  Nick nodded, taking his attention away from the drawing to
look around the room, as if searching for something.  For a moment, he
looked directly at Pliable Lad, and Pli caught his breath in surprise.
Then, Nick shook his head and started toward the door back to the hallway.
"How long are you going to listen to *this* song?" he asked, on the way out.
        "As long as it takes," said Kyle, looking up at a picture on his
wall of a teenaged girl who seemed to be made up entirely of light
particles, standing in front of a tombstone that read, "Sunbeam, 1976-1994,
Rest in Peace."  A chill ran down Pli's spine.
        The energy built up around him again, and his surroundings seemed to
fade, along with the background music.  The mist rose up to envelop him once
more, to take him home or to another place where he could only wander as a
ghost, unable to affect his surroundings even the smallest bit.  Just before
the scene faded completely, he saw Kyle, finished with his drawing, rip it
off of the sketchpad and hold it up in front of his wall, looking to find a
good place to hang it.
        It was a picture of Kyle himself, sitting on his bed, drawing.  Next
to him stood Nick, and behind them, like a ghostly image surrounded by mist
and fog, was a figure that bore a remarkable resemblance to Pliable Lad.
        The world slipped away, to be replaced by yet another.

                *       *       *       *       *       *

        Once again, Pli found himself...somewhere else.  An ectoplasmic
entity, imposed on the dimensions of reality, he was no more than an
observer here.  And "here" was a small graveyard.  He had the ominous
feeling that he'd be spending far more time in graveyards than he'd want to
in the near future.  But maybe it was just his imagination.  Still, he felt
uncomfortable here, and started walking away from the small cluster of
        He stopped, realizing that several of the grave markers weren't
stone at all, but metal.  Odd...since when did anyone use metal tombstones?
Overcoming his feeling of dread, he walked up to what appeared to be a
fairly fresh grave and looked at the inscription, which was engraved with
incredible precision.
        "John Anders - b 2085...."
        2085?  Was he slipping through time as well as dimension now?  He
read on....
        "d 2114.  He will XXX be forgotten."
        Odd, a word had been defaced, fairly crudely.  It seemed to be "not"
and that would make sense for a grave.  Was this man so hated that vandals
couldn't wait for the grave to grow over with grass before violating it?
Pli looked more closely...the metal seemed to still be hot from the welder
or whatever had been used to erase the letters.  He looked around for a
culprit.  Smirking, he realized that even stuck in a strange reality and
unable to do anything, his "hero" behavior was still active.
        He caught a glimpse of a dark-haired young lady, and tried to run
after her.  He felt that shifting sensation he'd felt just before
arriving...guess it's time to leave.
        When the mists resolidified and he could see again, he found himself
in what seemed to be an operating theater for giants.  Everything towered
over him.  Except for her.
        The woman he'd seen in the graveyard...apparently he'd "followed"
her in an unintentional way.  She looked several years older, and that was
just her body.  Her face was lined with pain and sorrow, and made her look
far older.  An IV drip was attached to her arm, which stuck out from under
the sheet which covered her body.
        Then he noticed that the sheet stopped too soon.  Her legs were
totally gone below the knees.  He winced despite himself.  He heard a
clanking noise and turned to see a giant robot of some kind entering the
room.  He nearly froze when he saw the robot looking straight at him, but
when it looked away, he realized it must have been looking at something
behind him.  The robot then started to shave the woman's head with some sort
of sonic device.  When this was done, he lowered a helmet of some kind onto
her and activated it.  She shook violently, and restraints shot out of the
sides of the pallet and held her fast.  What was this robot doing to her?
Was this some sort of punishment for defacing the grave?  Or had that only
been one of her crimes, and she was now facing a well-deserved execution?
        Horrible minutes passed as the body twitched and heaved in agony.
Then Pli realized that the IV drip had been stopped when the process
started.  Perhaps the pain was because of her wounds, not because of the
device?  The robot certainly acted like a surgeon...could this be some
advanced technique to regenerate her legs?  Having talked to more than a few
regenerating heroes, Pli knew the process wasn't always painless.
        During the process, the woman managed to kick the sheets off,
exposing the red, angry wounds on her legs as well as various contusions and
cuts on the rest of her body.  Her stomach looked like she'd lost a round
with Ultimate Ninja.  Pli turned away for a moment, but felt compelled to
watch, and soon turned back.
        After what seemed like an eternity to him (and who knows how long to
*her*!) the helmet was lifted from her head.  She wasn't healed in the
least.  In fact, there were several minor burn marks on her bare skull now.
Her body just lay there, like she was a vegetable.  Had the robot
lobotomized her?
        The robot seemed to ignore the body, as if it as merely waste
material now.  It was totally absorbed in some kind of computer readouts.
Pli craned his neck up (and up and up) to see the screen, but the figures
flashed by so quickly they didn't even register on his eyes.
        Everything started to fade again.  Pli faintly heard the robot say,
to someone he couldn't see, another robot just at the edge of his blurring
vision, "I've run all the tests I can...I suppose it comes down to one
question now.  How do you feel, Miss Anders?"
        Then everything was gone again.

                *       *       *       *       *       *

        Pli found himself in what looked to be a decimated part of a city.
Windows were shattered, garbage laid strewn all over the street, and
sometimes whole buildings were collapsed.
        On closer inspection, Pli recognized the city as being Net.ropolis.
        This worried him greatly.  Had he somehow travelled into the future,
arriving after the revolution those three people were talking about?
        His thoughts were interrupted by a commotion from behind him.  He
turned to see a dark-garbed woman pushing her way through a small crowd of
people, many of whom looked like they hadn't taken baths in weeks.
        "Please!  Let me pass!  The fate of the world depends on it!" the
woman was saying.
        To Pli's surprise, a hovercar came out from around a corner, and
settled down on the ground, blocking the woman's path.  Two soldiers --
extremely tough-looking soldiers, I might add -- stepped out and walked
straight towards her.
        "Alright, lady, you're coming with us," one of them said.  "You're
under arrest for disturbing the peace and conspiring with the resistance."
He grabbed her roughly and led her to the hovercar.
        "You do not understand," the woman was saying.  "My business has to
do with the fate of the world...of life as we know it."
        "Well, I don't care!" the soldier said.  "The world isn't yours
anymore, so shut up and we might let you live!"
        Pli briskly ran over to the car.  "Let her go!" he shouted before
realizing that the soldiers couldn't hear him.
        It was as the first soldier was closing the door to the compartment
they had put the woman in that Pli saw her face...and recognized it.
        All-Knowing Last Chance Whiner Destiny Woman.

                *       *       *       *       *       *

        The travelling continued, and Pli found himself jumping from world
to world, never able to do more than observe.  The worlds ranged from the
serious to the silly, from the incredible to the insipid.

                *       *       *       *       *       *

        He found himself watching what appeared to be a blur with antlers
burst through a gigantic space cruiser.

                *       *       *       *       *       *

        He watched three men faced off against three other men in a bowling
alley, and watched as one of them pressed a button on a large device around
his waist, which promptly unfolded into armor.  Only it was on him

                *       *       *       *       *       *

        He saw two men and what looked to be a small furry child taking a
walk through a park.

                *       *       *       *       *       *

        He saw a group of people huddled together in an archway.  One of
them looked injured.

                *       *       *       *       *       *

        He saw costumed superbeings spending time in jail, having a party to
keep themselves entertained while waiting to be released.

                *       *       *       *       *       *

        Hours passed, then days.  Maybe.  Pli quickly lost track of time --
it was easy to do.

                *       *       *       *       *       *

        Pli found himself standing in a long hallway, near a stairwell that
led down but not up.  The stairwell was behind him, and the part of the
hallway to his left was dark.  Walking down the part to his right, he
noticed that some of the rooms on either side of him were classrooms.  "Oh,
great," he muttered to himself.  "Another school."  He could tell through
windows in the classrooms that it was night out, and reasoned that he was
probably on a college campus; most high schools (and grammar schools)
weren't usually open this late.
        Farther down the hall, there were two lit rooms, on one either side
of the hallway.  As he got closer, he saw computer terminals near both doors
-- the rooms were computer labs.
        Just as he reached the labs, two people walked out of the one on the
right.  One was a physically fit young man with short, dark-brown hair
wearing a maroon-colored t-shirt and black sneakers.  The other was slightly
overweight, had curly, black hair, and wore an ice-green Suicide Squid
t-shirt, glasses, and blue jeans that had obviously been through the wash
one too many times.  The first person didn't look familiar to him, but he
recognized the second as Mike Escutia.  Also known as Ergh -- Pli's Author.
        "Ergh!" Pli shouted, hoping to be heard.  After all, if his own
Author can't hear him, who can?
        But Ergh didn't hear him.  He didn't even seem to acknowledge Pli's
"presence".  Pli wondered if he was in an alternate universe where Mike
Escutia *didn't* write fanfiction stories.
        "...So now you have a job that's giving you experience, too," Mike
was saying to the first young man, who was apparently a friend of his.  "and
I've got nothing."
        "You've got your consultant job here," his friend said.
        "That's different, Sean," Mike responded.  "Sure, it's paying me
money, but it's not giving me any *experience*."  He leaned dejectedly
against the wall and contemplated his feet for a moment.
        "Well, you should try to get a job this summer -- any job, not just
computers.  Then you can apply for something up here when you get back in
the fall," Sean suggested.  "At least you'll have money to save up for a
        "I suppose..." Mike said.  "Oh, I don't know."  He sighed, and Pli
got the impression that the past few months hadn't been too kind to his
        "Well, I've got to get going," Sean said after a moment.  
        "Okay.  We're still going to get together for lunch tomorrow,
right?"  Mike asked.
        "Sure, maybe around noontime," Sean said.
        "Okay," Mike agreed.  "See you then, Sean."  Sean headed down the
hallway to a set of stairs at the end, the reflective material on his L.L.
Bean bookbag glowing just slightly from the lights in the ceiling.
        Mike quickly grabbed a drink of water from the water fountain across
from the lab and headed back to the room he had come out of.  Pli stood
directly in his path, hoping that bumping into Pli would get Mike to notice
        To Pli's dismay, though, Mike didn't notice him, but rather kept
on walking -- right through him!
        "Oh, boy," Pli muttered.  
        Mike walked over to the terminal he was set up at, put on a set of
headphones attached to a Walkman, and started typing.  Pli noticed that he
was listening to the _Top Gun_ soundtrack.  Out of curiosity, Pli looked
over his shoulder at what he was doing.
        He was typing a story.
        This story.
        "Oh, boy," Pli muttered.  
        ""Oh, boy," Pli muttered.", the screen read.
        "Heh.  Shades of Spaceballs," Pli grinned.
        ""Heh.  Shades of Spaceballs," Pli grinned.", the screen said.
        Pli got an idea.  "Hey, Mike!  Look behind you!" he said.
        "Pli got an idea.  "Hey, Mike!  Look behind you!" he said.", the
screen said.
        Mike continued typing, oblivious to the person behind him...or was
he ignoring him?  
        "Yeah, I'm ignoring you, Pli," Mike chuckled -- and typed.  Pli
couldn't help gaping at him.
        The all-too-familiar sensation of leaving a world came to Pli again
as the mists began to envelope him.  As everything faded away, Pli thought
he heard Mike say "Later, Pli."

                *       *       *       *       *       *

        This time, Pli was surprised to find himself in the back end of a
crowd.  The people all around him were all dressed up in colors of mourning
-- they were returning from a funeral.  Behind him, Pli could hear the
ocean, and he wondered who would be buried on a shoreline.  He turned around
to see if he could see anything, but he didn't see anyone.  He also didn't
see the dark figure flying overhead just then.
        That's when he noticed that there was something was familiar about
the surrounding area.  He had seen it before...in Net.ropolis.
        Realizing that he was home, Pli whooped and shouted to the first
person he saw.  "Hey!  Hi there!  How's it going?"
        But no one saw him.  
        Cautiously approaching the closest person to where he was standing,
Pli slowly reached out his hand...and it went right through the man as if he
wasn't even there.  Which, for all intents and purposes, was true.
        Pli's heart sank.  This wasn't the Net.ropolis that he knew -- the
one he 'started over' in.  It was another alternate universe Net.ropolis,
just like in the Oddball universe.  As he had countless times already, Pli
was faced with the possibility that he'd never return to alt.comics.lnh.
The one he knew, that is.
        And yet, there was something about this world that seemed right...
        Without warning, the crowd started to panic.  Pli quickly turned
around to see what was causing the disturbance.  He saw three things that
completely surprised him.
        The first was a human-sized, starry figure floating high above the
crowd, barely visible against the overcast sky.  Pli recognized him almost
immediately -- it was Constellation.
        The second was a giant, armored figure standing over the city.  Pli
recognized him from LNH dossiers -- ReFoDis.
        On the ground, Pli saw that crowd control was being handled by
Legionnaires, including Sig.Lad, Kid Kirby, and Catalyst Lass.  Most of them
were up front, closest to the RACelestial.  Pli ran through the crowd (and I
do mean *through*) and joined the people he recognized as his teammates.
        After surveying the scene for a moment -- not that it mattered to
him -- ReFoDis raised his hand and pointed at Pli, seemingly singling him
out, and a single word echoed in his mind.


        To Pli, it was more than a word.  It was even more than a request
to make one of the most important decisions of his life.
        It was the final piece of the puzzle.
        All those worlds he visited -- the Oddball LNH... the world with the
gauntletted heroes... the college dormitory... the futuristic graveyard and
operating room... this world... and, to an extant, the real world of Ergh...
there was one thing they all had in common: They were all fanfic worlds like
the Looniverse.
        That meant they had one *other* thing in common, and ReFoDis's
appearance cinched it.  And it was something that could only be described by
its name:





        Pli stepped forward, away from the crowd.  Behind him, the Legion of
Net.Heroes and the people of the city of Net.ropolis stood in silent vigil.
They had all cast their votes; now all they could do was wait.  Some prayed.
Others silently fingered good luck necklaces.  Lovers held each other.
Pocket Man and Organic Lass held hands.  The Ultimate Ninja watched ReFoDis.
Self-Righteous Preacher muttered a silent prayer.  Constellation slowly
landed, joining his teammates.
        Several feet in front of the crowd, but completely unseen by them,
Pli looked up at ReFoDis the Schizmator and sent the giant being a single


        The mists surrounded him again, but this time, it felt different --
he had reached the end of the journey.  His time as a phantom traveller was
over now.  He was going home.
        The mists thinned out, but only slightly.  Despite the fog, he could
see something.  It was a large, golden door, standing over twenty feet high.
There was a combination lock on the handle.  He couldn't read the numbers,
but he sensed that they kept changing...increasing.
        The force wave, tho not tangible to Pli, was pushing against the
door, working to open it.
        And, in that instant, Pli knew what had happened to him.  The force
wave had deposited him at its target -- the door to RACC.  He knew that the
force wave was trying to break through the door -- through the barrier --
and that it was the embodiment of the movement to reach RACC.  He also
realized that there was a reason he was only a phantom: RACC didn't exist;
it would be a phantom world until it was created.
        In the center of the door was emblazoned the Rec.Arts.Comics insig-
        Then his world went white, and he went home.


Pliable Lad and Liable Lad (tm) Mike Escutia.
Mr. Exoskeleton, Vargas, Sculptress, and all scene 3 and 4 (tm) Doug Atkinson.
Nick, Kyle, Sunbeam, and all scene 6 (tm) Greg Fishbone.
Constellation, Sig.Lad, "Miss Anders", and all scene 7 (tm) Dave Van Domelen.
Mike "Ergh" Escutia (tm) himself.
Sean McAllister (tm) himself.  Hi, Sean.
Kid Kirby (tm) Jameel al Khafiz.

All-Knowing Last Chance Whiner Destiny Woman created by wReam.
ReFoDis created by Dave Van Domelen.

The Oddball LNH appears courtesy of Ken Schmidt.

Special thanks to Chris Sypal for the "fifth wall" concept.  It's what
    got me thinking about this story. :)

Brought to you by Fourth Wall Press, a MRE Variable Insanity, Inc. imprint.

Mike Escutia | NOTICE: If you notice this notice, you will notice after 
mike at unh.edu | noticing this notice that this notice was not worth noticing.
Ergh on IRC  | ---------------------Read Superguy!--------------------------
-----Author, "Hero Patrol", Superguy Digest (listserv at ucf1vm.cc.ucf.edu)----


Next Week:  We will interrupt the current storyline with the first part of --
RETCON HOUR!!  (Don't worry -- sometime in the middle of Retcon Hour we'll
interrupt that with more Omaha Project.)

Arthur "Same Classic Channel.  But Same Time?  Probably not." Spitzer

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