LNH: Classic LNH Adventures #31: LNH Triple Play 5

Drew Perron pwerdna at gmail.com
Mon Nov 21 21:24:40 PST 2016

HOKAY. So I've been way behind on the group, and there's a lot of reasons - 
election stress, post-election stress, getting FLASH! ready, and so on.

But one reason was putting off re-reading this story. It was *really* effing 
intense as a teenager in the '90s, and I was kind of dreading engaging with 
something so fraught and painful... but fuck it. The world's thrown its worst at 
me and I've survived.

Let's do this thing, McCoskey.

> 	{Cover is a closeup of an arrogant looking Self Righteous Preacher.
> The silver crucifix around his neck has Contraption Man crucified on it.}
> *******************************************************************************
> 			"BrainWash, Wring, Use Again"
> 		   (a post-Retcon Hour, pre-Dinsdale tale)
> *******************************************************************************
> 	Organic Lass gasped involuntarily.  Ferris Jones looked up from the
> restrained body of Contraption Man.  Lightning flashed behind the dark-clad
> figure in the slouch hat, highlighting the square of white at his throat.  Rain
> blew in through the open door.  "Step aside," growled the figure.  "This is not
> within your powers to diagnose, nor cure."

It's only now that I realize this is an Exorcist homage.

> 	"Self-Righteous Preacher?  What're you kidding?  All that mood for
> Self-Righteous Preacher?" asked an exasperated Organic Lass.


> 	"It is as I feared.  Contraption Man's problem is spiritual...."
> 	"Then someone should fetch Occultism Kid..." began Deductive Logic Man.
> OCCULT!" roared the Moral Major.  "There will be no redemption unless Contrap-
> tion Man himself wills it so.

I mean, on the one hand yes, but on the other hand, I think OK knows that. I'm 
pretty sure he's actually much better with journeys into the heart of darkness. >:/

> 	S-RP cast her a withering stare.  "Is it not obvious?  He served the
> leader of the Church of Dvandom.  He has been indoctrinated into a cult.
> Brainwashed.  I alone of the LNH am qualified to de-program him."

hahaha. x.x TBH, there was a time back in the day when I read a fair bit about 
"deprogramming" cult members, which... let's be honest, it was often 
straightforward fucking torture until the person involved recanted their beliefs 
under duress. Less "hey let's help you get the shitty manipulation out of your 
mind" and more "let's pile on *a lot more* shitty and awful things, you know, 
just go to the next level of trying to break a human being and shape them into 
something that, given certain stimulus, is forced to express what we think of as 
'normal' responses". And? Yeah? Spoilers but I'm pretty sure Jeff McCoskey had 
read a good bit about what that's like, too. (At least, I *hope* he didn't have 
to experience it himself. x.x)

> In one hand he
> held the Vatican 5.5 Revised-To-Account-For-Superpowers-And-Dimensional-Travel
> Bible from which he was reading.


> 	"I believe you LIE!" hissed the Inventing Avenger.  "Redemption can
> only be found through selfless service to the Acolytes of Dvandom and its lord,
> wReamicus Maximus."
> 	"Indeed," sneered S-RP.  "And are his rewards as fulfilling as the
> Afterlife?  Or even as rich as this...delicious...cheesecake?"

hahaha x-x; Yep yep

> 	Renegade Programmer finished licking the transmatted cheesecake dish.
> With red-stained lips he muttered, "Geez.  I just feel awful about this.  I
> mean I know CM is now a villain and all, but S-RP is just tormenting him.  He's
> one of us for crying out loud."
> 	Ferris had an uncomfortable look on his face.  "I know it's difficult
> to watch, but this is really his purview.  We have to suppose he knows what
> he's doing."

Ferris no. >:/ You know better than this. Trust your feelings! Don't suppose! 
Get evidence! (Ahhhh, but this is familiar - trusting an Expert over your own 
feelings, when you're a person who is Not Good At Feelings.)

> 	"How'd he ever get permission to do this anyway?  I mean Cat could help
> him like she did Particle Man, Kirby or somebody could get a brainwave machine
> going, or Occultism Kid could cast a spell on him.  It's gotta be less painful
> than this."
> 	"Preacher argued the not-unreasonable position that all that cheats
> Contraption Man from becoming his own salvation."
> 	"Hey I'd rather be hooked to a brainwave machine than denied C-E Lad's
> strawberry cheesecake any day of the week.

I mean, this, basically. A change forced through pain and deprivation is no more 
true personal growth than a magic retcon. If you *choose* pain and deprivation, 
that can lead to growth, but forced choices aren't real choices at all. u.U

> 	Ferris ignored the Programmer Supreme's words and mused half to
> himself, "Still.  CM's brainwashing is just a tad too Claremontian.  He was
> definitely a hero when he joined the LNH.  Retcon or not, there's some inves-
> tigation to be done...."

Dun dun dunnn.

> 	It had been three days since Contraption Man's last meal.  They contin-
> ually gave him water, but under the Preacher's orders, food was forbidden.

Jeff really pulled no punches here. x.x;

> Preacher held out a Triple chocolate cheesecake and read from the book of
> Schuster, "....God's Truth, Justice and the American Way.  Will you now recant
> the false savior and embrace the true God?"

And the fact that the "deprogramming" is specifically trying to *convert* him - 
even to a ridiculous comic-booky version of Christianity - is just. Nyuuurgh.

(And if the word "convert" makes you think of other "therapies" out there, 
that's *entirely appropriate*.)

> 	Chocolate stuck to Renegade Programmer's fingers and lips as he pointed
> to the surveillance screen.  "Geez, I can't believe he _kicked_ him.  He's
> getting out of control!"
> 	RP's guest in the computer room stared aghast at what he'd just seen.
> "This is outrageous!  Prison is one thing, but this?  We've blown up secret
> supervillain bases for less than this!  We're supposed to be the good guys!"
> Sidewinder was furious as he rushed for the door.

It's interesting. On the one hand, this is an appropriate reaction. On the other 
hand, one wonders why *more* net.heroes aren't reacting this way. On the third 
hand... that's something I've wondered about a *lot* of things.

> 	Deductive Logic Man studied the census at the Net.ropolitan Public
> Library.  Without even knowing Contraption Man's family name, it was a
> Herculean feat to try to find his living ancestors.  But if anyone could
> unscramble the thinly-related facts and unlikely guesses, it was the Master of
> Deduction.

Fascinating. :o

> 	All he knew for sure was that CM had a talent for tinkering, an
> interest in the 20th Century, and an apparent predisposition for religion.  The
> likelihood that this was rooted generations back seemed slim on the surface,
> but since he turned evil in the wake of Retcon Hour, a historical event was not
> out of the question.

Hmmmm, yes. Good thinking. (And good use of "trying to figure things out as a 
coping mechanism". Very apropos. @.@)

> 	"We're not done Preacher!" shouted PC Person.  "Your insane torture
> will be stopped."

I really love PC Person's role in this story - it's one he doesn't usually get 
to fulfill, that of someone literally fighting for (social) justice.

> 	"Oh sure, definitely.  God's the man," said CM around mouthful's of
> cheesecake.

Ouch. The thing is, this is perfectly LNHy humor, well-used, in the middle of 
this awful situation. @-@; Jeff was a *really* good writer.

> 	Organic Lass, Renegade Programmer, Catalyst Lass, Adamant-Authority-On-
> Everything, Golden Man, Parking Karma Kid and Hooded Ho`'od Win were gathered
> at a table in the cafeteria.  The LNH had seemed to polarize (yes again) over
> the de-programming of Contraption Man, though most of the pro-votes had not
> seen the sessions.

If there's one big problem with this story, it's that the "pro" side gets kind 
of underplayed. "It's his area of expertise" fits on day 2, but this far in, 
more discussion should really have been happening. To really talk about awful 
situations like this, we need to understand how people justify it to themselves.

> 	Ferris sat across from the old woman, listening intently.  He had found
> her in the Home for Aged but Unrepentant Villains Village, a retirement
> community.

Oh, lovely~

> 	"Sure.  I remember the heist, young man.  We just about had our hands
> on the Fez and the Minicar when 'boom' from nowhere a robot, an old man, and
> two strangely dressed crime fighters stopped us.  We got collared that night,
> and it turned Jimmie real bitter.

Ah! I knew that part of Retcon Hour got followed up somewhere. :D

> 	So Sword Master and the Load Island Renegades had been propelled
> through time due to Time Crapper's machinations.  If Retcon Hour had never
> happened, the Gimmick Gang might not have succeeded in stealing the religious
> relics, but they at least would have touched the Minicar of Redemption.....
> 	That was it!  Originally, the Gimmick Gang must have reformed after
> touching the powerful religious artifact.  Thanks to Retcon Hour, that never
> happened and the Gimmick Gang stayed evil.  They then passed the pessimistic
> Calvinistic religion through the generations, turning generation after
> generation into villains.  Villains yearning for redemption.
> 	Sure it was a logical leap, but Ferris was just the man to take the
> jump.

Ohhhhhh. That's really good. I forgot about that part.

> 		===============	Day 11 ===============

Seriously, it's a little weird that *nobody*'s made a real attempt to stop S-RP 
thus far. ^^;

> I can't believe UN or Cat hasn't stopped this yet!
> What does it take to get that guy?"
> 	"S-RP keeps stalling for time.

Though at least that's something.

> 	"What, some delaying tactic on PC Person's part?  Bah."  He entered
> Contraption Man's cell.  A beam of light lanced out at S-RP's chest.

 >:D ...I know, I know, I shouldn't. But... >:D

> 	A sizeable portion of the Legion was seated in the Meeting Room,
> watching the video of today's session.

See, we could've used people's reactions to actually seeing it when they'd been 
dismissing it before.

> 	Self-Righteous Preacher suddenly appeared at his podium.  He wore a
> black apron around his clerical robes.  White block lettering spelled, "Self-
> Righteous Preacher's Soup Kitchen," on the front.  He quickly whipped the apron
> off his body.  "Who dares summon me without my consent!  I need not explain
> myself to anyone, I...I.."
> 	But it was the nature of Hooded Ho`'od Win's power that he _did_ need
> to.


> 	PC Person leaned forward on the attack.  "You have starved him, beaten
> him, subjected him to more arrogant superstitious harangues than anyone but
> Panta.  Not only should you go to jail for this, we should all join you for
> letting it go on under out noses!  Your barbaric treatment belongs in the days
> of witch-burning and Inquisition.  It embarrasses the Legion and violates
> Contraption Man's human rights."

Truths, truths.

> "In the first place, do not confuse the Inquisition with witch-burning.  The
> Inquisition was wrong.

That's a fascinatingly fucked-up yet nuanced viewpoint.


Note the implicit, unstated rejection of the idea that there's any "teachings of 
the bible" other than his; not even entertaining the possibility of superstition 
getting mixed in with his interpretation. That's pretty subtle and on-point.

> 	"Yes let's talk about wReamicus.  I've read up on these cults.  Do you
> know how wReamicus most likely converted him?  Do you know?  With nearly the
> _exact_ same techniques you yourself have been practicing."

Tell it, man, tell it.

> 	"And what do you imagine?  wReamicus dragged him through a sea of offal
> to convert him.  There is no way back but the way he came.

You know, it's funny, because he's right - but again, the important thing is 
that it be with *consent*, of CM's own will. Because that's the only way for him 
to get *back* his will.

> 	("Y'know, I feel holier already," whispered Sarcastic Lad.  "It's the
> imagery that wins you.")


> "And I am sick to death of this moral relativism that infests the
> Legion.  Vigilante Guy is congratulated for spraying the guts of a murderer on
> our streets, yet how many of you rushed to the defense of an abortion doctor's
> assassin?

Okay, so, while most of this is on-point, that moment... I mean, that's. x.x 
That doesn't quite fit.

> 	"Psykeye is brought to justice for manipulating people's emotions and
> minds.  When Deja Dude does the same thing he is winked at.  You have no moral
> compass, nothing on which to base your actions but the wobbly prop of your own
> storylines."

There is actually a meaningful point in here - IMHO, one that the Legion is 
*still* grappling with, even now that Deja Dude and Master Blaster are gone.

> 	Hooded Ho`'od Win watched the raging debate curiously.  The Legion was
> stuck watching its two _least_ favorite speakers.  Hood had thought it would
> be fascinating.  These two, of all of them, had the firmest moral fiber, the
> strongest views.  She had just figured they'd be more interesting engaging
> each other.  <( Perhaps this Contention was ill-considered,)> she muttered.

Hey, I'm enjoying it! >:o

> 	"I don't yet have your religion in my heart...."
> 	"And you can't bear it to be empty.  I know my son.  There is no
> greater pain."  They were silent for a while.  "I have a surprise for you.
> Follow me."
> 	"O-out the door?"  If S-RP's face was capable of it, he might have
> smiled.  He handed the Cobbler Supreme a pair of trousers.
> 	As they walked down the hall, Legionnaires greeted CM warmly.  CM
> averted his eyes in shame.  CM's eyes widened as they walked out the door, down
> the street and into the Net.ropolitan Museum.  He seemed to savor the polluted
> Net.ropolis air.
> 	At the museum, a small car stood in a circle of light.  CM nearly
> turned and ran, but Preacher held him fast.  "I-Is that the Mini-car of
> Redemption?" Contraption Man whispered.  S-RP just gestured forward.
> 	The Man from the Future slowly walked forward, then reached out his
> hand.  Tentatively, tentatively he reached forward, hand trembling.  He grazed
> the cool metal surface, then flung himself at it.  Tears of joy streamed down
> his face.

Ow. Okay, this actually works really well - painfully sincere and real-feeling. 

> 	Deductive Logic Man watched through the Peril Room observation window.
> "Strong stuff," was all he said.
> 	"What do you think he'll do when he finds out it was just an illusion?"
> asked Renegade Programmer.
> 	"I don't think there's anything more real to Contraption Man."


> 	<(So do you really think all that was necessary?  The protein
> depravation, the physical violence, the misery?)>  Hooded Ho`'od Win asked
> Self-Righteous Preacher.
> 	"Of course it was.  wReamicus had a lock on his soul.  Such things are
> not broken with platitudes and good intentions."
> 	<(Maybe, maybe not.  But you haven't made any friends with your high-
> handed...)>
> 	"There is no Commandment, 'Thou Shalt Be Liked.'  My job is not to be
> liked.  My job is to save souls and enforce morals.  There is no ambiguity in
> right and wrong despite the modern age's best efforts to infuse it...."

I think this is still too easy on him, but it's still a good attempt to show the 
viewpoint here.

And that's what I think of the whole story. Despite being flawed in many ways, 
this story went *way* further than anyone else was willing to go in 1994 - not 
Vertigo and Gaiman, not edgy indies, not *anyone* was doing this level of 
engagement with the real, bone-deep problems of our culture. This issue was 
intense and powerful and is as much as anything else an argument for the 
existence of RACC and the LNH.

Drew "good job, McCoskey!" Perron

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