LNH: Return of Just Another Multi-Writer Cascade That Will Probably Never Have an Ending.GEKIJOBAN: "Friendgame"
pwerdna at gmail.com
Thu Nov 21 21:15:17 PST 2019
Just Another Multi-Writer Cascade
That Will Probably Never Have an Ending.GEKIJOBAN
by Drew Perron
The cover is a lovingly hand-painted portrait of Net.Access punching LAN.os
right in the face.
A universe, not of hard and unyielding matter and energy, but of connection,
affinity, the fundamental forces that bind people together - the Friend Zone!
And within that universe - the planet known as Rostir, home of the ghosts of
millions of never-realized characters! And home to something else! Home of one
of Looniverse-20's most powerful artifacts - an Absurdity Stone! In specific,
guarded here is the soul of the Absurdity Stones, the mytheopeic center of
everything that is the superhero genre - the Characterization Stone!
And upon that planet's misty magenta fields, beneath its violet sky with its
soft robin's-egg clouds, lands the ship of - LAN.os!
The insipid purple man, fedora on his head, wearing a tailored business suit
with the Crossover Queen's insignia on the lapel, walked down the ramp, followed
by an average-looking, slightly slouchy black guy in a Moon Girl T-shirt,
looking around and taking pictures with his phone.
"Haha!" shouted LAN.os, raising his chin, looking over the mist-covered
landscape, soft like the dreams of a Lisa Frank unicorn. "Guardian! I summon you
from your slumber. Awaken for LAN.os, son of the greatest warrior in the cosmos!"
The mists drew together before LAN.os, and out of them arose the shuffling,
shadowy ghost of a character who never was - Ultra-Nazi-Squared, a concept for a
net.villain who was dropped when the cultural view of Nazis as an easy default
bad guy suddenly stopped being a Thing.
"lan.os of inferior," murmured the phantom. "you seek the stone... as have so
many others... fools, all... once, i held the stone..."
"Skip the backstory, pathetic wretch, and take me to the site of my greatest
victory!" LAN.os raised his fist in the air and shook it mightily.
The average-looking guy took a picture of the phantom. "This is going straight
up on the Discord."
The villain-who-never-was lead them to the shore of a great lavender ocean,
lapping at a beach of multicolored sugar sand. LAN.os grinned, cracking his
knuckles. "Finally, my day of triumph and power approaches! Finally, the day the
scales will be balanced - in favor of *me*!"
"Fat chance!" There was a THOOM! and water and sand sprayed up in the air as a
figure landed on the beach.
The wave crashed back down on LAN.os, who sputtered and flailed, suit and hat
completely soaked. "Pff! Pfahfh! What!? Who! Who dares challenge LAN.os, second
to the Crossover Queen!?"
"Who do you think, buster!?" There in the breaking tide stood a figure. She was
dressed in a black catsuit with a red, blue and gold starburst on the chest and
a stylish brown leather jacket with cybernetic wings on the back. On her head
was a red fedora that worked a thousand times better on her, and on her hands
were high-tech blue-and-silver gauntlets. She was the Keymaster of the
Omnilooniverse. She was Net.Access.
"YOU!" LAN.os shook his fist at her. "Of course... I should have known you would
come to oppose me!"
Net.Access shook her head dismissively. "Sorry, but I have bigger things going
on. How'd you get back in the Friend Zone, tho? I figured I'd never see your
weird chin here ever again."
LAN.os laughed. "Fool, I am stronger than you knew me! I have made... EXACTLY
ONE FRIEND!" He grabbed the average-looking guy and squeezed him against his
side. "DOUG, from the comic book store!!"
"Uh, hey." Doug wriggled in LAN.os's grip and waved to Net.Access. "Sorry about
She acknowledged him with a nod. "Pardon me if I don't applaud."
"Your praise is meaningless to me, so there! But I have entered the Friend Zone,
and located the Characterization Stone, as part of the Crossover Queen's plan!
Soon, we shall enter a great crossover, where I take my time obtaining all the
Absurdity Stones, one by one, each one that I obtain bringing in at least half a
billion dollars in the US, and even more worldwide! And when they are brought
together, I-- I mean, she-- shall rule triumphant!" LAN.os looked around
shiftily. "I'm definitely not planning to betray her. Just ask Doug!"
Doug nodded. "Yeah, totally. He comes to game nights and talks about how he's
not planning to betray the Crossover Queen all the time."
"And now..." LAN.os turned toward the ocean. A great whirlpool formed on its
surface, a swirling nexus ready to pull anything down into the briny depths.
"The Characterization Stone requires a sacrifice! And I--" He lifted Doug up
over his head, in both hands. "I shall sacrifice my exactly one friend!"
"Hey, wait wait *what*!" Doug squirmed around, dropping his phone in the sand.
"LAN.os. Dude. We *talked* about this."
"Yes, Doug! I remember our great debates on the trolley problem, and my promise
that I would not sacrifice any of the gamers with which we play! But you see,
Doug!" LAN.os roared in triumph. "I HAD MY FINGERS CROSSED!"
Net.Access rolled her eyes, sliding her hand down her face. "Okay. Enough. Let
LAN.os cackled in maniacal glee. "Now, we shall have the ultimate climactic bat--!"
Net.Access snapped her fingers and the beach underneath LAN.os turned into a
quicksand trap from a 1950s adventure movie. He yelped as he was pulled down to
chest level immediately. Net.Access tossed a vine to Doug and he climbed out
"Like I said. I didn't come here to fight you." From the pocket of her jacket,
Net.Access pulled a cube - or, rather, a Kube; one of the Kubrik's Kubes,
once-mighty cosmic artifacts, now powerless pieces of multicolored plastic. "I
came here to fix a mistake."
"Insolent woman!" LAN.os charged up his prodigious cosmic strength-- but by the
laws of '50s adventure movies, flailing around only caused him to sink faster,
and by the time he stopped, the quicksand was up to his shoulders. "As soon as
"You can't take an army into the Friend Zone, LAN.os, I know it's just you and
Doug on an automated ship." Net.Access tossed the Kube up in the air, caught it,
looking off in the distance, memories playing across the back of her eyes. "Do
you remember, when we fought before?" She shook her head, laughed. "No, you
wouldn't. It's not the kind of thing you pay attention to. But..."
She sighed, smiled wistfully at a happy moment. "After Victoria and I saved each
other... we were talking to everybody, and I was like... well, I hope this
teaches the Writers to finish what they start. And everybody agreed. But..." She
shook her head. "But we were wrong. I was wrong."
"It wasn't..." Net.Access turned to look at the place the technicolor sky met
the pastel sea. "It wasn't the unfinished stories that caused the rifts and put
the Looniverses in danger. I thought that that's what it was, when I saw the
great pattern at the heart of the cosmos, and the missing pieces that were
breaking it apart. But..." She looked around, turned to Doug, just so she could
have an audience who might listen. "But it wasn't the stories that hadn't been
written. It was the stories that *wouldn't* be written. It wasn't just that the
Writers weren't writing endings, they weren't writing anything. Because of
guilt. Guilt over having left things half-done."
Doug nodded, eyes wide, not understanding a word, as a tide of mist rolled in
from the fields and covered the beach in a whispering haze. LAN.os, nose-deep in
the mist, sneezed.
"The impossible standards, the need to catch up, to..." Net.Access waved her
hands in the air. "To climb a mountain when you've already fallen and hit every
rock on the way down! Before you can do *anything* new." She sighed, taking off
her hat and running her hand thru her hair. "That's how I failed Intro to
Hamburgerology. Got caught on an unfinished assignment, never turned it in,
stopped going to class... to be honest, I'm still not sure *why* they put sesame
seeds on the buns."
"Uh, are you getting distracted?" asked Doug.
"*My* victory speech would have been a lot better," grumbled LAN.os. "It would
have had lots of references to famous European philosophers. Sounded really smart."
"Right. Anyway, what I'm saying is, me and the whole narrative around the rift
crisis might've made things worse." The wings on Net.Access's back started
fluttering, and she rose up in the air. "So I decided to do what I could to fix
things. To be honest, I was already in the Friend Zone before I sensed you
coming. You're not what I came here for at all."
LAN.os snorted, turning his head away. "Humph! Women and their easy excuses..."
Doug sighed. "Did you even *read* the 'feminism 101' articles I kept linking you?"
"I... I *skimmed* them, I swear!"
Net.Access rose up over the whirlpool. "To summon the Characterization Stone..."
She held out the Kube in front of her. "I summon our future." She closed her
eyes. "The future where all those long-forgotten stories would be finally
finished. Where everything that we hoped to see flashed before our eyes in a
perfect moment. Where we could resolve everything, once and for all, and seal it
with a perfect 'The End'."
The Kube began to glow, softly at first, then coruscating with silvery color,
filling with the energies of dream and desire. "Once, I sacrificed a perfect,
finished past for an unbounded future, bright with possibility. Now, I sacrifice
a perfect, finished future, so that that unbounded possibility may be accessible
to all, each day free of the guilt of ages, each day open and new!"
Net.Access lifted the Kube over her head, and the mist rose up from the beach,
up from the magenta fields, up towards her. As the mist rose, it spiraled around
itself, became a solid shape, like a tornado in reverse.
The tip of the tornado slammed into the Kube. It shook, and Net.Access held on
with both hands, brows knitting as a torrent of unrealized possibility streamed
recklessly in, the silver light brighter and brighter with each moment until it
Net.Access lowered the Kube, holding it out before her, directly over the maw of
the whirlpool. "I release the Writers! I release the plots! I release the guilt!
I..." Her hand opened. "Release!"
The Kube fell, tumbling end-over-end until it disappeared into the churning sea.
The whirlpool collapsed in on itself, and a column of light burst from the
water. In the middle of that column was a fist-sized hunk of ruby, unfinished
but scintillating with crimson light.
Net.Access reached out. Lighting crackled from the surface of the ruby into her
outstretched hand, and she flinched, and turned her head away, eyes closed. But
when she looked back, her eyes were glowing red, and her hand closed around the
"NO!" yelled LAN.os. "That was a meaningless sacrifice! Something you valued for
the wrong reasons - something you had to let go of for your own good!"
Net.Access smirked, fedora perfectly perched on her head, eyes bright with the
light of the Stone. "That's the most meaningful sacrifice you can make." She
held the Stone in the air, pointing into the sky. "Let the wheels of
characterization, stopped so long ago, grind into action once more!
CHARACTEEEEEER... GRAND GROWTH!!"
Crimson lightning crackled around the Stone, around her body, and shot into the
sky-- slamming against it like it was an invisible dome, and causing the dome to
crack wide open, a gash that caused the alien light of a yellow sun to stream thru.
And thru that gap zoomed an enormous fishing hook, glinting golden, arcing thru
the air and slamming into the sand. The hook was attached to a line, and the
line pulled taut, pointing off thru the crack; and pulled thru by the line came
a young man and an armored being.
The man wore a white trenchcoat with shimmery silver trim over a white spandex
bodysuit with silver boots, a silver belt with a gold buckle, and a gold,
shield-shaped chest emblem with a silver fishing hook on it. The being's armor
was composed of smooth plates, gunmetal gray for most of it, blue on the gloves
and boots, with a shining white breastplate, a blue circle on the left panel, a
blue square on the right, and a blank blue faceplate. Doug watched them fly
down, mouth in an O of amazement, and snapped several pictures.
They landed with a thump! on the beach. "Net.Access, are you okay?" said the
man. "I sensed an enormous plot hook right before that-- I mean, that *rift*
opened." He looked concerned, youthful brow furrowed.
"I'm sensing intense cosmic energies from the object she's holding," said a
deep, smoky voice from the armor. "It may be some form of cosmic plot device,
tho from the spectral analysis, I can tell it is not *the* Cosmic Plot Device."
The Characterization Stone pulsed in Net.Access's hand, and a burst of crimson
energy pulsed from her eyes. "Nnnn... okay, that's enough of that... Plot Hook
Lad... Betamax... can you give me some kind of containment unit?"
"One moment." Betamax pulled seemingly random panels off her armor; beneath each
was an identical panel, which rose into place. She brought them together,
assembling a sleek gray-and-blue sphere with an iris on it, which she threw up
to Net.Access; Net.Access dropped the Stone into it and sighed. "Whew."
"So do we-- WHOA is that LAN.os!" Plot Hook Lad took a step back.
"Hah, yes!" crowed the cosmic villain, raising his fist. "And now that you have
secured the Characterization Stone for me, I will-- whoop, sinking, sinking..."
"Yeah," said Net.Access. landing on the beach. "Long story."
"He desired that object, and you stopped him," said Betamax.
"Okay, short story." Net.Access adjusted the iris on the containment sphere, and
a trickle of crimson energy streamed out like mist. "But that's not important,
the important thing is, talking about what's been going on in your lives lately."
"...you know, I know you've been spending a lot of time with your girlfriend
lately, but you could have, like, sent a text or something," said Plot Hook Lad.
"No need to unearth interdimensional artifacts."
"I believe it is for the artifact," said Betamax, whose voice was near-monotone
yet excellent at conveying a subtle amusement.
"Right," smiled Net.Access, the drama of the previous scene slowly dissolving,
the guilt that had been released easing away.
"Oh, well." Plot Hook Lad laughed, a bit of his old awkwardness showing up. "Why
don't you go first, Betamax, and I hook in?"
"All right," she said. "As you both know, I was originally known to the LNH as
Irony Man II, showing up after the original Irony Man retired, on a secret quest
to find the Messiah of Sincerity so that we could recruit the cosmic being known
as the Laziness to stop the cosmic beings known as the Serious Business."
"Right," said Net.Access. "I wasn't around for that whole thing; how did it go?"
"Yes." Betamax's featureless head gave a simple nod. "We accomplished our goals."
"Ah." Net.Access scratched her head. "...okay, well, what's been happening with
"Well, I decided to stay in the present, for now, as a member of the Legion. I
took on the new moniker of Betamax, to signify an embrace not of technology as a
simple arc of ever-increasing progression, but as a branching infinity of
possible futures, and a reminder that simply because one is more 'advanced', one
is not necessarily better."
"Wow," said Net.Access. "That is simultaneously really deep and excessively
Betamax gave a small bow. "Thank you."
"Yeah, once that whole thing was resolved, I came back to the LNH too," said
Plot Hook Lad. "They helped me get my life back in place, it was... *really*
hard dealing with all the emotional stuff, but, like, better than the
alternative, right?" He gave a chuckle and pushed his hair back. "My family's
great... everything's okay now."
Net.Access took a step towards Plot Hook Lad and pulled him into a tight hug. He
made a little noise of surprise, then returned it; after a moment, they
separated. "So," said Net.Access, "how'd you come back to life, anyway?"
He grinned. "Oh, Masterplan Lad brought me back to life."
"Masterplan Lad!?" Net.Access blinked in surprise. "He never said anything about
"Well, he hasn't done it yet, of course." Plot Hook Lad's grin widened, and he
crossed his arms.
"...uuuuuh-*huh*." Net.Access found herself smiling despite herself. "And you're
not gonna follow up on that, are you."
"Nope!" Plot Hook Lad bounced in place impishly.
"Okay, okay," said Net.Access, shaking her head cheerfully. "Well, get some
cosmic-y types over here to contain LAN.os. Maybe stick him in the Ultimate
Black Hole if that's still around? And if it's not, y'know, evil. ...it's
probably evil tho"
"I shall contact my sources," said Betamax, walking over to the quicksand.
"Ha-HA!" cackled LAN.os, exulting. "LAN.os never loses! Now, Doug!"
"...now what?" said Doug.
"Activate the device I gave you, of course!"
Doug rummaged in his pocket. "You mean this weird silver thing with the red
button that you said not to push?"
"Yes! Push it, Doug!!"
Doug sighed and handed the device to Betamax. "Dude, you *literally* tried to
"...for friendship, Doug! Or, well, causally linked to friendship, at least!"
LAN.os attempted the puppy dog eyes, and Net.Access had to look away.
She looked toward Doug. "Are you okay? Physically, but also, uh, emotionally."
"Physically, yeah." Doug rubbed his thighs. "Emotionally... this has been a
"Yeah, it really--" The containment unit pulsed in her hand. "Hhh. Uhh, lemme
just take care of this..."
Her outfit dissolved, reforming into a sepiatone version of Babe Ruth's uniform.
She took a step back, winding up...
"Wait! No!" LAN.os shouted. "Fool! I'll have to find another-- I mean, make
more-- I mean..."
Net.Access launched the containment unit over the ocean. It flew, arcing high
into the air... and at the very top of the arc, burst apart, the
Characterization Stone trailing crimson fire until it splashed into the sea and
She dusted off her hands. "Leave that for Earth-20 to deal with." She turned
back to Doug, ignoring LAN.os's shouts. "I think it's gonna take a while for
them to deal with this guy. Want a ride back?"
"Sure," said Doug, "but can't you only leave with a friend?"
Net.Access took his hand. "When you go thru big weird cosmic stuff together,
you're friends. That's a net.hero rule."
"Oh, well..." He rubbed the back of his head with his other hand, a bit shyly.
"That sounds good. Thank you."
Net.Access lead him off the beach, down across the magenta fields. "I'm sorry if
this is blunt, but... how'd you become friends with that guy, anyway?"
"Heh. No, I guess there's no good way to ask." Doug shrugged. "Honestly, he
showed up at game night one week and just... really seemed like he needed
something normal in his life. So we let him play. And like... honestly, for a
while, it seemed like he was just... having fun just enjoying himself. But
then... I don't know what changed."
Net.Access nodded in commiseration. "I think... some people can't let go of what
they've convinced themselves they have to do. Even if it's not nearly as healthy
for them as letting go and just having a good time."
"Yeah. You think I should, like..." Doug looked over his shoulder. "Cut him off?"
"That's up to you. But I would establish some boundaries, at the very least."
They came to a tall, spreading tree with bark of rose gold and leaves of,
surprisingly, emerald green. Beneath sat a well-composed, human-looking being,
deep in a book, his umbrella leaning against a tree.
"Masterplan Lad!" Net.Access waved, and Masterplan Lad looked up.
He waved and stood, putting away his book and taking up his umbrella as they
walked over. "I see you met a new friend," he said.
Doug scratched the back of his neck, smiling. Net.Access chuckled. "Yeah, this
place does that to you."
"Did you get done what you needed to?" said Masterplan Lad, adjusting his bowtie.
"For now." Net.Access looked off into the sky. "They'll probably need reminding."
Masterplan Lad nodded, a small, rueful, hopeful smile on his face. "They always do."
Masterplan Lad took Doug's hand, and together, the three of them walked forward;
and as they walked, they shimmered into soft, multicolored light, and they faded
from the Friend Zone. But they could return anytime they felt like it, without
grief or pain. And, reader, so can you.
Author's Notes: I wrote this story trying to let go and do only what made my
brain happy. I think I did a pretty good job, especially considering I wrote
this in less than a week, and I recommend the method to all of you.
The concept of Looniverse-20 having its own set of Absurdity Stones (as an
equivalent of the Classic Looniverse's Insanity Gems) is based on conversations
I had recently with Saxon. (Who I think could *definitely* use the advice in
this story. <3)
Drew "along with, you know, most of us" Nilium
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