LNH: Digital JUMP! #10: "JASPER! Rime of the Ancient Mario Brother!"
pwerdna at gmail.com
Sun Jun 14 16:41:38 PDT 2020
PREHISTORIC PRODUCTIONS PRESENTS
IN ASSOCIATION WITH EDWINA THE ULTIMATE EDITOR TAPPING HER FOOT IN THE
BACKGROUND AS I FINALLY STEP BACK INTO THE AUTHOR'S CHAIR FOR THIS SERIES (eheh)
...from the files of the Molybdenum Age...
Written by Drew Nilium
Cover art by Yoshitaka Amano
In the fine tradition of the sages of the ancient peaks
Issue #10 - JASPER! Rime of the Ancient Mario Brother!
Carmine and Casey stand on a mountain outcropping under a starry sky; before
them, standing on a peak and backlit by a full moon, are a series of not-quite-
familiar silhouettes in heroic poses! Along the bottom, in swooshy script with
gold foil ink, is written "The Heroes of Tomorrow!" In the lower-right corner
sits an overly-stylized logo proclaiming "Warriors of Light: Part VII!"
Last time, on Digital JUMP!:
"Indeed, time for the final battle!"
"Look at those happy people! Now they're all pumped up."
"If I had to pick the one closest to me, there's only one choice: my wife."
"The Lady... Aurum..." "Your... wife!?"
"Welp," said Casey von Aluminumfoil, who didn't have a net.hero name yet.
"Indeed," said Carmine of the house of Aurum, AKA Like Rouge.
They were sneaking through the woods, in the alternate dimension of Amalgama, in
the lands that had once been under the rule of the Periodic Houses, but were now
controlled by the Zinc Oxide Tyrant, just outside the magical Tyranny Zone that
ensured his rule. They had beaten him once, with the help of heroes from an
alternate future, before his reign could begin; and now they were paying back
those heroes, in that alternate future, taking him on at the height of his
(Yeah, this is a lot of exposition, but it's been *eight years* since the last
issue, oh heck, oh *bother*.)
But that epic battle against evil wasn't really fully occupying their minds at
the moment. The rest of their party was making a big fuss to draw away the
guards, so they had plenty of nice quiet time to think about what they'd just
The Lady Aurum stood, arms crossed, with a soft smile on her face. She was an
androgynous figure, with dusty golden skin weathered, lined, and sharpened by
time, close-cropped silver hair, and a powerful musculature honed by decades of
She was also the spitting image of Carmine, her own body with thirty years added
on, having just guided Casey, Carmine, Kid Enthusiastic, Malachite Wendigo, and
the Faded Iron Master thru a portal from the aforementioned alternate future.
(*Eight years* oh gaaaaaaawd.)
And she and the Faded Iron Master, Casey's counterpart with thirty years added
on (tho by look he was about twenty years past that), were, Carmine had just
learned, wife and husband.
"Holy future counterpart surprise romance, Casey!" Kid E vibrated in excitement
at the shocking revelation.
"Yeah, uh, surprising." From what she'd learned over the last few adventures
with him, Casey would normally be snarking off at his future self for holding
back yet another personally pertinent fact, but he was too busy blushing,
stammering, and sneaking glances at Carmine.
"I understand why t'would be," said the Lady, looking at her past self, Carmine
holding her chin up, being very *certainly* unbowed under her gaze. "When we
were on day one of this adventure, as you are, I never entertained the
"Nor had I," said Carmine. She took out the @-shaped pendant she had taken from
the past version of the Zinc Oxide Tyrant (eight yeeeeears) and gripped it in
her fist, over her heart. "Frankly, it feels quite the distraction." Glowing
sigils rose on her skin, ampersands, octothorpes, pilcrows, sections, and @
signs. They flared with crimson light, and when the light faded, she was dressed
in ornate red armor. She raised her gauntleted fist and shook it. "All that
matters today is rescuing this land from tyranny."
The Lady Aurum's eyebrows raised in surprise, and she laughed, clapping her
hands. "Ah! That's the spirit, yes!" She turned to the others. "Thank you, brave
heroes, for coming to our aid. Here's the plan..."
Yes, that had been an excellent heroic statement of intent. And now...
Well, now Carmine was, as mentioned, sneaking thru a forest, de-transformed,
right alongside this young man who she barely knew but who, well, one version of
"Well!" she said out loud-- no, wait, she whispered, because they were sneaking.
"Of course our destinies are our own, and that shall have to be that." She
tossed her head to dispel the entire idea, and looked at Casey. "So."
"...y-yeah?" said Casey, who seemed to be quite a bit more emotionally affected
by this than she, of course, was.
She looked off into the distance and honed her gaze to a razor-sharp blade that
nothing could escape. "How far are we, from the bounds of the Tyranny Zone?"
"Um..." Casey pointed. "I think it's that shimmery half-visible curtain right
"...ah. Yes." Carmine was certainly not distracted and why would you insinuate
such a thing. "Well. Good."
Up close, the boundary was half-invisible, but shimmered iridescently as the
afternoon sun passed thru it. Carmine extended her hand, palm outward, and
pressed it forward. There was a slight sense of resistance, as if walking into a
strong wind. She walked on without pause, and the resistance gave way as
something like a breaking wave crashed against her skin and then fell still -
tho not without a subtle, lingering sense of presence, like the weight of air
just before it rains.
"Yes, we get it, you know how to write descriptions now." Casey stepped thru
Two dozen paces away was an open meadow, just where Lady Aurum said it would be.
It was sunny (tho the sunlight felt slightly overexposed) and flowery (the
flowers were fine).
"All right." Carmine took out the two incredibly, undefinedly powerful magical
artifacts that had been entrusted to her; a golden handheld electric fan, the
Atavist of Air, and a golden spade, the Atavist of Earth. "Casey, are you ready
to begin the ritual?"
Casey took out the other two magical artifacts; a golden sink faucet, the
Atavist of Water, and a golden flip-top lighter, the Atavist of Fire. "Ready as
I'm gonna be."
(Why did I call them Atavists, anyway? I don't remember, oh god, *eighteen*
Carmine grabbed the writer and shook them firmly. "Yes, all right! If you will
*calm down* about how *very* distracted you have gotten over the last two
decades and simply *write the story*, we can actually *finish* this plotline!"
Casey ignored the metafictional hubbub. He looked at the compass the Lady had
strapped to his right wrist, and faced north. He held the Atavist of Water out,
the sun glinting off its curves and corners.
"Atavist of Water," he said, eyes fixed on it, concentrating. "Return your
strength to the rivers that flow thru us! Galvanize!"
The sunlight on the surface of the Atavist seemed to bend and twist, shimmering
lines of light sliding over the artifact. (A lot of things were shimmering
today, it seemed.) As the light moved, the colors of the metal changed, gold
turning green, blue, purple, white, forming a cool luster. Casey let the Atavist
go, and it remained, floating in the air, sunlight refracting around it into
Carmine nodded firmly. She looked at her compass and faced east, holding out the
Atavist of Air.
"Atavist of Air! Return your strength to the breath that lives within us!
The Atavist of Air shimmered, gold rising to a pure silver, then streaking with
yellow, green, blue. Carmine let it go, and it floated in place; between the two
Atavists, iridescent sparkles flowed, a scintillating midair river.
Casey let out a breath and turned south. "Looks like it's smooth... sail...
A man was standing between the trees. A man attired in shimmering (again with
the shimmering!) silver-gray robes. A man with a a face that was at once
beautiful and cruel. A man they both recognized.
And then the same man stepped out next to him. And then another next to them.
And then another.
These were the Zinc Oxide Tyrant's foot soldiers, robotic duplicates of the man
known as Baron MacNottherealvillain. In the other timeline, each one had been a
match for each of our heroes, without the power of the Tyranny Zone backing them
And Casey and Carmine were absolutely surrounded!
"okay maybe not" whimpered Casey.
"Casey! The device!" shouted Carmine, sliding into a defensive pose and grasping
the @-shaped pendant.
"Right!" Casey held up his left wrist, which had a completely *different* device
on it, strapped there earlier by Kid Enthusiastic. It had just one big red
button on it, and Casey pressed it, shouting, "Enthusiastic Spline!"
Beams of flickering green light projected from the device, tracing a box around
Casey. With a flash, glowing white rectangles surrounded him. Then lines of
green light traced over the surfaces of the box, outlining more precise angles,
and in a flash the box burst to reveal a rough human shape, like an early
attempt at 3D modeling. Lines traced over the rough form, and it burst to reveal
a form of blocky polygons like a character rendered on the original Playstation.
Lines traced again, and with each burst, more polygons were added, the glowing
white shape becoming more and more finely detailed until it was a high-
resolution model of Casey's body in glowing white, laid over the man himself.
Casey slid into a defensive pose. "Got it!"
Carmine felt the power waiting within the pendant and opened the way. Glowing
sigils rose on her skin, ampersands, octothorpes, pilcrows, sections, and @
signs. They flared with crimson light...
...and stayed that way, glowing on her skin. Carmine could feel power flowing
thru her, but it was blocked from fully manifesting. She snarled - this must be
an effect of the Tyranny Zone!
The Barons were done waiting for their transformation sequences to finish and
charged forward, yelling "Avaunt!" "Have at thee!" "You are no match for my
power!" and other such nonsense. Well, she'd have to make do with what she had!
Carmine drew her quarterstaff and swung it in the air. As two Barons stomped
over wildflowers in their haste to fight her, she channeled the power into the
staff, feinted to the right, and spun it, smacking one Baron in the face and the
other in the belly. Trails of glowing red punctuation traced their fall, and she
spun around to face the next one.
Casey ducked under a punch, moving unnaturally fast, the Enthusiastic Spline
guiding his motions at the speed of thought. He rolled past one Baron - "Fool!"
- and hit another, bringing him down at the knees without pause. To be honest it
was making him dizzy, but he didn't even think about stopping!
...okay he *definitely* did consider it, but he kept going anyway. He stayed low
to the ground as the Barons started shooting energy beams at him, the Spline
twisting his body, a low, spinning kick that got him past two more of them,
energy clipping the frame. The shining armor shuddered, flashing in complex
color palettes, but held fast.
He stood and looked at the compass, turning south--
Oh, crap. Predictably yet surprisingly, the glowing white armor was opaque - he
couldn't actually *see* the compass under the it. He had no idea which way south
was, and south was next - how were they gonna complete the ritual?
Wait-- oh. Oh boy. He had an idea but... this was gonna make him *really* dizzy.
He dodged another energy beam and sent a telepathic message to Carmine. .oO(So
I've got a stupid idea.)
.oO(Excellent - whenever you call your ideas that, they work,) Carmine sent
back. .oO(What do you require?)
.oO(Can I use your eyes?)
.oO(...you are very forward, Casey von Aluminumfoil, but certainly.)
Casey flushed. Okay well. He set the Spline to automatic defense mode, trying to
ignore the way his body bounced and whirled. He took the connection between
himself and Carmine and widened it, gently reaching out to the rivers of
perception flowing thru her mind--
And suddenly he was seeing himself from outside, as both his own body and
Carmine's gaze moved and shifted in combat.
Oh god he was gonna puke.
But he told the armor to move forward, jerkily, and turn, Carmine helpfully
holding her wrist in front of her as much as she could while dodging, blocking,
and parrying the Baron's attacks. He hoped she could hold out.
He held out his hand, and the Atavist of Fire passed thru the armor like the
physics-defying thing it was and into it. He turned off defense mode and assumed
the proper position. He was as straight south as he could make it, now to say
"Atavist of Fire! Return your--"
SKZAM! His armor flared in a shuddering rainbow as an energy bolt made a direct
hit! Thru Carmine's eyes, he could see the Barons all turning towards him, and
Carmine running to protect him - but he couldn't wait for her!
Carmine charged towards Casey. Energy bolts whizzed past her without hitting -
all the Barons were turning to focus on Casey. She gripped the @-shaped pendant.
"Come on, come *on*..."
"Return your strength," said Casey, gritting his teeth as more bolts splashed
against the armor, making its precisely-calculated shape wobble and skew, "to
the life that... kindled us..."
Carmine could feel the pressure of the Tyranny Zone against her skin. She
squeezed the pendant, feeling the power trapped inside her, yearning to break
free. She took a deep breath, and thought back to the moment she broke thru the
barrier her parents had cast to protect her as House Aurum fell. She hadn't let
love stop her, she hadn't let war stop her...
"...and I'm *not* letting *you* stop me!!"
The Atavist of Fire seemed to absorb the sunlight, turning utterly dark; then
light seemed to blossom from within it, spreading across its surface, red,
orange, and gold once more, in twisting patterns. It rose into the air, and
Casey fell, his armor fritzing, fading--
But Carmine was there, standing between him and the oncoming storm, punctuation
flaring bright on her skin, a blinding crimson light - and when it faded, she
was fully embraced by her suit of ornate red armor!
"From this day forth, I am no longer a rogue in rouge!" she shouted, brandishing
a warhammer made of petrified punctuation. "I live to protect the weak! I am...
THE CRIMSON @VENGER!"
And she leapt into the mass of Barons, warhammer swinging left and right,
knocking them away, their focus shifting immediately from Casey to her. Good.
She was taking them on, one-on-eight-or-nine - but she could see more Barons
emerging from the trees. All the forces of the Tyrant were converging on her,
and she knew she would be overwhelmed.
Then she'd just have to accomplish her mission now. She leapt over the heads of
the Barons around her, slamming into a group of them right where she needed to
be and scattering them with the hammer. She pulled out the Atavist of Earth and
held it high above her head.
"Atavist of Earth!" The Barons rose, hands charging up with energy. "Return your
strength to the soil that nurtured us!" They leapt towards her, faces like a mad
god who had found a worm in his apple. "GALVANIZE!"
Her hand opened as the Barons were upon her. The Atavist turned dark, then
blossomed in veins of purple, red, blue, green, silver, gold, covered in
treasures untold. It rose into the air.
Carmine fell, armor cracking from the Barons' attacks, but her eyes were still
on the Atavist. The light bent around it, an iridescent rainbow shooting off
towards the Atavists of Fire and Water. The light bent around them, converging
on the Atavist of Earth. Iridescence surged in a diagonal shape, growing
brighter and brighter, and the world held its breath...
With a KRATHOOM! a pulse of pressure erupted, knocking every Baron on the
battlefield to the ground. Between the Atavists, there was now a diamond-shaped
cutout in the sky, open to somewhere brighter and bluer, and Carmine watched
from a worm's-eye view as people fell thru it.
A girl with flaming hair, wearing a sleek outfit of impact-resistant material in
red and white, releasing bolts of emotional Flame! Flamebroiled Lass!
A viridian armored form, evoking Renaissance-era plate but with sleeker,
smoother lines, glowing green slits in their helm and an emerald on their brow!
The Green Knight!
A woman wrapped in blue veils of all tones and shades, seeming only half-there,
a shadow in the daylight! Lurking Lady!
A robot with a pointed face and insectoid body in gunmetal gray, scanning the
battlefield and targeting all threats! Irony Mantis!
A man with iridescent butterfly wings, wearing a flowing dress in royal purple,
inscribing a magic circle with one hand and wielding a rapier with the other!
A figure in all-concealing green silk, with golden shoulder pads, a long green
scarf, and a belt full of tricks, reaching into a tiny pouch and pulling out a
dragon-patterned flute! Ultimate Mercenary Ninja!
A woman with short-cropped red hair, sunglasses, a leather jacket, tactical
pants and a snarl, all covered in fine green lines of circuitry, landing in the
superhero crouch and swinging her massive gun-sword left and right! Devastator!
A man in plotdevicium-laced green spandex, skin covered in green scales and eyes
slitted yellow, baleful energies crackling along his spine! King Daikaiju!
A spiky-haired man in a white lab coat covered in enamel pins, pockets stuffed
to bursting with random this and that, and waving around a cool nonsense gadget!
And finally, the leader of the team, a grizzled veteran with a sparkle in his
eye and his best foot forward! WikiMan!
They rose, sunlight of another world glinting off of them, the just-in-time
cavalry of the future! They were... The Legion of Net.Heroes!
Casey pushed himself to his feet, wobbling, and looked at the shining heroes.
"hey. niceameetcha. BRB." He stumbled behind the trees and disappeared, the
sounds of far-off retching accompanying him.
The LNH faced the ring of Barons MacNottherealvillain, ready for battle-- and
the Barons were surrounded by silvery light, vanishing in a moment.
Irony Mantis looked off towards the horizon. "Traces indicate teleport in the
direction of the Tyrant's base," they intoned. "They are likely gathering their
forces to defend against our assault."
"coulda told you that," mumbled the Green Knight, arms crossed.
"Right, looks like this is endgame," said WikiMan, striding forward and scanning
the perimeter. "Let's get in contact with all our allies on this side." He knelt
down in front of Carmine, offering a hand. "Hello. I don't think we've met."
She took it, pulling herself up, and dusted the lingering magic debris off her
breeches. "I do not think we have." She gave him a satisfied smile, rubbing a
new bruise on her upper arm. "But it seems that we-- mmmh! --succeeded in
summoning the net.heroes of this future time."
"Ah..." WikiMan grinned. "Tho we haven't met, I do recognize you. You must be--"
"CARMINE!" A shape barrelled towards her--
Instict made her leap to the side spin her staff and knock the shape down at the
legs. She slid into a defensive pose and-- oh. She'd just knocked down the lab-
coated man. Whoops.
But he was laughing. "Oh man, that was *amazing*!" He leapt to his feet, dusted
himself off, and offered her his hand. "Hi! Sorry, I forgot you wouldn't
recognize me as an adult."
Carmine shook it, confused but glad he didn't seem hurt. As an adult... "Wait,
"Heyyyyy!" She turned her head, and there was Kid Enthusiastic, running ahead of
the rest of the group - Malachite Wendigo, Lady Aurum, and the Faded Iron
Master. He jumped up and down in front of her, a big grin on his face. "You did
"I did!" She found herself smiling wide, the leftover shakiness from the fight
transmuting into a feeling of satisfaction, confidence, and momentum. "And
furthermore, young man, I think there's a not-so-young man who would like to
"!!!" Kid Enthusiastic spun around and *gasped*! "OMG you're *me*!!!"
"And you're me!" Doc Enthusiastic laughed and his younger self jumped into his
arms and they hugged and spun around!
Casey staggered back in as Lady Aurum went off with WikiMan to do a quick recap.
Kid E hopped to the ground and addressed the future LNH. "I can't wait to meet
all of you!"
Flamebroiled Lass laughed, crossing her arms, her hair crackling merrily. "Jeez,
Doc, you were a cute kid."
Malachite leans on a tree, smiling at the gathering. Casey leaned against the
other side of the tree and looked over at her. "Looks like-- khuf, whew-- looks
like you're the only one without a future version. Or, well, I guess a past
"Yeah, baby me hadn't even been born yet when y'all showed up." She smiled. "But
I'm glad we have all you old people backing us up."
Casey stuck out his tongue. "Well, glad to be here, I guess. It's weird having
something this epic, my first week as a net.hero."
"Well, if it helps." She walked over and punched his shoulder. "You're gonna be
good at it."
Casey snerked and straightened up, rubbing said shoulder. "Heh, thanks."
In the clearing, Lady Aurum returned, the Faded Iron Master standing on her
right, WikiMan standing on her left. She held up her hands for quiet, and
addressed the heroes of past and future.
"Thank you all, for coming and fighting with us. We've been fighting for so
long... forever, it seems like. But the flame never went out - and now, with all
of you, it burns brighter than ever!" She pointed to the distance. "Today, we
finish this! Today, we break the power that looms over us, and set off on a
bright future, for ourselves, our children, our children's children, and those
not yet dreamed of!"
Everybody let out a great cheer! Kid Enthusiastic and Doc Enthusiastic raised
their fists together, and Casey found himself applauding. Carmine, arms crossed,
couldn't help but grin.
Before they set off, the Faded Iron Master beckoned Casey to the side. His
future self slid a hand deep into his volumnous robes, and withdrew two little
spheres, made of what looked like pure iron, with a faceted citrine embedded in
each one, glowing a soft yellow-orange from within.
"Somewhere in the Tyrant's hold, there's this huge diamond that's going to be
full of red and blue and black smoke, with unearthly light coming out from it."
He handed one of the spheres to Casey. "If either one of us can touch the gem in
this to that diamond, we'll get a big advantage."
"What kind of advantage?" said Casey, examining the gem; its light felt so
"There's two possibilities, depending on how the battle goes," the FIM
responded, "but either one would help a lot."
Casey sighed a little; the Faded Iron Master was being Protectively Vague again.
He'd have to remember not to do that, ever. Still, prodding wouldn't help. "Got
The FIM smiled. "Let's get going."
They began a march toward the walled city of House Galvanis, at the heart of the
Tyranny Zone. Quietly, the future LNH chatted with their predecessors, sharing
warm little stories without letting *too* terribly much slip.
As they got close, they could see the great gates of the city grinding open.
When they arrived, floating there, surrounded by Barons, was the Zinc Oxide
Tyrant, who had ruled this land, lo these thirty years, wearing burnished brass
armor and holding a silvery staff.
They recognized in his face the young man who had tried to conquer the Amalgama
of the past; but he had aged, aged like anyone, creases and lines spreading over
his skin. But they were not the lines of laughter and the creases of plenty, but
the angles and furrows wrought by hard walls and exploding rage, the marks of
harsh orders, scars not from a blade but from paranoia and clenching and holding
on to power.
Also, he had a glowing cybernetic eye, which was admittedly pretty cool.
The Faded Iron Master floated up using a space LNH flight.thingee ring. He was
going to parlay first - it was possible that having his enemies penetrate to the
heart of his empire would convince the Zinc Oxide Tyrant to give in without
further bloodshed. Unlikely, but *possible*, and worth trying. Thankfully, he
had protected himself with a personal force shield - Casey *really* didn't want
to see a future version of himself die.
"Tyrant." The Faded Iron Master opened his hands, showing them to be empty, and
looked into the Tyrant's eyes. "We have broken your shield, routed your men, and
come to your door, ready to fight to the very end. Will you yield?"
"To you?" The creases and lines of the Tyrant's face pulled back in a cruel
smirk. "Never." His arm whipped back, the shape of the silvery staff changing
into a spear, and he threw it with impossible speed--
The spear was completely thru the Faded Iron Master's body, completely thru his
shield, his eyes, mouth, open in shock, body frozen, then glowing, with a
searing light-- exploding from within-- gone!
Casey's mouth gently dropped open. "...fuuuuuuuuuuuuuu--"
SD-Carmine [with SD-Casey running around and screaming in the background]: "Next
"The hardest battle has begun. Even as much as we have grown, can we face this
challenge? Can we arrive on the other side, without losing our smiles?"
"Next time on Digital JUMP: @ONEMENT! Shoot for the Hubble Deep Field!"
"Kiss the vampire ladybug..."
So, as you probably know, the last issue of this storyline came out in 2012. In
other words, there's a bigger gap between #9 and #10 than between #4 and #5,
when I disappeared from RACC for a while and then came back and started writing
...gawd I feel old. X3 But it's fascinating, re-reading my old work and seeing
how far I've come. Truth be told, I'm proud of myself!
Assuming I finish it in 2020, the next issue will be the Digital JUMP!
Octo-Deca-Annual, and finally, *finally* the conclusion of this storyline!
Notes on the future LNH: Sir Gloriana is a future version of Fairy Princess Lad,
and Devastator is a future version of Merissa. Green Knight, Irony Mantis and
WikiMan have shown up in other stories, but I actually came up with them for
this first. Ultimate Mercenary Ninja is a legacy character that Jeanne came up
with (inspired by Kamen Rider Shinobi and Shurkienger), Flamebroiled Lass is, of
course, a crossover legacy, and Lurking Lady is no one in particular, but is, of
course, inspired by Lurking Girl. Oh, and King Daikaiju is a character you'll
meet pretty soon, I hope...
(Not sure who that Doc Enthusiastic guy is, he looks like a troublemaker)
I've decided to label the alt-future version of Amalgama as Amalgama-X. The alt-
future Looniverse that connects to it turned out to have a lot of characters
with green costumes, and since the timeline would be about right for millennials
to be the elder statesmen of the team, I am of course calling it
Drew "so much build-up holy cow" Nilium
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