LNH: Hungry, Hungry Sabertooths! #25: "The Beginning of the Third Act"

Drew Nilium pwerdna at gmail.com
Tue Nov 10 19:56:49 PST 2020

#25: "The Beginning of the Third Act"
A tale of kicking into gear, by Drew Nilium


Content warning for an implication of self-harm.


April 24th, 2020, early in the morning.

Merissa sat up in her bedroll and blinked the sleep from her eyes. The campfire
had gone out during the night, but shafts of sunlight were peeking thru the
dense canopy of leaves.

She and her granpa, the former Irony Man, had descended into the sub-basements
of LNHQ in order to find his unfinished giant robot, fending off the strange
dangers of the lower levels. Sub-Basement 37 was, somehow, a beautiful and lush
forest, and they'd stopped here for the night. Merissa stared up and wondered
what, actually, was above the canopy...

"No idea what's up there," said Toony, packing up the bedrolls. "Love to find
out, but that'd be an adventure in itself, and we're already thirty-something
issues into this one."

Merissa stuck her tongue out. "That's *creepy*, Granpa. No mind reading."

"None required," he said, handing her the backpack like she asked, "when one's
emotions are all on the surface, like yours are."

"...*huh*. Is that... bad?"

Toony smiled. "Frankly, I'm jealous."

"Heck yeah! Another way I'm beating you!" She shrugged the backpack on and
yelled, "Race you to the stairwell!" before breaking out in a run!


Still April 24th, but late morning now, probably like half an hour after the
framing sequence of LNH v3 #3, give or take?

At about the same time, a masked Dr. Stomper was watching the declared-fit-for-
duty Very Big Boy (himself wearing a mask made of a bedsheet that New Look Lass
had replaced with this season's model) lift the cure.thingee into the bed of a
large truck.thingee.

"Looks like we're good," he said. "Ready to head out?"

"Heh heh heh... I certainly am..." Multi-Tasking Man caressed the enormous
bottle of serum he'd brought up, a perfectly innocent leering grin on his face,
and slid it in next to the cure.thingee.

"Capital," said Dr. Stomper. "Then let's be... um." He squinted toward the
other end of the vehicle bay, where his fiancee, Sister State-the-Obvious [as
of LNH v3 #3 - Footnote Girl, finally alphabetizing her Pocky collection], was
running towards them, waving her arms.

She leaned on the truck.thingee, breathing heavily. "I want..." Huff. "To say
something..." Huff. "I'm not very..." Huff. "Not very used to running in a
mask..." Huff.

Multi-Tasking Man shifted uncomfortably, but Dr. Stomper patiently waited for
her to catch her breath and straighten up.

"There's something weird going on," said Sister State-the-Obvious. "This is
going to resolve things quickly and easily if it works. Big plots don't usually
end with everything being resolved quickly and easily."

"Well," murmured Dr. Stomper, stroking his chin, "not *that* quickly..."

Multi-Tasking Man hissed. "But far more quickly if we leave now!"

"Now, now." Dr. Stomper turned to Sister State-the-Obvious and put his hand on
her shoulder. "You really think there's going to be some kind of problem?"

She crossed her arms and nodded firmly. "I'm not going to be satisfied until I
come with you."

"Then you're coming." He hopped up to the cab and extended a hand to her; she
smiled and took it.

Multi-Tasking Man grumbled and hopped in the other side. "Bah!"


More April 24th, early afternoon but I don't want to nail it down too
specifically because there's a lot of stuff that's about to happen that has to
fit together timewise.

"Boy, April sure seems like it's taken a long time," said Merissa, leaning
against the wall of the stairwell and giggling to herself. "Almost like it's
been a--"

"Don't say it," said Toony, sticking out his tongue.

"Okay, okay." Merissa grinned and counted on her fingers. "So we fought our way
past the Dire Moas, solved the Riddle of the Cybersphinx, and won the pie-
eating contest. Are we there yet?"

"Yes!" Toony gestured grandly at the door next to them, with the number 59 on
it. "Beyond this door is Sub-Basement 59, containing the not-quite-finished
pieces of my giant robot project! A gift..." He bowed low. "To make up for all
the birthdays and Christmases I've missed."

Merissa's cheeks flushed, and she squirmed in place, without a script to deal
with this open affection. She wrapped her arms around herself and looked to the
side, a big doofy grin on her face. "Granpa you're embarrassing meeeeeee."

"Well then, it'll be to make up for that too." Toony threw the door open
without looking. "Ta-daaaaa!"

There was silence for a moment. Then Merissa took two steps thru the door.
"Uhhhhh... granpa?"

Toony looked. Sub-Basement 59 was... empty; a huge, empty storage space, lit by
a few, flickering fluorescent lights, supporting girders here and there, a few
file cabinets scattered around, but most importantly, nothing that looked like
a giant robot part.

"What..." He took several more steps forward. "What *what*..." He ran out to
the middle of the space, head twisting and turning as if he'd suddenly realize,
oh, it was over *there* the whole time. "It's all gone. I don't understand..."

Merissa followed behind. eyes flicking around, examining the space in more
detail. "Maybe you were thinking of Sub-Basement 69?"

"No, I definitely would've remembered that number. It's *supposed* to be here,
I don't..." He turned to her, face fallen, body sagging, suddenly looking quite
old indeed. "I'm sorry."

...right! Merissa had her duties as a granddaughter! She stood up straight,
ran over, and hugged him!! "It's *okay*! Like, it's the thought that counts or
whatever! Besides, like..." She let go and whirled around, arms open wide. "You
gave me a mystery! That's definitely worth something."

Toony gave her a small smile. "You're indefatigable. All right, I guess we
should start looking for clues..."

"Well there's this!" From behind a pile of file cabinets, Merissa pulled out a
whole-ass motorcycle, all sleek and shiny and chrome.

"Right. I remember that, it was supposed to be the main control interface."
Toony came over and checked the motorcycle out, prodding at the switches and
knobs betwixt the handlebars. "It looks like it should still be able to send
out a control signal, if we can find the other pieces."

"There we go! That's super important, *and* it's a cool thing!" Merissa hopped
up on the motorcycle and pantomimed steering it, making little "nyoom" noises
under her breath.

"Heh, I guess so..." Toony opened up the file cabinets to see if there were any
other clues. There were some random papers in there, part invoices, diagrams
for power sources that hadn't worked out... and underneath, a heavy metal-and-
plastic object. "Oh!"

"Oh?" said Merissa, looking up.

"It looks like I left a memory stick in here - something that was supposed to
be uploaded to my backup memory on level 58.5, but never was. Hang on..." Toony
turned his left hand upward and tugged at the skin on his wrist. It pulled
back, revealing something like a USB port.

"You're a cyborg, Granpa?" Merissa's eyes sparkled.

"Technically, I always have been, ever since the heart surgery that made me
Irony Man. I had this installed a while ago for quick download and upload of
memories." And during his worst moments, it had stopped him from doing other
things to that wrist. He plugged the memory stick into the port and pushed the
button-- The sound that he made was an expulsion of breath not unlike being
punched in the stomach.

"Hey, hey, are you okay?" Merissa hopped off the motorcycle and grabbed him by
the shoulders.

"Whoof. Yeah, just, getting a big memory dump is always a rush." He shook his
head and let the uploaded sensory data fall into place. "Let's see... oh.

"Oh oh oh???" Merissa hopped up and down in place, simultaneously excited and

"That definitely explains it. I gave up on the project and gave the pieces
away, deleted these memories when I didn't want to think about it anymore."

"Sure, makes sense, but what happened to the pieces?"

"Let's see, one went to the LNH, one went to the city, I let my company use the
other one. They were going to be built into..." Toony's eyes went wide.
"...would it still work? Oh my god, it might still work."

Merissa's eyes redoubled their sparkling. "What might work!?"

"If I'm right..." He stood up, looking up thru the ceiling, towards the faraway
sky. "We've got to get to the surface and activate the control signal. I've got
a feeling we're going to need it!"

"All *right*!" Merissa jumped on the motorcycle and revved it up. "Strap on,
Granpa! We're going up the quick way!"

"..." Toony considered. On the one hand, this was going to be stupidly dangerous
and they could probably just use the elevator. On the other hand, it'd make her
happy. "Right!" He hopped into the bucket seat, handed her a helmet, and put
his on. "Let's go!"

"YEAH!" And off they zoomed, tight turns up the twisty staircase, aiming for
the future!

Drew "enjoying this sappy stuff" Nilium

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