LNH/LUNA/ACRA: The Liminals #5: Bondage and Determination, part 1

Jeanne Morningstar mrfantastic7 at gmail.com
Sat Oct 24 20:40:11 PDT 2020

#5: "Bondage and Determination, part 1"
A Classic LNH/Lunaverse tale of confusing gay trans feels by Jeanne 

Masterplan Lad, guardian of the narrative; Victoria Arden--Forsaken 
Lass, survivor of Limbo; Alice Ashdown--Net.Access, champion of 
crossovers; and Manga Girl, synthetic senshi of creativity!  They are 
four young net.heroes who fight to understand themselves and the worlds 
they inhabit, moving between the heroism of the LNH and the uncanny 
strangeness of the Lunaverse--the Liminals!

Continuity note: this story is set in 2018, around the time where 
Liminals #3.5 did/didn't happen on the timeline.


Masterplan Lad was tied up and gagged in a closet. He wriggled in place, 
straining against the bonds, wishing his training as a cosmic entity who 
protected the narrative had had more about untying literal knots as well 
as metaphorical ones.

How exactly had he gotten in this situation? He wasn't sure, because the 
story was just starting.

He felt the threads of narrative come into place around him, binding him 
like the ropes that tied his wrists...


The first thing Masterplan Lad needed to do was to try and find a way 
into the Infinite Library. It just might be possible to manipulate the 
interdimensional flows of narrative to find a side door in through his 
Plot Device, since his Writer was surely desperate to get this whole 
subplot over with.

He'd found a potential dimensional nexus-point in an apartment full of 
expensive, tacky furnishings in a swank building on the east side of 
Net.ropolis. Standing on the dining table, he held the umbrella out like 
a dowsing rod, examining the flows of magickal energy that wafted 
through the apartment.

Just then he heard footsteps behind him. These had to be the people who 
actually owned this apartment. He clambered off the table just in time 
for them to come in. One was a man with slicked-back hair in a grey 
suit. He had a very distinct aura of Low-Level Mobster about him. The 
other was a woman. She was a lot more interesting--quite tall and very 
animated. She wore a bright pink dress with white polka dots. She had 
broad shoulders messy, frizzy light brown hair tied back in a bun. She 
was a few inches taller than the man. She wasn't someone who many would 
probably describe as beautiful, perhaps, but when she was in a room you 
couldn't look away.

"The fuck are you doing in my apartment?" said the mobster.

"I'm er, a plumber."

"A *plumber*." The mob type narrowed his eyes. "With an umbrella?"

"Well, it helps to be prepared if something goes wrong."

He ran his eyes over Masterplan Lad's clothing. "Nice suit for a plumber."

"Well, it never hurts to be prepared. In case there's a formal occasion."

"Weirdo," said the mobster as Masterplan Lad hastily left the apartment. 
The woman turned and smiled at Masterplan Lad as she left. Just as he 
left the apartment, her hand brushed against his and a small piece of 
paper passed between them.

Once he was safely away, he unfolded the note the woman has slipped him. 
"Hi," it said. Nothing else.


Since the first plan hadn't worked out, the next thing he needed to do 
was find a Trenchcoater. In the old days, if you wanted a trenchcoater, 
you would go on Craigslist. But after a group of teenage witches had 
attempted to hex the moon, the Usenetted States senate had passed a 
disastrous law which attempted to control the sale and use of magic 
online. It was probably a good idea to try and regulate the sale of 
haunted dolls on eBay in an universe where ghosts were unquestionably 
real, but like many such laws it was poorly planned and targeted, not 
responding to the needs of the community but what politicians could sell 
to their donors. Its enforcement was wildly inconsistent; it mostly 
targeted marginalized magic users while doing nothing to stop the 
proliferation of haunted dolls.

So Masterplan Lad have had to ask around had to ask around. Occultism 
Kid and other mages in the LNH had sent out a few feelers, and in the 
end that had led him here, to the lesbian bar.

He sat here in the bar while Alice and Victoria were out dancing at the 
Bronze Age. (He could never stand that kind of environment himself.) It 
felt distinctly ironic that he was the one in the lesbian bar and they 
weren't, but that was where the narrative took him.

The bartender wore a black tank top and a pentagram necklace. Her locs 
were woven with red threads. She wore dark crimson lipstick. There was a 
sort of magickal flow around her--she seemed to be someone who was not a 
mage but was on first name terms with magic.

She looked at him and her eyebrows went up. The reason for that seemed 
obvious, but he wondered--was it because he was he was a magic user, 
because he was a net.hero--and net.heroes were often assumed to work 
with cops; something the LNH was pushing back against but which was 
common enough in wider genre conventions that he wouldn't blame her.
"Are you old enough to drink?" said the bartender.

"I believe so," said Masterplan Lad. He had a sudden, horrible 
realization that the stories where he had been introduced were closing 
in on twenty years old. It wouldn't be long before the original Ultimate 
Mercenary miniseries would be old enough to drink. However, he hadn't 
been through enough in-story time to have aged very much.

"I've, er, been told to meet someone here," he said.

"You're an LNHer, aren't you?" The bartender tilted her head.

"Oh yes," he said.

She nodded, chewing her lip. "I'll bet you know my wife, then. She's 
told me some stories."

"Your wife?"

"Kyoko Ishikawa." She smiled a little. "The LNHQ receptionist."

"Oh! Of course I know her." He smiled in relief. "My name is Masterplan 
Lad, by the way." He offered her her hand, and she took it and shook it 

"My name's Serafine. So what's an LNHer doing in this bar?"

"I promise I'm not here to start any trouble. I possess enhanced 
metanarrative awareness, so I can assure you the chances of a 
net.villain attack are fairly low." He took a deep breath. "I'm looking 
for a woman called Maria Hart."

"Mm." She looked at him, frowned and narrowed her eyes. "*Her.* She 
should be here any moment. But if you're not looking for trouble, you 
should stay away from her. She's *always* out to start trouble."

Masterplan Lad nodded. "Thanks for the warning. I'll have an 
O'Download's, by the by." (A non-alcoholic beer, naturally.)

Serafine made him the beer while Masterplan Lad sat down and waited. 
This bar definitely had some stories in it. There were powerful magickal 
energies swirling around the lesbian bar. No doubt it attracted more 
than a few witches. And when Serafine had smiled, her mouth had been 
open just enough for him to see her fangs. They could have been fake, of 

Then MPL saw two familiar women at the bar, who waved at him and 
motioned him over to join them. They were the punk-ish woman he'd saved 
from the Letterhack and her tall wife. [God, remember issue #1? That 
feels like a million years ago now--ed.]

"Hello," he said.

"Hi there!" said the punk-ish woman. "How've you been?"

"The same as usual, I suppose. You?"

"We're great," said the taller woman." By the way, we never told you our 
names back in the day, right? My name's Alys--with a Y--and this is Sharon."

"Nice to meet you," he said, and shook both their hands. He was 
impressed by Alys's sparkly blue nail polish and Sharon's electric pink, 
which matched her hair. "I know an Alice with an I; you'd probably like 
her. I mostly just go by Masterplan Lad, even off duty. I'm here for 
business, though. Obviously."

Alys laughed and tapped him on the shoulder. "Oh we can tell you're queer."

He felt an enormous relief. "I suppose I am. I've been attracted to... 
people of various genders. The person I'm, sort of intermittently 
dating, I suppose, is nonbinary."

"Oh neat!"

"It's a somewhat confusing relationship." He let out a deep sigh. 
"They're absent for long periods. Sometimes we've fought each other when 
they're in their Mxzyzptlk-ish cosmic trickster mode. They're a sort of 
embodiment of chaos, you see. That's how it is for net.heroes, it seems. 
I do enjoy being around them, but a little bit of stability would be nice."

"Ah, yeah," said Alys. "We've both been there. Not the dating a chaos 
being thing, but."

"I'm pretty sure your last girlfriend before me was a chaos being," said 
Sharon, brushing her on the shoulder. She laughed.

Masterplan Lad thought of how much he'd wanted to meet these women again 
and how relieved he felt now. Not primarily because of sexual 
attraction--though they certainly weren't unattractive--but... He'd 
always felt most comfortable in groups of women, if he was being honest 
with himself. (It had always seemed odd to him being the only male 
member of his team, but he'd never actually minded.) He could have 
pulled the narrative threads so he could talk to Alys and Sharon again, 
but he hadn't. He'd been worried about matters of consent, among other 
things. He was often so worried about wielding the enormous power he had 
wrongly that he retreated into passivity.

"So what's your business, hmm?" said Alys.

"I'm, er, looking to meet a someone for an, ah, magickal assignation," 
he said.

"Cool, cool."

"You wouldn't happen to know anything about a woman named Maria Hart?"

"Her. hoooo boy. That Maria is definitely a problem," said Sharon.


"It's just... there's always drama around her," said Alys. "We know 
people who dated her or were friends of hers or had her exorcise demons 
from their microwave and... I mean, I don't 100% blame her, because from 
what I gather she's had, kind of a difficult life situation, but... So 
much drama. So much drama."

"That's to be expected," said Masterplan Lad.

That was, after all, how trenchcoater magic worked.

Trenchcoaters, as we'd understand them today, existed long before the 
invention of trenchcoats. Some people said that the first trenchcoater 
was Christopher Marlowe, some said it was Bacchus (mainly Bacchus 
himself), some said that it was Jesus Christ. Many said that the idea 
of looking for the founders of the tradition was (in the kind of British 
slang trenchcoaters tended to adopt whether or not they were actually 
British), complete bollocks. It privileged the old colonialist white and 
European traditions that trenchcoaters were supposed to be opposing. 
Traditional magick schools had founders and histories and the 
trenchcoaters were defined by their lack of such things.

Still, their roots went very deep. The trenchcoater was closely kin to 
the trickster, that double-edged figure who could be found in stories 
wherever and whenever they were told. There had been mages who practiced 
that kind of magic throughout history, though many of them were 
forgotten, not being part of the rich and privileged mage schools that 
got to write down their own history. Many of them were burned; many of 
them, trenchcoater magic being what it was, spontaneously combusted.

Regardless, the whole scene of trenchcoaters in their modern form came 
together in the late 1980s and early 1990s, in reaction to the genre 
growth of proto-Vertigo-ish supernatural comics, and the surge of 
postmodern mythic/occult fantasy in general. A group of them loosely 
centered around Sig.ago (or "Chicago" as they insisted on calling it) 
formed the Net.Trenchcoat Brigade, around the same time as the new wave 
of heroes who became the LNH. They were closely linked, as much as 
they'd both hate to admit it.

The NTB hadn't held together the way the LNH did, trenchcoaters being a 
rather solitary and antisocial bunch. The paradigm had changed and 
mutated, as magic often did. The old, Vertigo-influenced magick had 
given way to new waves of magic in a media landscape informed by queer 
witchcraft, urban fantasy, magical girls and The Book Series That Must 
Not Be Named. But just as there were still punks, there were still 

Most people had a vague sense of what trenchcoaters were: morally 
ambiguous mages who smoked, drank, fought/made deals with/had sex with 
inimical supernatural entities of various kinds, and of course wore 
trenchcoats. The specific kind of magic that they used and how it worked 
was less well known.

Magic was all about manipulation of Drama (and Comedy). The so-called 
rules of magic were like the so-called rules of storytelling; the point 
was to construct a coherent framework (the spell/narrative) which 
conveyed whatever the maker wanted it to. Elaborate frameworks of rules 
were used to control magic by the traditional magickal schools, but they 
weren't necessary. The only thing necessary for magic was to do it.

The rules did serve a function, though. They helped mediate and control 
the Drama that was one of the defining forces of narrative magic. 
Sometimes that helped to distance them from the reality they were part 
of; there was a reason aristocrats loved them so much. Sometimes they 
served as a necessary barrier to unmediated Drama which could tear a 
person apart. Drama surrounded trenchcoaters and permeated their lives 
at every moment. Many of them seldom actually cast spells, instead 
drawing on the vortex of Drama that surrounded them. It could exercise a 
high cost, and some pursued it deliberately: sacrificing friendships and 
romantic relationships and mental well-being to create Drama to give 
them more power. Few trenchcoaters lived long. The NTB counted as one of 
its number the god and founder of tragedy.

Being around a trenchcoater, in short, was like walking into an anvil 
factory in a tornado. But for all the dangers Masterplan Lad still 
needed one of their help. Their kind of magic sharply contrasted his, 
its strengths and weakness counterbalancing his own. And if he were 
hoping to break through into the Library, his own magic was not enough.

He saw the woman at the other side of the bar, waving at him. "That's 
her," said Sharon. Maria waved at him wildly from across the bar.

It was the woman he'd met earlier. She looked different from how she had 
in the apartment. Still wearing the same dress, she now wore a dark 
green trenchcoat on top of it with patches of various occult symbols and 
bands (which might themselves be useful for magick, as Gillen/McKelvie 
Phonogram-style music-based magick was an established niche). Waving 
goodbye to Sharon and Alys, he moved over to her booth and sat by her.

Looking at her more closely, MPL saw she was clearly a trans woman. She 
exuded very powerful trans energy that was a completely different kind 
from Victoria's, but still recognizable from having spent all that time 
around her, somehow.

"So, you're the LNHer," she said, leaning over the booth toward him. 
"What, I can read tarot. I know when I'm gonna get mixed up in an LNH 
plot. And I had a feeling we'd meet again the last time I saw you. 
You're not the only one with narrative awareness, y'know."

Masterplan Lad's eyebrows shot up. It had often felt like he was.

"Anyway, I'm Maria Katerina Hart, of the Net.Trenchcoat Brigade. What's 
the dealie-o?"

"Well, the whole situation is a bit complicated--"

"Can we go over my apartment to talk things over?" said Maria.

Masterplan Lad had a vague sense there might be Implications here. 
Nonetheless, he nodded--he had never been to many other peoples' 
apartments and was curious what it would be like, entirely apart from 
anything else this might entail.

After they'd paid their tab, Maria slouched out of the bar and he 
followed. She seldom seemed to sit down or stand; she always slouched. 
Her own apartment wasn't far away. He followed her into the 
building--much less swank than the one he'd seen her in earlier--and 
entered when she opened the door on the third floor.

There was a large bookshelf full of books, and other books lying in 
piles around the apartment for good measure. There was a book of 
interviews with Bacchus; the quatrains of the Daemon Netrigan; the 
(almost certainly spurious) autobiography of civil 
servant-turned-trenchcoater Malcolm Barnstable, who'd aided the Legion 
of Occult Heroes. There were books by Kathy Acker, Samuel Delany, Rachel 
Pollack. There were also a few ancient leatherbound books radiating 
vaguely unpleasant magickal energy, stacked up haphazardly around. His 
eyebrows raised slightly when he glanced at one of the shelves and saw 
_The Little Black Book of Solomon: How to Pick Up Demons, Angels and 
Astral Beings_ by one Madeleine Onster-Fucher.

There was also an ostrich standing in the corner. The ostrich twisted 
its head and looked at him. "Oh, that's my familiar," said Maria. "Their 
name's Sunny." She patted them on the head. "We're telepathically 
bonded, don't worry." The ostrich chirped.

Masterplan Lad looked at the large photo of the disreputable looking man 
in a trenchcoat by the bookshelf. "Hey, look," said Maria. "This is an 
autographed photo of Dr. Deadbeat. Some old lady paid me 100 dollars to 
take it away from her."

"I see," said Masterplan Lad. She motioned him over to join her on the 
comfortable-looking but decrepit red pseudo-leather couch and he did. 
"So what's your name?" she said.

"Masterplan Lad, of the Legion of Net.Heroes."

"Do you have another name?" said Maria.

"Well, at one point I chose the civilian name of David X. McKenna [LNH 
v2 #50], but I'm not entirely satisfied with that."

"What does the X stand for?"

He made a sudden decision. "Xauriel."

"Oooh, I like that." Maria's fingers brushed against his hand. She 
started laughing.

"What's so funny?"

"Just think your posh accent is kinda hilarious, sorry. So are you a 
real Brit or a fake Brit? I used to fake a British accent all the time 
when I was starting out in the NTB"

"I'm suppose I'm a fake British person, since I'm not from Earth at all. 
I originated as a sort of... cosmic guardian spirit who was raised by a 
religious order known as the Knights Temporal outside of time and space. 
I... am reasonably sure I was originally born as a mortal, from mortal 
parents, but I know nothing of their identity. I was sent on a mission 
but the order was erased from history before I could complete it, and I 
began to question their teaching as I became involved with those I was 
sent to protect. In time, I came across remnants of the order and fully 
rejected their teaching." [A tale to be told in Just Imagine--ed.]

Maria nodded. "That's a whole lot of weird, but I guess I understand. I 
was raised Catholic, see. Thus the name."

He looked at her closely. "So you're trans?" he asked, though everything 
about her appearance and bearing made that extremely clear.

"Mhmm," said Maria.

"That's very nice," he said, feeling a complete fool. "My friend--the 
person I'm trying to help--is a trans woman. Victoria is her name."

"Oh." There was a small flash of resolution in Maria's eyes. Now he knew 
she was on board.

"You see," said Masterplan Lad, "she lost her history after she was 
trapped in Limbo, and we're trying to figure out how to get it back. I 
know it's in the Infinite Library somewhere, but I can't seem to reach 
it from our universe, and..."

"Actually," she said, "I know about you and Victoria. I read about you 
in my dad's diaries."

"Your... dad?" said Masterplan Lad.

"Yep. Remember Ultimate Mercenary #7? When you went back in time and met 
the original NTB in 1992?"

He certainly did. He remembered a vague, disreputable figure who stank 
of cigarettes. "That was him?"

"Yep! Sure was." She took a deep breath.

"He was terrible."

"Yeah. Yeah he was. It's probably good I never knew him... yeah. Anyway, 
he was the Anonymous Trenchcoater, the first one, and I was the 
second--I sold my name to some demon or other long ago, just like my dad 
did. Eventually I figured out it was because I didn't need it. And now 
here I am."

"Well, congratulations," he said.There were many, many things he wanted 
to ask her but he didn't even know where to start.

Instead, they made their plans to help out Victoria. They had a long and 
fairly technical conversation about magic while they steadily started 
moving closer to each other on the couch. Masterplan Lad started 
babbling excitedly and making animated movements with his hands.

"You're so cute when you're getting excited about stuff," said Maria.

"Really?" Masterplan Lad said. "Most people tune me out when I exposit 
about things too much."

"Nah. I love seeing people talk bout things they really care about. 
Honestly, it's the sexiest thing ever." She smiled with the corner of 
her mouth. "So.... do you want to make out?"

"What? I--hmm." He didn't actually want to say no. "All right."

Maria drew him in closer and began to kiss him. Up until now, most of 
his sexual and romantic interactions had been with an abstract cosmic 
being. He wasn't used to this fleshy, material feeling but he seemed to 
like it. The sensation of her tongue in his mouth, her flesh pressing up 
against him and her hands running down his back were even more 
overwhelming than eating.

He laughed nervously when she pulled back for a breath. He felt like the 
taste of her lipstick on his lips was the most delicious thing he'd ever 
tasted. "Oh dear. I think I might be a little drunk."

"From an O'Download's?"

"Ah." He chuckled.

"You're so goddamn adorable," said Maria, and started kissing him on the 
neck. "Right now I'm feeling a little, ah, aggressive," said Maria. "Is 
that a problem?"

"No," said Masterplan Lad. "It... isn't."

She bit down just a little on his neck and he let out a sharp moan of 
pleasure. Maria grabbed ahold of his wrists and pressed him down on the 
couch. Masterplan Lad gasped in delight. They ignored the ostrich who 
stood sentinel over the couch.

And then, suddenly, he remembered he was in a story that people were 
reading. There were people watching him this very moment. He was unsure 
about both whether he'd be able to handle that on top of everything else 
and its appropriateness to RACC. The Woody Incident was long ago, but he 
still decided it would be best to drop a scene transition. While Maria 
nibbled on his ear, he reached over and fumbled with his Plot Device to 
end the scene.


Masterplan Lad lay on the couch with Maria on top of him. Maria was 
sleeping like a log and snoring like a buzzsaw that might be used to cut 
said log. As a semi-mortal ex-cosmic being, though, sleep did not come 
naturally to Masterplan Lad. His head was, as always, full of thoughts.

He thought about how there were certain patterns and themes in his 
Writer's work that went all the way back to the original Ultimate 
Mercenary series, which had a lot of scenes involving people being 
subjected to alluring but dangerous supernatural powers, as well as 
being tied up and chained. He thought about the point in the future, at 
the start of the issue, where he was flashing back from, where he was 
tied up, and how in other circumstances he might be enjoying it.

He thought about Maria, how much she'd taken control of him and how much 
he'd loved it. He thought about how his power and function was to 
control reality but he'd never been comfortable with that, always 
defining himself with regard to other peoples' narratives, by serving 
their needs. How he'd at first spent his life following the Knight's 
Temporal's teaching, its grand purpose, and then tried to find other 
frameworks to give him meaning when this one collapsed, which meant 
there was a deep longing in him somewhere for someone to do that for him.

He thought about Maria some more. She was no cosmic being but she 
affected him in ways that no one else except Chaos Theory had. He 
thought about the powerful narrative gravity that she exuded, which he 
couldn't help being pulled into. He thought about the field of Drama 
that surrounded her and how it was affecting him in ways he didn't fully 
understand, and how that both frightened and intrigued him.

He thought about his vague sense of discomfort with his own body. He 
thought of the intense narrative and spiritual connection he felt to the 
lesbian bar. He thought about how he repeatedly ended up connected to 
trans people in one way or another, and how trans people tended to 
naturally be drawn to each other, just like stand users. He thought of 
how much he enjoyed the taste of Maria's lipstick, and the thought of it 
still being on his lips.

Normally, Masterplan Lad found it hard to enter into a dream state. But 
that night, he slipped into it easily. He dreamed of two copulating 
serpents coiled around his umbrella.


Next: Crimey-wimey stuff.


This issue got long enough and complex enough that I wound up splitting 
it in two, which means that there's now a multipart storyline inside a 
multipart storyline, and the issue that was referred to as #8 in Hungry, 
Hungry Sabertooths! ##ERR_19834_ASKDAFJKADSLF is actually #9, but that's 
also fitting.

The main point of course was introducing the character of Maria. She's 
an amalgamation of Maria from Imogen Binnie's influential trans novel 
Nevada, and John Constantine, and of course there's also a bit of River 
Song, Benny Summerfield and Iris Wildthyme. The reason she has an 
ostrich familiar is that Steve Gerber also had a Vertigo series called 
Nevada about a showgirl with an ostrich sidekick, which was based on an 
issue of Howard the Duck he'd written which happened to be about 
writer's block.

In the Real World, the moon hexing incident happened in 2020 (of 
course), but FOSTA/SESTA--the disastrous law that was supposed to fight 
human trafficking but actually targeted marginalized sex 
workers--especially Black trans women--and sexual expression on the 
internet, and was one of the things that semi-killed tumblr--was passed 
in 2018. It could have still easily occurred in an universe without the 
Combover-Thing, since it had nearly unanimous bipartisan support.

This two-parter is of course, based on Bound by the Wachowski Sisters. I 
tried to channel some of the powerful gay energy from that movie. I also 
tried to correct a big problem with that movie, since Bound was one of 
those movies where the only Black character was a cop, so I introduced 
Serafine, who in this series roughly equivalent in her narrative role to 
Stevie Hunter in X-Men and who we will see again.

The Bronze Age was presumably the night club that appeared in #2. It's 
obviously inspired by Buffy's The Bronze plus my tendency to draw on 
Bronze Age comics.

Serafine, her bar, and the Bronze Age are all Free for Use. I am working 
on introducing stuff which could be a core for supernatural-based 
Looniverse stories they haven't really had before, which is a big part 
of why previous NTB revivals didn't stick around long term. Another big 
one of those will be fully revealed next issue. Maria Hart is usable 
with permission.

Kyoko Ishikawa was created by Ken Schmidt. Chaos Theory was created by 
Drew Nilium. The Daemon (not Demon) Netrigan was created by Mario 
DiGiacomo. Bacchus of the Net.Trenchcoat Brigade, Barnstable and the LOH 
were created by Paul Hardy. Dr. Deadbeat was created by Arthur Spitzer. 
All the other characters are mine.

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