LNH: Burst Beetle Tweseveny #9: "2007: The Umpire's Call and the Last Rung's Fall!"

Drew Nilium pwerdna at gmail.com
Fri Sep 4 18:44:03 PDT 2020

  | *               Glenda Gwynnych was one of the ridiculous                * |
  | *          and beautiful fools who write the tales of the Legion         * |
  | *   of Net.Heroes! But her wonderful nonsense was lost in the grinding   * |
  | *  drudgery of the corporate world!  One day, in her deepest despair, a  * |
  | *   voice of digital dreaming  *  *  *  gave her hope! Now she bounces   * |
  | *    back and forth throughout  \ | /  27 years of LNH history as....    * |
  | *   *__  *  * *__   __* *___*  *--*--*  *__  *___ *___ *___* *    *___   * |
  | *   |__) |  | |__) (__    |     / | \   |__) |__  |__    |   |    |__    * |
  | *   |__) |__| |  \ *__)   |    *  *  *  |__) |___ |___   |   |___ |___   * |
  | *             *___* *  * *___  __* *___ *  * *___ *  * *   *             * |
  | *               |   |  | |__  (__  |__  \  / |__  |\ |  \*/              * |
  | *               |   |/\| |___ *__) |___  \/  |___ | \|   |               * |
  #9           [20:07]: The Umpire's Call and the Last Rung's Fall!           #9

The figure lands lightly on her feet, wearing insectoid armor in shining black
and white! She snaps her fingers, pointing at Tweseveny, then whips her head
around and points the finger at M-Plot!

"And I think it needs a referee! Someone like... Burst Beetle XOX!" The camera
zooms around XOX and she poses, showing off her cool armor!

Her chest plate has a diagonal checkerboard pattern with white Xes on the black
squares and black Os on the white squares. Hanging from her neck is an enormous
crimson whistle. Her arms and legs are vertically striped in black and white,
and she wears black gloves and boots with white trim. At her crimson belt is a
buckle with two chess clocks on them, one with Tweseveny's armored face on it,
the other with M-Plot. Her face is a criss-cross tic-tac-toe board, and her eyes
are black, circular lenses, one with a raised white letter X in it, the other
with a raised white letter O. At her neck is a black bowtie with a ruby at the
center, and on her forehead is a ruby chess clock, with white numbers and a
black hand!

Tweseveny shakes her head. "Burst Beetle... Zocks?"

"Right, but you spell it capital ecks capital oh capital ecks."

"What *is* this!?" M-Plot stalks forward. "Who sent you? What *are* you!?"

XOX holds out a hand and presses it to M-Plot's chest plate. "Babe, I'm not a
player in this game. I'm just here to make sure it's fair."

M-Plot pulls back angrily. "This *isn't* a game."

"Yeah, and if it was, we'd be winning!" Mother Time holds up the Hourglass of
wReamThermodynamics and blasts a seething stream of temporal rays at XOX!

Who holds up a single hand and lets the stream splash uselessly against it!
"Attacking the ref, that's a penalty!" She reaches down and grabs the whistle,
holding it up in the air. She presses a button on it, and as a shrill noise
rings out, the Hourglass vanishes - and appears in Time-Waster Lad's hands!

"Hey, what--" He juggles the item of power-- manages to grab it, but drops the
Rung of Revamp!

"GOT IT--" Mother Time leaps forward--

And the Time Crapper is there, between her and XOX, M-Plot just to the side.
he speaks in a voice that vibrates thru the bones of all present.

And they do.

He looks up at XOX. "What are the rules of your game?"

XOX nods cheerfully, putting one hand on her hip and pointing the other at him.
"You, *you* get it." She looks back and forth. "It'll seem pretty familiar. Two
teams, three of you versus two of you--" She points at Tweseveny. "Transform,

Tweseveny lets out a breath - given what happened to the Hourglass, she wasn't
sure what would happen if she'd tried. "With pleasure." She presses the pink gem
on her buckle, and sheets of printer paper wrap around her, bursting into her

"There we go," says XOX. "And if you can get the Rung and the Hourglass both on
one side, you win."

"So," says M-Plot, evenly, fists clenched. "What's the catch?"

"We're moving to a bit of a different playing field. Goes something like..." She
looks at Tweseveny and pushes down the button on her Tweseveny clock, holding it
down. "You play!" She looks at M-Plot and pushes her M-Plot button, holding it
down. "We play!" She looks up in the air. "Let's play!"

She releases both buttons at once, and the corridors of LNHQ shake wildly,
knocking everyone off their feet! The roof seems to open up, and suddenly,
Tweseveny is being carried up on some kind of white, blocky platform, rising
high into a sunny blue sky!

Below, she can see the corridors growing and twisting, forming a maze! At the
center of the maze is the Plot Device Room, and she can see Time-Waster Lad
running out of it, carrying the Hourglass - and Mother Time giving chase!

All around her, platforms like something out of a video game are rising up - and
spelling out words! In fact, they're spelling out "Infinite Leadership Cry.sig"!

This is really weird!! But Tweseveny feels alive! She sees a staircase running
down from the 'g', into the LNHQ, a way to help-- and she sees M-Plot standing
in front of it, brandishing a blade forged from a clock hand!

"Well," says M-Plot, widening her stance. "Two powerful net.villains against one
of the weakest members of the LNH. Perhaps she was on my side after all." She
swings the blade around in her hand. "Tweseveny... time to meet the boss of this

She charges forward, and the two clash!

Far below, the Time Crapper picks up the Rung. "Tamela, we've got what we
wanted..." He watches her run down the corridor, and sighs, walking after.

Mother Time fires temporal blasts from her scythe, ranting and screaming. "You
didn't mean anything you said, did you?! It was all just a trick to get me to
lower my guard!"

Time-Waster Lad ducks and dodges. "I really did, tho!" He looks over his
shoulder for a moment, then eeps and darts to the side, out of the way of a
burst of energy that turns a original painted cel of Manga Girl into crayon art
on construction paper. "I like helping! It's good!!"

"Fuck that!!" She slices thru a decorative armoire in her rage. "I don't need
anything except what's mine, and that's everything! That's me and my boy! We're
strong enough to stand together against the whole universe!!"

Tweseveny dances in tight combat with M-Plot! She can hold her own, but she
can't push forward - can't get past to help Time-Waster Lad!

"Hear that, Tweseveny?" says M-Plot, a smirk in her voice as she thrusts,
narrowly missing Tweseveny's midsection. "You couldn't make them better! They're
just as bad as before! You've failed, utterly!"

Tweseveny grits her teeth. It's true, and it stabs at her, but her head is
clear, for the moment, of despair, and she's thinking...

M-Plot is nothing if not smart, and... yes, she's right. The Time Crapper and
Mother Time - they're beyond Tweseveny's ability to fix, and, from what he'd
said, beyond any hero's. They just need to break up...

...no, not *just* break up. They'd already tried to push off from each other,
time after time. But they're too caught in each other's orbit, helplessly
spinning back together. They need to be *broken* up - forcefully pushed out of
each other's lives, too fast and hard to come back together. And maybe they'd
end up being toxic in somebody else's direction - but at least there would be a

And then, a second realization - yes, she *can* hear that! Somehow, she can hear
what's going on far down below with perfect clarity. Which means...

Tweseveny throws herself into an aggressive attack, one which M-Plot will have
to focus all her skills on dodging! And she raises her voice so all can hear!
"Time-Waster Lad!"

Time-Waster Lad skids around a corner, panting as he runs as fast as he can.

"Remember!" Tweseveny shouts. "Flame Wars II!" And then she has to dodge
M-Plot's counterattack with all her might!

"Flame Wars II, what--" His eyes go wide, and he glances down at the Hourglass
in his hands. "They can't win if..." He smiles the smile of someone with a plan!

He takes a turn, and a turn, and another turn-- and he's back in the lobby of
the LNHQ. He runs behind the desk, where he can see the whole room.

Mother Time runs in, stops short. She glares at him, scythe burning with
energies, eyes flicking around, trying to figure out why he stopped.

The Time Crapper walks in behind her, one hand seething with entropy, the other
holding the Rung. "Give it up, boy. We've already won."

"Yeah!" Mother Time points the scythe at him. "You're just wasting time!"

Time-Waster Lad grins wide. "Yep!" He holds the Hourglass up in the air, and
focuses. Once, he was able to waste millions, *billions* of years. Twenty-four
hours should be a piece of cake!

"What..." The Time Crapper turns, looks out the window-- sees the angle of the
light shifting, shadows moving, sun lowering towards the horizon-- "No!"

"GRAH!" Mother Time tries to blast him, but the energy skitters off the surface
of the Hourglass! The sun sets, the moon rises--

The Time Crapper runs forward, heedless, hoping he's in time--

Time-Waster Lad looks up in the air and waves. "Bye, Tweseveny! Thanks!"

Somewhere far away, a clock strikes midnight, and Time-Waster Lad vanishes,
Hourglass of wReamThermodynamics and all.

"No..." says the Time Crapper, inches from where he'd been. He turns, and sees
Tamela-- "NO!"

"I don't..." Tamela looks confused, looking off into space, seeing something
else, some other existence. Around her, figures appear for a brief moment,
figures of herself, a cloud of selves singing, laughing, yelling, dying, living.
She looks up at the Time Crapper, eyes wide, guileless. "I don't... remember

The Time Crapper grabs her hand, pulling her away from herselves, but her hand
comes apart in his, dissolving into a cloud, as brief a moment as all those
others; and as her existence comes apart, she, and her selves, disappear from
LNHQ, and from this moment altogether.

The Time Crapper falls to his knees, hand still extended, hidden gaze staring
off at where she had been.

High above, the platforms rumble and come apart, separating Tweseveny and
M-Plot, as LNHQ draws back together, seeming like a building again, instead of a
dizzying labyrinth.

M-Plot's platform settles down next to the Time Crapper. He stares off, in a
terrible freefall as the bottom drops out of his life. Then he looks up at
M-Plot, voice helpless, beseeching. "What do I do now?"

M-Plot puts her hand on his shoulder, and speaks, not unkindly. "The only thing
left for you to do. The thing you've needed to do for a long time. Move on."

The Time Crapper looks down, down into the depths of the universe, and nods,
once. "To the past..." He sighs. "Always to the past." He holds out the Rung of
Revamp, and M-Plot takes it.

Tweseveny's platform settles across from him. "Time Crapper, wait a second..."

He looks up at her. The bitterness is gone from his vacant gaze, but so too is
the hope. "Yes, Burst Beetle Tweseveny?"

"I..." She still feels the shame, but... it'd be worse if she didn't say it. "I
meant what I said. You should figure out what you really want, now that... now
that this is all over."

The Time Crapper nods. "Thank you. Truly. But..." He looks off into the
distance. "I am afraid I have but two choices. One, to separate entirely from
humanity - to become fully cosmic, and take part in that great dance. It sounds
beautiful... but I'm afraid I'm too weak to choose something so noble." He
shakes his head, great sadness hanging off of him. "Thus, I will take the other
choice - to stay a net.villain, and seek even greater power. I..."

He hesitates. "Somewhere out there, now, she has resumed her life, with nothing
left of me in it..." He shakes his head. I will not seek to bring her back to
me. Thank you for teaching me that. But..."

The Time Crapper draws himself up. The shadows within his robe seem to become
deeper, and Tweseveny has a strange sensation of vertigo, like she's looking
into the depths of space, beyond galaxies and clusters. "In her memory, I will
find the greatest powers of this cosmos, and I will take them for my own. And I
will force this Looniverse to become what I need it to be." His robe blows in an
unseen wind, and the lights of the lobby dim. "And the LNH will battle me, and
perhaps one of them will finally, *finally*, tell me what I need to be. That,
Tweseveny, is what I desire."

Gazing into that awful deep darkness, Tweseveny sees one more awful truth. This
man *isn't* the Time Crapper yet. Not the one from the Cosmic Plot Device Caper,
from Cry.sig, from Retcon Hour. And he was going to go back, and carry out all
those awful plans, and--

"Wait, please, let's..." The words die on her lips.

"Talk about it?" The Time Crapper nods, as one by one, the lights of the lobby
wink out. "No, thank you. One day, we shall talk, one last time. But for now...
goodbye, Tweseveny. I hope the path you walk is better than mine."

And for a brief moment, all is dark; and when light returns, he is gone.

For a moment, Tweseveny is silent. She turns to M-Plot, and says but one word:

M-Plot folds her arms. "Because he's going to save the world." Unlike before,
she is not happy, she is not gleeful, she is simply... carrying out a duty.

"Save the world!?" Tweseveny gestures wildly. "He's going to cause so much
destruction! We could have *stopped* it!"

M-Plot shakes her head. "He will provide a valuable counterbalance. If not for
his greed, if not for his desire, the Crossover Queen would have taken this
world when it was weak."

"But--" Tweseveny clenches her fist. "There could have, *must* have been--"

"Better women than you have TRIED." M-Plot slams her fist into the wall! "WE ARE

"Enough." Burst Beetle XOX is suddenly there, next to them, her arms crossed,
lenses focused on M-Plot. "I know who you are. I know who empowered you. And I
know what your mission is."

"..." M-Plot turns away. "Which one?"

"Both of them."

"Er..." Tweseveny raises her hand. "Could I know?"

XOX turns to Tweseveny, and there was a smile in her voice. "Not yet." She
looks back at M-Plot. "She'll tell you."

"The hell I will!" M-Plot snarls, still turned away.

"Yes, yes." XOX waves her hand casually, voice lightening. "But why worry about
that, when there's still just one more thing for you to take care of?"

"Ah..." M-Plot looks at her hand, still holding the Rung of Revamp. "So there is."

She holds the Rung high in the air. Tweseveny wonders-- is M-Plot going to use
it to power up, give herself some new form or weapon to use in their battles?

But no. The Rung begins to glow, but its light does not spread to M-Plot's body;
the Rung itself grows brighter, and brighter, and Tweseveny suddenly understands
- M-Plot is using the Rung of Revamp *on the Rung of Revamp*!

"No longer will the Rung of Revamp simply empower!" speaks M-Plot, voice ringing
with an echoing thunder. "Once, its purpose was to create a character anew, to
rewrite identities! Now, it returns to that purpose! I cast thee back in time -
I cast thee to - Jungle Cheesecake!"

 From far away, there is a deep BONG, echoing as if reflected between great
cilffs, valleys and mountains; and with each echo, the Rung's light, and the
Rung itself, fades, until it is gone.

M-Plot dusts off her hands. "It will have to be found again, ere net.hero or
net.villain can use it."

"So..." says Tweseveny, raising an eyebrow. "You're *not* just here to mess with

"Yes," says M-Plot, strained calm in her voice. "I have my own duties to the
Looniverses." She looks at Tweseveny, and in her lenses, a resentful glow burns.
"And they include ending your playtime, Tweseveny. You are a reckless,
irresponsible factor in these histories."


XOX steps between them, and looks M-Plot in the face. "Go."

"Fine." The deep BONG sounds again, and M-Plot begins to fade. "You will see me
again soon, Tweseveny! Beware! Bewaaaaaare..."

XOX shakes her head. "What a drama queen."

Suddenly, the lobby doors open and net.heroes pour in, fleshy humans and
mechanical duplicates alike. They crowd around the Burst Beetles, full of
confusion - it seemed that they had returned from their missions during the time
that had been wasted, and found themselves outside at just past midnight.

Tweseveny feels light-headed, overwhelmed, and sways on her feet - into XOX's
arms. The latter hero holds her close and addresses the crowd: "I promise an
explanation, but first - time out!" She presses the ruby on her head, and
everything seems to feeze around the two of them.

"Oh," says Tweseveny, trying to stand up. "Very good..." She stumbles again.

"Hey," says XOX, holding her up. "You started net.heroing in the evening after a
tiring day of work, and between Carolyn and Time-Waster Lad, you've spent a
whole 'nother day doing things. I'm not going to say you need some sleep... but
yes I am. You need some sleep."

"...oh." Tweseveny yaaaaaaaawns, wide and deep, and her armor poofs away,
leaving her in that same beige skirt and sensible blouse. "Sleep... it's a weird
thing for a net.hero to do..."

XOX shakes her head. "We all do it, I promise. Just, usually off-panel." She
guides Tweseveny down the corridors. "I don't think Time-Waster Lad will mind
you using his room."

"Heh... no, I guess not..." She stumbles along, and it doesn't seem to take them
much time at all to reach the door, for XOX to open it, and help her to the bed.
She kicks off her shoes, and looks up to see XOX turning to go. "Hey, wait..."

XOX turns back. "Yes?"

"Is..." She rubs at her eye. "Is this... really happening? Am I really Burst
Beetle Tweseveny, or is Glenda Gwynnych just pretending to be something more?"

XOX kneels down, takes her by the shoulders, and looks into her eyes, mask to
face. "You are... yourself. I can't tell you what that is, but I know this. If
you want to be Tweseveny, you don't have to be On all the time. You can have
human needs, human flaws, and yet be far more than what they think a human is.
That's what this place, this world, is about."

Tweseveny smiles. "Yes... thank you." She reaches up to stroke the mask. "And
when will you be Off?"

The smile in XOX's voice is clear thru her mask. "At the end of the game." She
stands up, turns away, opening the door to leave; but lingers in the doorway,
helmet turning just so, a glance back at Tweseveny; one that makes Tweseveny
oddly warm inside, oddly soft, oddly safe.

"Or perhaps... at halftime."


Author's Note: Whew! Finally! @- at v Two years in the making.

So what happens with Tweseveny next? Well, my plan is for a 27-issue series,
plus a big "movie" special. I have no idea how long that'll take, of course. X3
And I might change my plans along the way. But I'm not gonna worry too much -
I'm just gonna have fun, as much as I can. :>

One more continuity note: I noticed that in Infinite Leadership Crisis-era
stories, the Rung of Revamp increased several characters' powers without
altering them. I think there might be an interesting story in how that came
about, but I figured I'd leave that one open, and just draw a line under the
whole deal.

Also, after I talked to confidate Emma McGill about Time-Waster Lad, she came up
with a list of potential habits for him:
* Hair is always a different color
* Has a bunch of tattoos that he did himself (pen & ink)
* Chronic Doodler
* Nails are often painted with whatever is lying around
* Master whittler
* Definitely picks at everything
* Incredible at video games
* Known to just start walking in a random direction with no destination in mind
* Pretty good at trick shots, lacks the discipline to go pro.
* Chronic thread unraveler
* Is annoyed that Criticker only has a 0-100 rating system
* Has a serious TV Tropes problem
* Middling bass player, mostly just likes to 'jam' in his free time
* Hair is either buzzed, or a very uneven shag (he cuts it himself)
* People think he's very "zen"; he isnt
* Chronic list starter
* Owns the most elaborate fidget spinner the world has ever seen.
* Never leaves home without a ballpoint pen, Sharpie, gum, some kind of fidget
   toy, & eyeliner
* Can turn nearly any thin, flat surface into an airplane
* can play arbitrary numbers of songs' drum lines on arbitrary surfaces

Drew "XOX is absolutely coming back ASAP" Nilium

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