LNH: Hungry, Hungry Sabertooths! #42: "Devil-Lad Crybaby"

Drew Nilium pwerdna at gmail.com
Mon Jun 7 17:18:01 PDT 2021

#42: "Devil-Lad Crybaby"
A tale of false dichotomies and faith in deed, by Drew Nilium


PREVIOUSLY: His parentage - infernal! His hopes - slim! Anti-Christ Lad,
bombastic antihero who rejected his hellish heritage to lead the Legion of
Net.Hippies, came forward in time from the 1960s to grapple with his own dark
future - the Anti-Christ Lad of today, who followed the path of evil! Possessing
the villainous mastermind Mister Homage, this corrupted future counterpart leads
the East Coast Brotherhood of Net.Villains, and so the hero of the past joined
the West Coast Brotherhood to oppose him! But the battle of Brotherhoods pit
Anti-Christ Lad against former LNHer Marvel Zombie Lad, who also wielded the
power of hellfire! Their flames fed each other, and in a great conflagration,
they found themselves in - Net.Hell!


The burning plains of Net.Hell itself!! Before them, the only being Anti-Christ
Lad hated more than his own future self, wreathed in smouldering smoke, like a
heavy metal nightmare wearing an Armani suit - his father, the demon

"Well, well, well. I wasn't expecting to see you here, Asmodel," said
Net.phisto, smugness radiating from him like the heat of the lava pits of
Malwarebolge! "Not after - oh, what was it you said - you 'refused to submit to
the destiny of destruction'?" He lowered his sunglasses, raising one perfect
eyebrow. "So what'cha doin' back?"

"Father," said Anti-Christ Lad, stiffly, dark flame crackling underneath his
fingernails. "I am doing things you have no ken of - rejecting that destiny in
deed as well as word."

"Oh, I've got some ken," said Net.phisto, giving Marvel Zombie Lad an offhand
glance and smug smirk. "You're being beaten down, hard, by that destiny. This
guy," here he jerked a thumb at MZL, "isn't nearly as powerful as the other
you, and you couldn't beat him."

Marvel Zombie Lad himself looked baffled, uncertain - a strange look on the
lines of the determined undead face. Anti-Christ Lad had to admit, he did not
look the equal of his dark future. "...what are you saying, Father? Do you
expect to quit my battles on Earth, and enlist me as one of your generals in
the petty wars that the lords of Net.Hell wage 'gainst one another?"

"Son, son, son." Net.phisto dismissed the notion with a careless wave. "You
were right about that, at least - you're temperamentally unsuited for true war.
Your 'Net.Hippies' are adorable, a bunch of pacifists and weaklings aping an
army, but you don't even lead them into battle - you throw yourself in alongside
them and whoever has an idea of what to do is the general of the moment."

"Father..." Anti-Christ Lad took a deep breath in, let it out. "I shall take
that as a compliment."

"Mmmm, as you do. No, believe it or not, I want to help you in your goals -
help you beat the other you." Net.phisto folded his hands, voice more serious
now. "You see, in those wars you mentioned, the Elder Chipmunks are quite a
thorn in my side, and even tho your future incarnation is a putz, he's their
strongest operative. Eternity's a long time, and sooner or later, he'll bore of
farting around on Earth and return to the battles here." Net.phisto shrugged.
"Best to cut off that possibility before to becomes a problem."

That, at least, fit with the man his father had been. But Anti-Christ Lad knew
that he did not give gifts, he made deals. "What do you offer - and what would
I give up in return?"

"Give up? *Please*." Net.phisto rolled his eyes. "Your service in removing this
pest is all I'd require of you."

"Your offer, sir, *please*." Anti-Christ Lad summoned up his chilliest tones,
and Net.phisto almost looked impressed.

"Well, all *right* then." Net.phisto patted himself down. "You already have the
power, granted to you by infernal heritage - you're *welcome*, by the way - to
destroy your other self. What do you not have is the will. You doubt yourself,
doubt your methods and your goals. You require... certainty."

He whisked something out of his pocket and showed it to Anti-Christ Lad. It was
a bronze amulet, a circle around three radially-arranged sixes, each one with a
piece of onyx in the lower part of the six. "The Amulet of Vice. It contains a
nice little demon that will be a subtle little influence, chipping away at your
doubts about using your power - allowing you to use them without limit."

He held up a hand as Anti-Christ Lad opened his mouth to object. "I know, I
know - you're your own man, you don't want to be influenced. But it can just be
for this one battle. It's fine." Net.phisto gave him a wide grin, of a salesman
closing a deal. "You can give it up whenever you like."

Anti-Christ Lad knew he shouldn't. That it wouldn't stop there. That this was
the precipice of the terrible future. Had his present-day self made this same
deal? Had it been some other thing that seemed minor at the time, and grown
until he had become complacent with the ways of evil?

And... if that future was truly inevitable... shouldn't he, at least, be the
one to close that loop, and destroy the distended corpse of the man he was now?

Net.phisto checked his watch. "Do hurry, I have a meeting to get to with

Anti-Christ Lad licked his lips. He reached out, towards the Amulet--


Both of their heads whipped around. Marvel Zombie Lad was blazing suddenly with
renewed fire - the fire of faith, burning away self-pity! "I say thee nay! This
does *not* need to be your future!"

Net.phisto rolled his eyes again and let out a groan. "Come *on*, man."

But a flame of hope leapt up in Anti-Christ Lad's heart, as Marvel Zombie Lad
pointed to him and declaimed, "I said to you that I sensed a kindred spirit!
And I see the truth of that here! Once, I too felt the fatigue of a damned soul
struggling for redemption, and chose my own damnation over the struggle! But
the heroes I once called kin have shown me - I CHOSE WRONGLY!"

Marvel Zombie Lad walked over and slapped the Amulet out of Net.phisto's hand,
and the demon lord snarled. "Do not seek to foil me, boy!"

"Not boy - *lad*!" Marvel Zombie Lad spun around, put his hands on Anti-Christ
Lad's shoulders, looked into his eyes with a gaze, not of penitence, but of deep
brotherhood! "You *are* strong enough! Your true strength is not the flames of
Hell, but in the shining soul willing to accept a terrible bargain to save the
world! If you have will strong enough to do whatever is necessary - then you
have will strong enough to do whatever is *right*!!"

And the flames of Marvel Zombie Lad's faith kindled Anti-Christ Lad's faith in
himself!! They were both caught up in a warm, yellow-orange glow!

Anti-Christ Lad looked to his father. "With evil powers close at hand... the
devil..." He looked at Marvel Zombie Lad and smiled. "Is in command!"

The glow grew, and grew, and grew until it was blinding - and they were gone
from the depths of Net.Hell!

Net.phisto sighed, picking up the Amulet and tucking it away. "Next time, son...
next time."


And at that moment, the evil Anti-Christ Lad of this time period was struck
with nauseating temporal vertigo!

As Vector Ovine and Queen Kiwidorah battled high above, Anti-Christ Lad leaned
against a lamppost. He felt... faded, less real... but he was the one true Anti-
Christ Lad...

Wasn't he?

Then he spotted him - his past self, casually strolling out of LNHQ! Fuck! He
pushed Mister Homage's body to its feet, ignoring the dizziness to face him.

"Hail, O tainted one!" The past Anti-Christ Lad raised a fist, blazing with
sunlike flame. "I would have words with thee!" Behind him, Marvel Zombie Lad
walked up - and charged those flames with eldritch power, making them stronger,
brighter! He had become a traitor to the East Coast Brotherhood!

The true Anti-Christ Lad - true, he had to hold onto that, the real and
inevitable future! - summoned all of his hellish might. He would *not* surrender
to this wretched, pitiable, gormless, *kind* soul - this naive fool who thought
he could triumph without compromise!

"Hey!" yelled an adorable voice. "I know you!"

All three of them stopped, turned to look at the tiny figure, wearing pink
tennis shoes and a white bedsheet with holes cut out for the eyes, stepping
inbetween the three of them.

"You're a big mean jerk! You and your twin brother!" Scary Ghost Lass put her
hands on her hips under the bedsheet. "When I was trapped in Net.Hell, I saw
you torturing the souls of the damned and calling them mean names!"

Twin brother? Anti-Christ Lad realized with a shock that, *somehow*, this sassy
lost child could tell that he and his past self were two iterations of the same

And it looked like his weaker self had arrived at the same conclusion! Marvel
Zombie Lad looked as if he was about to step forward - but the past Anti-Christ
Lad held out a hand, stopping him, and knelt down, actually lowering himself to
the level of a child! "You are quite right," he said. "And we deserve whatever
punishment you see fit to lay upon us."

Punishment!? Basest nonsense! The true Anti-Christ Lad, the *triumphant* Anti-
Christ Lad, would end this farce right--

Scary Ghost Lass took a deep breath and shouted, "BOO!"

A wave of pure ravening fear scoured Anti-Christ Lad's spirit-self! He screamed
silently, astral currents pulling him from Mister Homage's body! He clung on
with every shred of willpower he had - all his stubbornness - all his spite -
all his desire for revenge - it wasn't enough!

Yet somehow, out of the corner of his ethereal vision, he could see it - his
other self, blown by astral winds, expression of pants-wetting terror, yet
standing, head bowed, enduring it. Having the will to endure it. Having faith
that it was right for him to endure it, and come out the other side.

And Anti-Christ Lad realized - he'd been wrong. Wrong to take that deal. Wrong
about needing to accept evil to achieve his goals. Wrong in thinking that the
man he once was had been a naive fool.

And wrong in thinking that the man he'd become was anything but a fading

Mister Homage landed heavily on the ground, slumbering peacefully, wisps of
daemonic energy wafting away on the breeze.

"That's what you get," said Scary Ghost Lass, blowing a raspberry. She spun
around on her heel and walked, head held high, back into LNHQ.

Anti-Christ Lad, the one from the past who now had a future, the only one
remaining, stumbled, but remained standing, Marvel Zombie Lad holding him up
until he could stand on his own. A great weight lifted from his shoulders. It
was over.


"You have given me more than you can know, fellow traveler," said Anti-Christ
Lad, straightening, clasping Marvel Zombie Lad's hand. "And I do wish I had
time to repay you - but all of a sudden, time is the one thing I am bereft of."

Marvel Zombie Lad smiled. "You have already repaid me - you've brought back the
memories of why I ever was a hero, and given me firm certainty of what my path
must be." He squeezed his hand. "I do wish you could stay - but I suppose that,
now that the paradox of your twin existence has been resolved, the way back to
your origin is closing."

Anti-Christ Lad smiled, and squeezed his hand in return. "Just so. The Time Door
thru which I came will soon close forever, and there will be but one way from
the Then to the Now - the long way."

Marvel Zombie Lad nodded in understanding, hands warm in the cool April
afternoon. "Then perhaps we shall see each other, along that longest path. My
spirit goes with you."

"And mine with you-- brother."

They stood there for a moment, gazing at each other's souls. Then they stepped
apart, and Anti-Christ Lad turned to the future history stretching out like a
path not yet blazed, and headed forward, to the past.


Drew "finally wrapping up some of these goshdarn plot threads" Nilium

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