LNH: Easily-Discovered Man #58

EDMLite robrogers72 at gmail.com
Sun May 9 07:40:31 PDT 2021

   Doused with microwave radiation, Theodore 
   Wong gained the ability to glow and be detected 
   at great distances by anyone with a Geiger counter.  
   Forced to retire, Wong has left former sidekick Lite 
   to continue his battle against the forces of corruption, 
   chaos and common sense, and to carry on the legacy of 
   the fabulous EASILY-DISCOVERED MAN.
      The following takes place sometime after 
      issue #8 of the Legion of Net.Heroes mini-series 
      "Beige Countdown."

-----Previously on "The Adventures of Easily-Discovered Man"-----------

     Searching for the killer of the nefarious WAFFLE QUEEN, Easily-Discovered Man Lite follows a trail that leads from 
the villain's hometown of Mount Roosevelt, Ohio to the great city 
of Net.ropolis.  There, inspired by his mentor -- the former
Easily-Discovered Man -- Lite tracks down the sorcerer TREVOR 
BLOUNT, who confirms what the sidekick had come to suspect: that he 
had previously encountered a teenaged Waffle Queen while traveling 
in time, and that Lite’s memory of these events had been repressed.

    Blount reluctantly agrees to restore Lite’s lost memory --
but warns him that the experience, much like Facebook, will cause 
him to relive the events of his past while being powerless to change 
them.  Lite then finds himself transported back to Mount Roosevelt, 
two years younger than he is now -- and working once again 
by Easily-Discovered Man’s side…

     Before Lite goes back to Ohio (because his city is gone),
Decorum requires that we point out that because this story takes  
place as part of a long-since concluded cross-over (Beige Countdown) 
its events are set in the year 2007.   What might our characters be 
doing if they lived in the current golden age of peace and prosperity 
that is 2021?  Let’s pause for just a moment to answer that question...   

          --EDM--          --EDM--          --EDM--

     “Do you think being a super-hero has made you uniquely qualified 
to navigate this pandemic?” Cynical Lass asked.

     “You mean,” I began.

     “You’re still on mute,” she noted.

     “Right,” I sighed, clicking on the part of my screen that showed 
a little red icon with a crossed-out microphone -- a symbol that, 
a little over a year and a half ago, I would only have associated 
with people who really, really didn’t like Larry King.

     “You mean because we’re sitting here communicating with each 
other using futuristic technology named for a comic-book sound 
effect?” I asked.

     “I thought it was named for the super-villain from The Flash,” 
said the voice of Substitute Lad, who had kept his camera turned off.

     “I mean that there’s this worldwide crisis, which half the 
population has responded to by putting on masks and behaving 
as well, heroes, in order to protect others,” she said.  “The 
other half has cited actual ideals like liberty and individual 
rights in order to selfishly run around doing whatever they 
want, just like a comic book villain would do.”

     “Now hold on a minute,” said the onscreen image of a tiny 
cartoon astronaut with Substitute Lad’s voice.  “There are perfectly
legitimate reasons why someone might not want to… okay.  I can’t 
actually say that with a straight face.”

     “And all of the shouting and posturing and punching each other 
in the face between the masked ‘heroes’ and their cartoonish ‘villains’
ends up distracting everyone from the thousands and thousands dead 
and the hundreds of thousands of others left in poverty because of 
the actual crisis,” Cynical Lass finished. 

     There was silence in the black void of cyberspace.

     “I’m beginning to see why you didn’t end up with the name 
‘Cockeyed Optimist Lass,’ ” Substitute Lad said.

     “It’s not the same,” I said.

     “Well, of course not.  They’re antonyms.”

     “No,” I said, taking Easily-Discovered Man’s glowing mask out 
of my back pocket.  “When the Prof puts this on, he’s doing it 
because he’s brave.  And, well, certifiably insane.  When I put this 
on,” I said, removing something from my other pocket.

     “That’s a petrol receipt,” Cynical Lass said.

     “Sorry.  When I put this on,” I said, taking out a small 
cotton mask with the letters “DON’T PANIC” emblazoned across 
the front, “I’m not doing it because I’m a hero.  I’m not even 
really doing it to protect other people, although that’s what I 
always tell them.  I’m doing it because I’m scared.  And those 
people on the other side, the ones without the masks… if they 
were being honest, they’d say they were doing what they’re doing 
because they’re scared, too.”

     “Even if what they’re scared of is bat@#$%^& insane,” 
Substitute Lad said. 

     “I’m not saying they’re justified in thinking that,” I 
said.  “Or in putting other people’s lives at risk because of 
their bat@#$%^& beliefs.  Or trying to convince other people 
that the things they believe have any basis in reality.”

     “Good,” said Cynical Lass.  “A world in which people 
like Alex Jones don’t deserve to be continually punched in 
the face is a world I don’t want to live in.”

     “But there’s more to being a hero than wearing a mask,” 
I said, looking down at the glowing Easily-Discovered Man mask 
in my hand.  “There’s got to be.”

     We now present episode #58 of "The Adventures of 
Easily-Discovered Man," "People Who Live in Glass Houses."  
Please remember to wash your hands and wipe down your screen 
with a soft,sanitized cloth after reading. 

         --EDM--          --EDM--          --EDM-- 

     In case you’re wondering, time travel within your own 
lifespan is a lot like the state of Net.braska, in that once 
you’ve gone through it you realize why more people don’t.  Parts 
of it are, of course, almost achingly beautiful, but there are 
many, many other parts that make you wince, and the whole process 
is both long and frustrating enough to leave you with a gnawing, 
numbing sense of regret, especially if you have stopped at more 
than one Cracker Barrel along the way.

     If you don’t believe me (and here I’m talking about time 
travel, and not Net.braska, which through the efforts of the 
U.S. legacy air carriers is only marginally more difficult to visit 
than the distant past) think about the last time one of your 
favorite social media sites decided to remind you of 
something that happened several years ago.  “Remember 
this?” it said, below a picture of you with a truly 
regrettable haircut, or in the throes of a passionate 
relationship with someone whose departure would later lead 
to six months’ worth of hard drinking and bad poetry, or 
with a former best friend you haven’t spoken to since the 
last decent Star Wars film, or wearing a Coldplay shirt. 

     Now imagine that instead of being able to scroll away 
from that soul-killing memory in search of pictures of cats or 
Avengers memes, you’re forced to watch the whole thing unfold in 
real time -- a slideshow of your sweetest hopes and worst 
mistakes -- without being able to do anything to change what 
had happened, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what it felt 
like once Trevor Blount decided that since I couldn’t remember 
the past, I’d have to be doomed to repeat it.

     Not that I had anyone to blame but myself.  I’d asked Blount 
-- a shoe-obsessed, trenchcoat-wearing wizard -- to send me on 
a magical memory tour because I’d hoped it would help me figure 
out who killed the Waffle Queen.  Actually, that’s not true.  I 
already had a pretty good idea who had killed the Waffle Queen, 
and how.  What I couldn’t figure out was why.  The police had found 
her body, dressed for a night on the town, in the dining room of 
her apartment.  The table was set for two, and none of her guards 
were around.  

     In any other city, police might have come to the conclusion 
that it was a mob hit, ordered by one of her business rivals.  
After all, in addition to running a pretty sizable criminal empire, 
she also presided over a chain of Waffle Queen restaurants, coast 
to coast.  But this was Net.ropolis, a place where heroes, villains 
and super-powers factored into pretty much everything.  After 
finding some unusual blood patterns on her dining room mirror, 
the investigators came to the not unreasonable conclusion that 
someone with the ability to control reflective surfaces -- a 
profile that unfortunately fit my friend Aurora Jones, the Screen 
Saver -- had committed the murder [as told in Easily-Discovered Man
#50 -- Footnote Girl].  And since the Waffle Queen had pretty 
publicly screwed over Aurora with one of her schemes, it wasn’t 
long before they’d issued a warrant for her arrest.

     But I knew the Waffle Queen.  I’d been threatened by her, 
kidnapped by her, insulted by her -- and this was back when she 
was working as my school guidance counselor, before she introduced 
me to Easily-Discovered Man and took on her role as his arch-nemesis.  
She had plans within plans within plans, and was careful to a fault.
Having someone like Aurora Jones come after her was exactly the sort 
of thing she would have been prepared for.  She was expecting 
something else that night -- she’d literally let her guard 
down, had dressed up and made herself vulnerable in a way I’d 
never seen her (and I’d even gone on a triple date with her, 
on an especially weird evening I usually chose not to remember) 
[way back in Easily-Discovered Man #25 -- Footnote Girl].  
Whoever had attacked her,whoever had killed was someone she 
trusted completely, someone she had looked forward to seeing.  
Aurora didn’t fit the picture, and neither did my prime suspect.  
I needed to know more.

     And as so often happens, just when I think I’ve started to 
figure everything out, I go and do something that proves how little 
I understand about anything that’s going on.  Much like the modern
Republican party, I’d recently been forced to acknowledge that the 
past I thought I remembered wasn’t really what had happened at all.  
In my case, I thought Easily-Discovered Man and I had ended up back 
in the great city of Net.ropolis just after we helped bring down a
dimension of pure, middle-management evil called the Pocket 
Bureaucracy (which means the Prof and I had wandered about being 
confused and making jokes while Sig.Lad and his friends did all 
the actual down-bringing) [in Easily-Discovered Man #10 -- 
Footnote Girl].

     In actual fact, the explosion that destroyed the Pocket 
Bureaucracy had sent us hurtling through space and time to Mount 
Roosevelt, Ohio -- which makes sense, since Mount Roosevelt is 
the kind of Midwestern small town that could cause Time itself 
to stop, look around, and wonder what in the world it was doing 
with its life.  It was a particularly challenging sort of place 
to have time-travelled to, because not much had happened to change 
Mount Roosevelt since Walt Disney had decided to seize on its 
red-brick downtown as a template for the entrances to his theme 
parks.  There was the main drag (which consisted of a bank, a 
couple of coffee shops and several dozen billboards for chewing 
tobacco), a kind of leafy suburban neighborhood where the homes 
were too nice to leave and not quite nice enough to sell, and a 
whole lot of farmland, beyond which were the Amish and whatever 
else inhabits the great empty spaces of Ohio.  Bears?  
Methodists? Geography had never been my subject. 

     Of course, my sixteen-year-old self didn’t know we were in 
Mount Roosevelt, or Ohio.  My sixteen-year-old self didn’t recognize 
the red and white barn just a few feet from where we stood as a newer 
version of the barn where I’d recently gotten my butt kicked by a 
bunch of zombies [in Easily-Discovered Man #53 -- Footnote Girl, 
wishing she hadn’t agreed to work for scale in this issue].  He -- 
me -- mostly stood gawping at the unnaturally fresh air, the smell 
of fresh, wet clover and the total lack of garbage, graffiti or 
any other perfectly natural signs of urban decay in the 
bucolic scene before us.

     My sixteen-year-old self had a lot to learn.

     “Prof?” he/I said.  “I don’t think we’re in Kan.sys any… 
Actually, I take that back.  It’s entirely possible we might be in

     “Unlikely, my stalwart supporter in the never-ending battle 
against crime and injustice,” Easily-Discovered Man said.  
“Behold yonder hills of verdant green -- a topographic detail one 
does not readily encounter on the Great Plains.”

     “Speaking of things one doesn’t encounter on the Great 
Plains,” I said, “we might want to think about finding you some 
civilian clothes.  How do you think people in West Yokelsburg, 
USA are going to react to a six-foot glowing superhero suddenly 
appearing out of nowhere?”

     “They’d probably think you worked for my dad,” said a 
young, apparently bored and unmistakably female voice just 
behind us.

     She was sitting -- I swear I am not making this up -- on a 
bale of hay, dressed in a plaid button-down shirt and the kind 
of denim cutoff shorts my dad referred to as “Daisy Dukes.”  My 
eighteen-year-old self immediately recognized her as a younger 
version of the woman who would someday become the Waffle Queen.  
In fact, she looked a lot like the teenage Queen who had appeared 
in the photograph with Substitute Lad and myself that I’d found on 
my last contemporary trip to Mount Roosevelt [in Easily-Discovered
Man #54 -- Footnote Girl]. 

     My sixteen-year-old self didn’t know any of this, of course.  
My sixteen-year-old self, I realized to my growing horror, thought 
she was kind of cute.

     “And does your father,” asked Easily-Discovered Man, “make a 
habit of employing super-heroes?”

     The girl shrugged.  “You see all kinds of people around 
here,” she said.  “White coats.  Blue coats…”

     “Red coats?” I suggested.  She ignored me.

     “One glowing orange cape wouldn’t be much of a surprise,” 
she continued.  “But it’s obvious you don’t work for my dad.  
He’d never let you near the barn.”

     “A perspicacious perspective,” the Prof said.  “Allow me 
to introduce ourselves.  I, of course, am the net.hero known 
as Easily-Discovered Man, and my companion is Easily-Discovered 
Man Lite.”

     That got her attention.  “You’re Easily-Discovered Man?  
_The_… Oh, Dad is going to want to hear about this,” she said, 
pushing herself off the bale of hay, landing gracefully, and 
then sprinting in the direction of a large white clapboard farmhouse. 

     “You see, Lite?” the Prof said, as the girl arrived on the 
front porch, and we could hear the rattle of a screen door closing.  
“Even here, far from the city you and I have sworn to protect, 
the fame of our mighty deeds has attracted the admiration of those 
who thrill to hear our heroic names.”

     “I guess,” I said, still staring at the rattling door.  
“But… weren’t you under some kind of investigation just before we 
left for the Pocket Bureaucracy?  [in Easily-Discovered Man #7 --
Footnote Girl].  And doesn’t something about that girl seem familiar?”

     “Now that you mention it,” the Prof said, “I do see 
something of a young Shirley Temple about her.”

     “That’s not really what I…”

     “And as to investigations,” he continued, “worry not about 
those dangers that might have been and are not, or those that 
might never be.  For after all it was just moments ago, as you 
and I reckon, that you and I were trapped in a dying universe, 
doing battle with that most resourceful of reprobates, the 
dread Deathstocker, whose power allowed him to requisition 
any article or armament he might need in order to vanquish his…”

     “And who appears to be walking towards us with the girl 
we just met,” I said, as the villain in question and the girl who 
was most probably his daughter strode toward us across the field. 

     All three of us -- Easily-Discovered Man, Sixteen-Year-Old-Me 
and Stuck-In-My-Own-Head, Can’t-Do-a-Damn-Thing-About-It-Me 
-- blanched at this latest development.  The last time I’d 
seen Deathstocker, he’d been a bitter, vengeful old man, 
ready to battle the Prof in a duel to the death -- and with 
the tools to do it.  This version of the villain looked 
maybe ten years older than the one we’d fought in the 
Pocket Bureaucracy, with a few more wrinkles and that 
Reed Richards touch of gray thing going on at his temples.  
Otherwise, he had the same crew cut, starched Oxford shirt 
and black slacks I’d come to associate with 
authoritarian FBI agents and villains in Steven 
Speilberg movies.

     “Well, well,” he said, folding his arms over his chest, with 
the girl -- his daughter -- grinning by his side.  “Easily-Discovered 
Man and Easily-Discovered Man Lite, after all these years.  
I truly believed you had been destroyed, along with everyone 
and everything I’d ever known.”

     “About that…” I began, but he cut me off by throwing his 
arms around both of us in a hug.

     “It’s so good to see you at last,” Deathstocker said, in a 
voice rich with emotion.  “Welcome home.”


     --EDM--          --EDM--          --EDM--     

     NEXT ISSUE: Is it wrong to have a crush on your 
arch-nemesis? Is it wrong to believe the past can be changed
when you know it’s impossible? Is it wrong to hope that the next
episode might be published before another year goes by? The answer 
to these questions should be fairly obvious, but we still humbly
suggest that you read the episode in question, in which everything 
old is -- if not new, then at least somewhat refurbished: “The Boy 
in the Box.”

     CHARACTERS: Footnote Girl is (c) Saxon Brenton. All other
characters are (c) the author.  More information about these and 
other Legion of Net.Heroes characters is available at: 

     SPECIAL THANKS: To Perry and Graham for recommending that I
get back to this and to Apocalypso for inspiration.

     --EDM--          --EDM--          --EDM--

     “I had all and then most of you
     Some and now none of you
     Take me back to the night we met
     I don't know what I'm supposed to do
     Haunted by the ghost of you
     Oh, take me back to the night we met”
                                  --Lord Huron

     --EDM--          --EDM--          --EDM--   



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