Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rite of Spring, Finale

[Plastered to a hillside, the Champions 3000 and the Liberty Legion have had occasion to consider that real life is not at all like a MMORG.]

Amazing Spleen {Brad Neilsen]: "So we're down for at least a minute here while Mr. Wong and Miss Crudup recover from their beating. Then we're going over the top with the Champions."
Gun Girl [Jaime Neilsen]: "That was amazing, May! I don't think even the SD could have figured that out faster!"
Avenging Daughter [May Wong]: "Nope. My sister is still the Great Detective."
Five Signs [Vijay Singh Kumar]: "So the guy in black was your great-uncle from the 1970s, who worked for your Mom's boss when your Mom was a supervillain who fought your Dad. Only your Mom backstabbed your great-uncle as a way of sending a fresh note to your Dad even though she ended up killing this guy who worked for her boss. Only he's not really dead because the other bad guy up on that bench is actually his resurrected lich from maybe right now. And he's using some kind of weird gizmo that was built by a super-science alien named "Sovereign" to change something that happened at this spot back in 2670 so that all of history will be rewritten in a bad way from that  moment on? Only then Kwan, or both Kwans, backstabbed him. And then the plan was to change something in 1899, only then there was the next backstab, and now it's the Kwan who is dead, only not dead, who is in charge, and we don't know what his plan is? And I guess technically, he's undead? How could you possibly figure all that out?"
May: "I didn't. I must have heard that story, like, a thousand times. Only without Uncle Kwan dying in a blood explosion. Not that I find that surprising or anything. So you hear what Jenny thinks about Juanita and Henry?"
The Amazing Spleen [Brad Neilsen]"A thousand times. SHH."
Jaime: "You don't have to always be looking after everyone, big bro. Especially not Nita."
Brad: "No, I mean shh:  I think they're coming round. Avenging Daughter, can you get Defender over here?"
May: "Why don't you do it? You need to apologise to him, Mr. Snarky Gorilla."
Brad: "Who are you calling snarky?"
May: "I'm snarky in a charmingly entertaining way. You're just Mr. Negative. You need to apologise to the grownup, over where you can't see that I'm holding Vijay's hand."


Defender 3000 [Jack Harmon]: "I had no idea that slaying dragons involved so much bodily fluid. Is it going to get any better when we go over the top?"
Earthnet: "Bearing in mind that I'm no expert on small unit tactics involving Mandaarian robots, mysterious machinery, and ancient kung fu liches, I'd say 'no.' Your Twenty-first Century allies would be the ones to ask."
Jack: "I can't. The Furious Fist and the Black Cat are still down, Kumar is too green to be helpful, the girls are spacy, and the Amazing Spleen is a punk."
Earthnet: "Some patience will work miracles with the girls. Well, with Gun Girl. The Avenging Daughter can't think straight now. And you can work with the Spleen. You just got off on the wrong foot."
Jack: "I told him he'd done a great job, and he mouthed me off!"
Earthnet: "He doesn't take compliments well."
Jack: "Everyone takes compliments well!"
Earthnet: "If you do it right. The boy has issues. Which I need to explain."
Jack: "What? He's a crazy from a crazy age?"
Earthnet: "No. He's almost normal. But you're right, it was an insane age. Brain disorders were rampant; five percent of the adult population with neurotransmitter uptake disorders. The thing is, that means that practically everyone else had behavioural tics from dealing with them, and the Spleen and his sister have pretty serious ones: overcompensated free attachment to Subject-Oriented Disorder."
Jack: "Oh. Like Daglo Laverne in Huner LaverneDiary of the Last Narcissist. I, uh, I'm not into Chick Lit or anything. I just read the book for the historical detail."
Earthnet: "Well I'm glad you read it. Makes this easier. Remember: 'Daglo can no longer hear the praise of the Placement Officer, only see and hear Huner, claiming credit with his flattery for Dayglo's successes, diving ever further into madness.'"
Jack: "So the Spleen is going to throw himself out an airlock if he passes a test so his coparent can't exploit his success as a defence mechanism?"
Earthnet: "No. Novels need drama. This is real life. Only with more werewolves. The Spleen and Gun Girl have dealt with one or more 'narcissists' all their life and have grown habituated to rejecting compliments and, for that matter, social success. Spleen is just more abrasive, because he's aggressive about it."
Jack: "So as long as I don't act like a self-absorbed, egotistical screwup, or compliment them or pay them attention, I'll be fine. See this isn't helping as much as you might think."
Earthnet: " It's a behavioural trigger, Jack, a matter of perception, not reality. They know that most people are normal. They're capable of normal interactions. The aggression and rejection come when they lose perspective. Unfortunately, they happen to be tired, stressed, isolated, and over-excited right now, and that means they've lost perspective. We don't have to fix them, just manage them. So you'll need you to preprogam your holographic projector."
Jack: "For...?"
Earthnet: "Isn't it obvious? To fake the Amazing Spleen's death for the Furious Fist. You see..."
Jack: "I get it. You're a very smart AI. 'Blah blah interpersonal group dynamics brilliant deduction blah blah.' Don't need to hear more about cave man diseases or your line of thought. I'll get Suit to program up some hologram projections, and boom! The Amazing Spleen blowed up real good. Might even be tactically helpful."

Furious Fist [Henry Wong]: "So, Earthnet."
Earthnet: "Yes?"
Henry: "Archaeological science must be really advanced by now."
Earthnet: "I can't believe that I'm saying this, but might there be  a better times for this conversation?"
Henry: "Not much we can do 'till the Champions' speedster sets off her diversion. You guys must have recovered pretty much every ancient artefact on this planet. For example, a greenish orb almost like an oversized pearl, with disturbing reptilian images somehow showing within."
Earthnet: "Like this image?"
Black Cat [Miriam Crudup]: "Goodness! The Basilisk Orb! Where is it?"
Earthnet: "In an ultrasecure clean room in the Lunar Citadel, where the Empress Marissa put it."
Henry: "Consider carefully: is there any way one of our villains could have got access to it?"
Earthnet: "Checking.... I never fail to be amazed by the elegance of Mandaarian programming. Yes. There was a tap on  the janitorbot. I've shut it down, but I gather that this is one of those magic dealies. Care to explain?"
Henry: "It might be the most powerful magical artefact on Earth, at least, in periods when magic works on the Earth. More powerful than the...never mind. DEMON tried to use it to change the future in 1968. We fought them, with the Sentinels and some other teams. I'm not entirely sure that we won. And I would imagine that that's what Kwan is trying to use it for right now."
Earthnet: "He doesn't have the Orb. I have it. Or, rather, a BOLO XXXV has it, as of five seconds ago."
Henry: "Then he doesn't need it any more for this mission. Is your diversion supposed to involve your girl being thrown through the air like that?"
Thalya The Empyrean: "Charm!"
Gavis Gan: "I've got her!"
May: "Can you set her down below and to the left? There's a ravine cutting into the mountainside and we have an ally there. Probably. Anyway, that's where he always hides when he's not ready to get in the trailer yet."
Henry: "What are you talking about?"
May: "Er. Time travel? Can't know something until you do know it? All shut up and charge now?"


[Jack Harmon takes in the scene on the terrace calmly, knowing that Suit is on the alert for threats. He's in brawler mode, suited to close combat with the Mandaarian robots, and he and Rampart can act together to put them down. The scenery is chewed up and getting worse by the minute with all the firepower unleashed on it. Infrared shows that Furious Fist is enraged. So is the Avenging Daughter, oddly enough. Is there a connection between the two and this place? It would be nice if her mysterious ally were to suddenly come charging up the hill and settle the situation, but that would be far too neat. And the allies have their own plan, even if it may well be aborted when the Furious Fist confronts the sere lich.]

Uncle Kwan [Wong Guangli:] "You know, I thought about warning my previous self what was about to happen to him. But then I wouldn't be here, would I? Though it would have been fun to kill Ma Tian myself. She really did have it coming. You were sweet on her, weren't you, Nephew? But you bounced back. I heard you ended up with some Gweilo girl pumping out bananas in Philadelphia. You know what? I'll look them up after I've placed the Basilisk Orb in my master's hands. It's been far too long since I spent time with my kin. They keep dying, you see."
[Liches should not do kung fu. It's just disturbing to watch. The Furious Fist counters his uncle's moves blow-by-blow. There's an air of familiarity to it. Jack has the sense that Kwan's confidence isn't bravado, that they've danced this way before, and it's never ended well for the Fist. And yet the Fist, too, seems confident, and Suit tells him that his Fist's eyes rake across the Avenging Daughter repeatedly as she fights Kwan's lycanthropic minions, assisted by Black Cat, Gun Girl and the rest of the Champions. Jack is more sure that there is a connection; still unsure whether it will actually matter. The Champions should have enough power to defeat all of Kwan's minions. It is just that they now know that there is a time limit. Did the Furious Fist mean to suggest that the Basilisk Orb was more powerful than the Mandragalore? If so, it had to be kept out of the hands of Kwan's mysterious master.]
Sage [Zes'arou Al'gari Vikon]: "Oh, treachery!" [3D Girl appears next to Kwan in the midst of the battle as everything grinds to a halt: timestop: Jack Harmon has experienced this before, when Arcane pulled it. It wasn't precisely stasis, because you could still think, and presumably, someone was going to get an exemption. Since it was unexpected treachery, presumably Uncle Kwan. Good thing Jack and the Fist had seen it coming.
Naomi(?) Hirsch [3D Girl]: "Miriam, Miriam. I have a time machine, too. Technically, I have yours. Don't you know by now that you can't trust a clone? Not even us! Rebecca was even going to betray me to you! Really, sell a gene-sister to some gametic accident? Our geneline has a gift to compare with Master Kwan's, I must say."
Uncle Kwan: "Oh, indeed. Who better than a time traveller to find the Basilisk Orb, after all? I gather that the real Naomi knows you in 2011. And your children. And their lovers. And as soon as we've edited the timeline, I'll know, too. You can talk now, nephew."
Henry: "You never change, do you, Uncle? One overcomplicated plan after another." [Behind, at the inner edge of the bench, Vijay and Brad pop up where there ought to be nothing but soil meeting rock. The top of the ravine the girl mentioned earlier, Jack wonders? It doesn't matter. They sprint towards the glowing machine, Vijay running with the superhuman strength of his legs, only feet away from the device in seconds, Brad falling well back. Not-Naomi turns and waves her hand; the boys are frozen. Now that's a problem, but the effect is weak, and Gavis Gan counters it partly.]
Vijay: "So I can't run. Problem solved, right? Wrong!"  [He seems so young right now, even to a 29-year-old's eyes. His smile is bright as the Sun, his every move lithe like a natural athlete's as he reaches into his Champions-issue tights and pulls out a dagger. Purely for show he throws it neatly from hand to hand, then hurls it, straight and unerring across the 4 meters now separating him from the machine, muscles rippling under his tunic. Kwan's machine explodes in a tictinic flair, engulfing Vijay as Suit fires up its projector and maps the effect onto the Amazing Spleen. It will only last a second, but that will be more than enough if Earthnet is right.

And it seems that it is, because, released from the stasis, the Furious Fist legsweeps Kwan into not-Naomi. They tumble into the time machine, the Fist kicking them down into submission. One last sweep of his eyes across the battlefield, until they lock on the Avenging Daughter.

Henry: "To know that I will be your father made me happier than I have ever been; I'm so proud of you, girl. And your sister, too. I will bear my guilt for the death of your lovers, always. I will be with you again before the end."  [The time machine glows gently and disappears, before reappearing with Rebecca Hirsch and a boy, a Mandaarian, the glowing hair of his head shining in the nimbus of Jack's receding hologram. Behind it, lying on an ancient, illegible, worn gravestone  is Vijay's burnt body, and, over him, Brad futilely, knowing that it is futile, pumping green, glowing light into it.]

Miriam: "Naomi!"
May: "Vijay!" 

This is the twentieth' installment in my Champions Universe fan fiction focussing on Philadelphia's Liberty Legion, and the seventh installment of the second arc unless I rewrite it to put it between "Jenny's End, Part Two" and "Jenny's End, Part Two, Two," in which case it will be an embedded arc.!

This episode at least doesn't use more  published characters from the extended Champions Universe. It does have two magical MacGuffins, the Mandragalore and the Basilisk Orb..

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