Also, all the posts flagged as Spam incoming back to me, so... um... yeah. That. If you want to read this and it didn't show up, follow the links below or check your spam filter. Thanks.
This is set in May, 1996 -- similarly to the last ALU Interstitial and the Bruce arc. Astute folks will realize Twisted Reflections itself wasn't started until 1997, which I explain coherently by saying 'shut up' and sticking my fingers in my ears.
JOEL and Dangerousgirl's involvement were always a big part of the plan. We'll hit on why below, but those two were worked out in part back in the 90's, then fleshed out a lot in the 2000s. A lot of the specifics come from our discussions at the start of the League, when Maria, Roger, Cairi and Alice are all in my cast and a lot of tension remains. In fact, this is the post where the Mobsters who join my cast officially make the jump, because of reasons only I care about.
The 2000s was roughly when Jenny and JOEL ended up having a romantic angle, and there are hints of it in the League.
I pause here to mention Jenny is as much Chris Meadows's character as anyone's. While she also falls in the purview of 'I get to use her guilt free in the League and beyond,' Chris can use her in any way he wants at any time he wants because he owns half her character. The nanite half, it's implied. I'll talk a bit about the character 'home' weirdness below.
I'll also mention that I dearly love the Secret Life of Digital Intelligences we see glimpses of now and again -- JOEL's steamier escapades with the Solutions CIs have been mentioned before, for example. Also, I'm pretty sure digital intelligences essentially own everything and write all the books in 000SUPERGUY.
Roger did indeed offer to cook Dani chicken and take her on a picnic in Mason's Mazing Mob #12. And she was indeed pretty stoked there.
I actually expect that Dani's right when she says Samantha Ward's the prettiest female Academy student (insert caveat about heteronormative expectations of beauty/societal and cultural biases etc). Transit may be second, but then that could also be Dani despite what she says, or Summer, or Maria, or others. I'd go over the most traditionally handsome by masculine societal expectation Acadelites, but that answer's Kid Electron and that doesn't make anyone very happy.
Dani's bagel addiction has come up before.
As Random Encounters says later, Maria was supposed to throw the other teams off the scent when Jenny went down. That was a little out of Maria's core competency.
One thing of note -- this is (at least chronologically) the first time Dangerousgirl is something other than the headstrong kid sister. If this post is the bridge between the Mobsters moving into the League cast, it's also the point where Dani takes her first clear step towards the heroine Hazard is in the 2000s. This is Dani's level-up post -- her first time when she's really got to be in charge, and keep her head about her even though she's upset at Roger being in danger.
Contacting Summer and having her be at Team M.E.C.H.A.'s ex base visiting her brother during a downtime was Mason's idea -- in the time frame this took place, she was officially a member of the Mob -- and one that honestly I don't think Maria had good dirt that could be used to take her down. I sure as Hell don't know how they could have done it. They told her she'd be kept in the loop. Obviously she was.
Momentum and Healer -- if we're talking bridges, this is also where we start to see Alice and Lil start to actually, you know, like each other as people. But then, this is a pretty significant post for Alice.
Transit's sixty to seventy mile limit is up slightly from the fifty-to-sixty mile limit she had in ALU #100. The North/South thing is because the planet's rotation happens at different relative speeds the further you get north or south of the equator, so Trans needs to crunch that number and adjust relative velocity to match. East/West there's *way* less of that, so she can go farther.
As with mentioning Connie and Sheen in the prologue, we mention teleporter extraordinaire Susan Stymer of Solutions here -- I remain the king of mentioning Tad Simmons characters offhandedly. I'm a little disappointed I didn't shoehorn Qwintor in there somewhere. I just really love the idea that one of the biggest, most prominent superteams with the greatest impact on the world of Superguy almost never appeared on screen after 1989 or so.
Dani actually telling someone else to not run off half-cocked is both a sign of maturity in our young heroine and hysterically funny. That Dani never really gets over massive overconfidence doesn't help that.
The requisite reminder -- full time students can't go on missions except on carefully supervised exceptions. Part-time students/heroes attending for professional development (like the Mob) are heroes and can do what they want -- this despite Alice herself being on legal probation assigned to Phobos and Healer. Thus Fridge -- who's in her twenties here, and has been an actual hero since 1989 and *isn't* a criminal serving out a sentence -- can't go help, but Alice, who's been doing this for, like, an hour and *is* a criminal *can.* Because, that's why.
This is complicated by Dangerousgirl, who *herself* is a Probationary ALU member. By the book, she's not allowed on missions without a full team member. And no, Healer doesn't count. As it works out, she skirts that restriction nicely, but still.
It's also worth noting neither Mandy nor Healer have the authority to tell Dangerousgirl she *can't* go. Which is the point Dani makes here.
Okay, here it gets unpleasant, and I should talk a bit about credit.
The Mob, as mentioned before, has already been brought down. Here's your convenient checklist, as well as whose idea it was:
- Mental: Maria directly told him he was dreaming, then hit him with one of Random Encounters's telepathic summonses, throwing him into his dream fugue. She then drove a railway spike into his gut. He literally constructed an illusion wherein his entire life was a cruel lie and he was dying in the wasteland he spent decades trapped in, while the cats waited to eat him. This was Mason's. I, admittedly, decided to use an Intellect Devourer, even though that's not really an appropriate monster for this, because Jeez, man. It's a four-legged brain.
- Mime Man: Tricked into acting out the 'trapped in a shrinking invisible box' mime schtick, which in his case is literally deadly because he has no way to turn it off. This was entirely Mason's, originally developed for a different story, which he was then turning to this purpose.
- Hellfire: Nailed with a liquid/solid nitrogen slurry which was then sucked into a tank durable enough to not burst as the nitrogen expanded. Based on stuff Mason and I did as a thought experiment once, but it -- and the resin coffin thing -- were mine. Hellfire's hard, because she effectively *can't* be destroyed. The irony? This would leave Hellfire in permanent *completely* sensory deprivation, meaning Maria was cursing her with a worse form of her own condition.
- Phobos: It's mentioned that Maria shattered his armor -- as by policy I don't directly depict Phobos (though I skirted very closely), I didn't go further into it. It'll get explained in more detail in the denouement post.
- Roger and Bonus Melody: Melody was an ad hoc addition, but Maria knew their connection. This is entirely mine. I mentioned the burnt card to Mason, but he was dubious. Regardless -- bound by the last thing Roger touched and their link, with the ritual destroying their souls. In effect, this is meant to be kind of a Beetlejuice "this is what exorcism does -- this is dying for the dead" thing. Pretty horrifying.
- Samantha: Mine, worked out with Mason. There were references to this going back to the League -- memories of Samantha's near-death are part of Maria's ongoing PTSD. She has an anaphylactic reaction made worse by her reaching an epipen only to learn it was spiked with worse allergens. What is Samantha allergic to? Neither Mason nor I had any idea. We decided she was deadly allergic to the point of needing to carry an epi-pen... to 'allergens.' Which is only slightly better than blaming Alien Spores, which I considered. This is the one that is second most personally horrifying to me.
- Momentum: Doctor Watt being enlisted to bring his disposable speedster students (why do people keep *taking his classes?*) to counter Momentum's speed, followed by electronic psi screamers to trigger her intense psi phobia. Subverted by the fact that it wasn't Momentum they hit. This was joint between Mason and I and was always kind of the key to the beginning of Random Encounters's failure.
- Jenny: Nailed by Doctor Unstable who was trying to extract the bits of her she got from Summer. Were those actually nanites as he says? I have no idea. He thinks they were. The core idea was Mason's, Doctor Unstable was mine -- he had originally wanted to use Doctor Unorthodox, which I was okay with -- but it doesn't work in the ALU timeline. If we ever get to see Twisted Reflections's actual finale and Doctor Unorthodox is here, that's cool by me.
- Mighty Dog: Held under a hydraulic press holding a red hot heliumite 'Mighty Dog Dog Food' branding iron. The worst thing I have ever suggested happening to a dog. It nauseates me to think about it. As it works out, *this* comes from John "Alacrity" Bankert, creator of Superm00se and Round Robin and Rialto Stalwart... let me explain in a new paragraph.
I told him to go for it -- that it'd be hilarious. Then I noticed Gary looking funnily at the two of us. I asked him why. "Why," I asked, proving me right.
"Have you checked the list today?" he said, smirking.
"No?" we both said.
"Ah. Here." He let us use his terminal. Because that's how we did it back then, kids. TERMINALS! But I digress.
On the screen? A new Author named Mason, declaring himself a Young Fart. And his story of Mighty Dog, and his best friend Timmy, AKA Best Friend.
And Bankert and I stared at the screen for a long moment. "Well," John finally said. "Fuck *me* I guess."
(For the record, Bankert and I were amused, not mad, and later on did much teasing of Mason over this.)
Back to the notes....
Roger and Melody make mention of the search for Melody's son, since that's why she was there, and also mention that 'Art,' meaning Cuisinart, was off doing a Thing. Which wasn't what Mason had intended -- Cuisinart was going to be a part of the Spoiling of the Plot, that being part of why he was there -- but I wasn't comfortable going there for a number of reasons. There'll be more about *this* in the denouement too.
Jenny, as mentioned, has been dead before. One gets the feeling this time would have been worse. And also? Doctor Unstable is a terrible human being who should die horribly. Which, as it turns out, he does at the end of "A View of Genocide: The Ballad of Richard Less." Also, I want bonus points for referencing the OSI model.
Okay. The counterattack. The 'Momentum' being trapped by Doctor Watt actually being an unamused and very untrapped Dash? Mason's idea. He asked permission for this *early,* same with using Healer and Dangerousgirl. I think he liked making Doctor Watt make the 'oh poopie' face. This was teased when Dani said that recalling the Dash was the easiest of all the team -- especially when they needed to get down there quickly. The Dash has the speed to do it.
I may never have officially said this: I loathe writing the Dash's dialogue. This is why she and Mike can interact normally in the current ALU run. And why Healer could (barely) filter her thoughts so they could communicate to make plans. Also, since she's there Dani's not breaking the rules -- but because she can't effectively command in the field Dani has to call the shots. No, Healer can't do it. She's not *on* that team. And this is officially an ALU thing.
As has been said before, Dani can't fly -- in City of Heroes terms, she has Superleap. And she freaking *loves* it. In an open area, she'll *always* blast herself skyward. In effect, she's a living Project Orion rocket.
I like the acknowledgement that Maria can pwn Dani. Dani's overconfident, not stupid. Which again -- sign that she's becoming the hero she will be.
Momentum being forced into think-talking and watching Healer do stuff -- and learning about Healer in the process and seeing a bit of the world she's never seen. Momentum has a *lot* of evolving to do before she's the character often called Alice Mercury in "The League." Literal evolving. She makes her first steps here.
Random Encounters loses his crap when he learns Dangerousgirl and Roger are a thing, because... well, his whole thing is summoning the random as his ally. Unexpected twists? Mean random is turned against him. Not knowing about Dangerousgirl's interest -- or JOEL's interest in Jenny -- were the keys to his ultimate defeat in this their last battle.
Random Encounters also discounts Healer because she's a telepath and technically speaking his summons don't have minds. Because Random Encounters is a blowhard idiot who believes his own hype. Please note I haven't nor will I use the secret identity name that Mason gave him. I see no reason it would be necessary.
Maria's only thoughts are Sensation. Honestly, her only thoughts are Sensation's *powers.* We've hammered the theme a bit here and in the League, but Maria is an *addict.* He gave her something she had lost turned up to 11, and now she craves it. He's not her lover or even her master -- even if he treats her like a possession. He's her *fix.* Also, she had some vague disquiet about Phobos's armor -- Phobos having been her crush for roughly forever -- and Samantha... but Dani? She has no hesitation at all. She's *so* ready to beat Dani into pulp and get some sweet stimulus as a reward.
Compare and Contrast with the League, where Dani and Maria (and Cairi) have matching jackets and cliquey poses. Life's funny, sometimes.
There's been a progression with these posts, to note. In ALU, Healer was stuck at home while the ALU went to space. Then there was the CalForce breakup and the Interstitial -- which included Trudy asking if Healer still carried around her spy gear. She didn't actually answer, but we saw her gear up in her old MIB suit *afterward.* Now, in this mission, she's got all the stuff and she's going in heavy spy mode. Why? Admittedly, this is in part because for years I kept *forgetting* to use this stuff for Elizabeth. But there really is a character arc here. One that'll come out more in the denouement.
I mentioned above, Momentum has the right to be on this mission despite everything. Healer is a veteran hero of course, and her teacher, and her probation officer, but she had no right to leave her home.
It was easy to think of Sensation as just being Maria's fix, but it was important he be a danger all on his own. Also, it's always nice to remember that unlike Dangerousman, Dangerousgirl has been trained to *not* use her powers if she can't concentrate enough to use them without disaster. There are no acceptable losses in her training.
Of course, then the Unimaginable League Amoral completely brainwashes a new personality into her during the war and she kills millions, but hey -- blood will tell, right? I digress.
Note that Dani is in big trouble -- unable to concentrate enough to effectively use her powers, unable to block Maria's attack, and she's still pretty quippy. Overconfidence has its uses.
It's the Mob. Of course RC Cola becomes a tactical weapon. One thing I liked about this post was it was a chance for someone else to see how Healer does things. Normally when I write her -- setting aside my inability to remember her gadgets -- we see her from the point of view of the people she's fighting, which means mostly illusion. Alice is our first chance to *see* Elizabeth causing the bad guys to unload their weapons without realizing it.
As stated above? Maria is *into* killing Dani with her bare hands. Why? Because Dani spent *years* being the snotty pretty upperclassman looking down on the Brats and having some of that bleed over into her interactions with the Mob. Albeit not her interactions with Phobos, Mental, Dreamwea-- oh who am I kidding. Roger. She was always nice to Roger.
It's worth noting? Dangerousgirl is *five.* She had knowledge and personality programmed into her, but human interaction took a little while. She's better at this point, but Maria -- who's never been a huge fan of pretty girls who take the Mobsters away from looking at her or seducing Phobos with their STUPID DOE EYES AND RED HAIR RED HAIR IS *NOTHING,* *SUMMER!* -- had a lot of resentment built up. By the time the League rolls around, she's gotten much better and projects it all onto Kid-E instead.
Maria has issues.
Dani uses her brain. She then uses as blatant a City of Heroes Taunt as I've ever seen, and Maria falls for it. Though maybe she shouldn't be accusing people of being five as a bad thing. Seriously, though -- that's some Dragonlance Kender shit going on there.
Fanservice is Fanservicey. That said, there at least was a reason for it -- take away Maria's friction-enhancing textiles and she has trouble standing up, much less getting out of a smooth bowl.
Dani is also something of a dick. But then, Maria tried to kill Roger and the others, so she was ticked off.
Gary actually used Healer's credit card lockpicks before. Momentum's growing sense of her surroundings finally catches Healer's attention. Also, more Alice/Lil dialogue makes me happy. It's worth noting the banter isn't so much teacher/student here, either. Which is actually kind of a good thing because squicky is bad.
Again -- keeping the Dash out of things. But I also loved the idea that up on the fourth floor, *way* away from all the actual action, the Dash hits every D&D wandering monster/cheap trap cliche known to man. When we first were discussing this, I asked Mason how he meant to keep the Dash from ending everything. He raised both his eyebrows (we were in the same room) and innocently said "before or after she runs smack into the gelatinous cube?"
Also, because she can't talk to people, I've never had a chance to really explore Nerd Jane. This makes me sad, because I love Nerd Jane. Jane has no cool in her entire oversped body.
I actually have no idea if Jenny is short for Jennifer. I suspect it isn't. Remind me to ask Chris.
The Sega Dreamcast was released in 1998 in Japan, 1999 in Europe and the United States. Not only is this set in 1996, we know Doctor Unstable is killed in January of 1998, months before it was released. And yet. It occurs to me we know almost nothing about Doctor Unstable.
Healer's the expert, Momentum's the newbie. This comes out here, which is cool. And then Healer flashes her so she can get her explodey things out, though I tried to *not* make it quite so fanservicey as, say, Maria. But you will notice their battlefield banter isn't particularly teacher/student either. I have notes from Mason where some of this dialogue actually comes from -- I might or might not have included the bra strap thing otherwise, except it's such a weirdly perfect Lil/Alice moment.
For the record? I've been writing JOEL's dialogue since 1993. 1991 if you count the Xolchipalian dude who isn't a computer. This is literally the first time I feel like I've *ever* gotten it right. I think it's because I read Joel Hodgson's #BringBackMST3K updates out loud to Weds for her entertainment and because I'm weird. Regardless, MIKE in the League is way easier to write.
JOEL using the holographic lasers offensively was Mason's idea.
JOEL wasn't exaggerating, by the way. He honestly had no idea if Doctor Unstable would survive Xolchaporting through these quad-readers which then *transmatted* the signal to Unstable's base and then sent him through I assume Comcast Cable. He knew Jenny would be safe because that was mostly a digital transmission and he put all his runtime into making sure she'd be okay. Doctor Unstable was an afterthought.
I'm not positive Fridge is supposed to be freezing evil mad scientists unsupervised, but what can you do?
Dangerousgirl versus Sensation Part Two -- because I really did want to make it clear Sensation was A) a threat and B) a terrible person. There's a reason he wanted these powers so badly -- and pretty girls rebuffing him's on the list, along with people generally not revering him. Y'know, he'd be a sociopath only sociopaths are usually smart.
Had this been Dangerous*MAN,* I suspect Sensation could have beaten his head in. Dangerousgirl's bone density has been growing and her body's strength and ability to resist damage have improved with each year. I made mention of her being the spiritual sister of Dangerousman and Spandex Babe alike here, but what should be implicit here is she's gotten more than Lars's *powers.* The nuclear reactions constantly churning under her skin replace the ridiculon based quantum absurdity constantly churning under Dianna's, but they're very similar, otherwise. I think that Dianna's somewhat stronger without her uniform than Dani is, but only somewhat. (With the uniform there's no comparison, of course.)
Oh, did I mention Dianna and Dani are Choctaw? Anywhere? Since the early 90s? *Anywhere?* No? They are. There's actually a Historical Superguy I plotted out featuring their ancestor being forced off her land.
Otherwise, this was largely my bit though Mason fed info about Sensation back in the day.
Technically, Hellfire is naked too, but she's pretty much flame-wrapped so you can't tell. Lot of naked in this one.
I admit it. I like the Field of External Denial. And yeah, it's mine. However, Momentum's kicking to 'Ludicrous speed' to save Samantha from being shot was all Mason. Admittedly in part because she'd had the perceptual breakthroughs before. The golden light, the pulling Dreamweaver and the Twins out, the nearly falling in herself -- all Mason's concepts and ideas.
Maria begins to lose it. Withdrawal's a terrible thing.
Just like she shouted Spandex Babe in emulation of her sister's discipline, Dani stomps her foot to get the gumption to force her hand into the field, because her brother's the toughest ever, man. Dani reveres her family.
Also, Dani telling Roger in no uncertain terms he wasn't going to die without taking her on a picnic and frying her up some chicken may be my favorite Dani moment to date. Also, because I belabor the obvious -- Dangerousgirl essentially walked through fire to save her loved one. Roger gets his moments in the sun up ahead, but right now Roger's Lois and Dani's Superman and Roger is okay with this.
The Roger/Melody possession merge was something we batted about. The imagery is all mine -- and is more than a little evocative of Roger's later 'Parvenu' uniform in the League. Fanservice-ish a little, but a la Pretty Cure so only so far. Also -- I really like Roger/Melody. I wish there was a decent way to do a lot more of the merge-form.
Yes, this is Roger and Dani's first kiss. And Hellfire's right -- it's pandering, but it also says something. Dani loves -- I think we can use that word at this point -- Roger. Not his golem form. The spirit himself. If Roger's tangible body is currently female? Dani's into it. Male? Into it. If it's Roger, she's into it. Melody? Hey, she likes Melody fine. And Melody herself? Not exactly a prude. When we reach the League and Roger and Dani are married, we know they're a bit... well, they share a bit too much, let's just say.
Yes, Sensation's name has always been Thomas Edison. Why? No clue. That's all Mason.
You may have noticed I try to avoid writing the name 'Christina' these days, in discussing Hellfire/Incandescence. There are times it fits too well, though, and Tim falling into despair in his nightmare was one of them. Not that 'Christina' was the hardest name to write, there. All this was Mason's bit. I was a bit desperate to get Amanda and Ray's names into this thing, I'll admit -- Maria got to mention her too, of course.
The cats, man. The cats.
Mental saves Charlie. And in a lot of ways, this is the point when this becomes a Mob story. The ALU members are mostly done what they needed to do, leaving the Mob to do the real job. This... is actually more me than Mason -- Mason had wanted the Mob involved, but also saw this as them being bailed out -- that this was part of what made it hurt.
And I can see that, and I hope against hope someday to read it, but if I'm doing the actual scripting then this is the Mob's story, period.
*That* being said, the Tim/Charlie Mighty Dog/Best Friend callback was Mason's, even as the trap was mine based on Bankert.
Yeah, "Liz" can understand "Sam's" frustration.
Maria's resentment of her friends didn't start with Sensation, and it's good to remember that. There was a core of "it's not fair" to all of this. She's in a very dark place.
Dani breaks Mime Man out. This was Mason's, for the record. Random Encounters couldn't prepare for the idea the Mob had friends and loved ones, so he loses. I also used it as an excuse to put Dani out of the rest of the fight -- but really, she's done quite a lot. Give her a hand, folks.
A blast of photonic energy taking out the gun. Yup. The *whole* Mob is part of this.
So, here's a thing. The destruction of the dice was planned... but this execution was entirely mine. Mason's thought had been for Dangerousgirl to destroy them instead. But for me... under the circumstances....
Random Encounters was their greatest enemy -- the one who did them the most damage over time. The ultimate foe. Given everything... this had to be *their* win, in my mind. Combined. As a team. I think it was justified. If that seems presumptuous, assume that it was a fever dream and Dani did it instead.
One school of writing likes what's called the false climax -- you get to the moment of victory, only for it to turn at the last second and there's a whole new, worse threat instead. That's what we have here -- the Mob have beaten Random Encounters, but he's willing to sacrifice himself to kill them all at this point.
The dragon. The moment of doom. The missiles. Summer Summer Summer Summer Summer. Summer was a member *of the Mob* at this one specific point in time -- there was never a question but that she would be part of this. This was all Mason.
Also, Chekhov's Principle of Sentient Slightly Sensitive Guns states that if a Sentient Slightly Sensitive Gun is put on the mantlepiece of the first chapter it must be fired in the third. In the original, this would have been Phobos instead of Roger/Melody, which is why we have the closest 'on screen' of Phobos I'm capable of right now. Nevertheless, Phobos and Summer learned this trick earlier in the Mob run, so of course it had to be used here. (I'm not positive that Summer needed Phobos to visualize the effect, but I wanted the callback so there.) Also, even if I didn't want Dani to take out the other dice, the last, most powerful die is blown up by Summer so let's call it good, maybe?
For the record, in scripting this section I put the "climactic moment" music from "The Avengers" on autorepeat. For my money, Summer bursting out of the clouds is the ultimate crowning moment of awesome in this story, for the Mob as a whole. Especially since we'd seemingly disposed of her in part one with a brief mention -- which would have been a crime. As she says later, they hurt her friends, the man she loves, and her daughter. Screw Dangerousgirl saving Roger, Summer was going to *own* this.
The death of Sensation and Maria losing it and nearly killing Random Encounters... hm. Certainly we knew Sensation was a dead man walking. I'm honestly not sure which of us decided Maria had to be the one to beat the tar out of Random Encounters, but it makes sense -- she was needed to get through the field, after all.
Also, Random Encounters mentions that only Hellfire and Reflects survived the processes by which he empowered villains. Which means all the fodder he sent after them are dead. Not a nice man. And of course, why did Hellfire and Reflect survive?
Dreamweaver's taking down Maria was mine. Everyone else had at least one Moment -- an act that made them heroes instead of victims or targets. Samantha -- who really is the heart of the team -- had to have her's too.
So, as stated, there's a denouement post that follows this, which hopefully will come out soon. After that... aside from the future League members I get to have the Mob guest star through the end of the ALU Bruce arc, plus flashbacks to the war, but otherwise that'll be that. I obviously will continue to write Cairi, Roger, Melody (where I can), Jenny (half, anyway), Maria, Susan, Alice and Buddy in the League. I suspect Burt, Charlie, Tim and Samantha -- and any Realm Nocturne doings -- will best be referred to Chris Angelini, and Phobos's references et al will largely get coordinated through Chris Meadows, who'll still have the other side of Jenny. (Musical sting.)