Retcon Midnight
Chapter Five: "A Single Ray in Time"

by Mike Escutia, Russ Allbery, and David Anastasion
© 1994

We have all seen pictures of the Earth from orbit; a brilliant blue-green globe hanging amidst the darkness of space. We study astronomy in school and know intellectually that that globe is indeed our entire planet — that all of our lives, our friends, our history and ideals are contained within that one spinning ball — but emotionally it is just a pretty picture. It is too hard to think of Earth as a planet — as just one, very vulnerable astral body in a galaxy filled with uncountable similar worlds. Earth is reality; it is all of existance. It is permanent, solid, and unchanging.

It is no more.


Windrider perched on the back of an unoccupied chair in the control room of the Drizztsat. Ahead, at the main console, the Drizzt quickly manipulated controls, moving the Drizztsat slowly back towards the remnants of Earth. Drifter stood towards the back of the room, gripping the back of a chair with one hand and watching the viewscreen intently. The LNHers were scattered throughout the room, some sitting, some standing, and all trying to understand what has just happened.

Windrider relaxed, opening his mind to the emotions of the others in the room. He touched his link with Drifter briefly, and got a response of determination, mingled with only a little fading shock. Pliable Lad was also not as affected; he never considered this Earth to be his world. His surface emotions were full of determination and desire to return to his correct timeline.

Quickly, Windrider sorted through the impressions he was receiving from the other minds in the room. Curly and Gestalt Lad — such a peculiar mixture of brains and brawn — were both still in shock. Gestalt Lad was trying to grasp the idea that those floating rocks were all that remained of his life. Curly seemed confused; used to always having a target for his rage and energy, he was suddenly adrift.

Organic Lass was a credit to her training. She had already set aside the destruction of the planet as something that she couldn't deal with or do anything about. She sat, watching the screen, and mentally worked out the chances of survivors and if there would be any way of helping them. Kid Chivalry stood, his hands on the back of a chair, his rapiers still against his side. His eyes were fixed on the viewscreen; one hand moved instinctively as if clutching a sword in salute to a dying Earth.

Rebel Yell was the only LNHer to show no reaction whatsoever. His emotions were tightly locked away behind a steel wall, and his eyes were empty and distant, staring at nothing. Abruptly, he turned toward the Drizzt.

"Is he dead?"

Without looking up from the controls, the Drizzt answered, his voice calm and emotionless. "It is highly unlikely that Continuity Champ would have survived the explosion."

"No, no." Rebel Yell looked vaguely impatient. "Dr. Armaggeddon. Is he dead?"

The Drizzt turned away from the control panel momentarily, giving Rebel Yell an analyzing look. "There are no life sign readings on the planet."

"Good."

For just a moment, the wall cracked. Windrider felt Yell's utter hatred for the person who cruelly ripped his life away and destroyed it. Under the anger is a despair so complete and overwhelming that Windrider pulled back, deeply disturbed. Yell turned away from the viewscreen, shoving his emotions down and rebuilding the wall. He regained control, but it was much more tenuous than before. With a shock, Windrider realized that Rebel Yell was slowly going insane.

The Drizzt turned away from the control panel toward the LNHers. "I've located the Ring of Continuity, but it may be difficult to retreive. It is near the center of the asteroid field, and the field is far too dense for me to maneuver the Drizztsat through it.

==Drifter and I can handle it,== Windrider broadsent. ==Where is the Ring?==

The Drizzt changed several settings, and the scene on the main viewport rapidly zoomed in toward the remains of the Earth, moving around or through the rock, until a metallic gleam was visible in the center of the screen.

Windrider reached out with a mental probe, automatically identifying and shielding out the minds around him, and searched in the direction that the viewscreen zoomed. The ring was not hard to find. It virtually screamed its power to the heavens, along with an almost child-like desire for a wielder. Windrider noticed that like many other items of power, it had acquired a certain amount of simplistic sentience.

He opened a private channel with Drifter. ==I need you to open a portal. Don't worry about where; I can take you to the right spot. Just open a small portal and open the other end here inside the Drizztsat.==

--Okay.--

Windrider guided Drifter out along the probe to a place just short of the Ring. ==Open it here.== As the green circle flashed open, Windrider solidified his probe and gives the Ring a slight tug. A green portal opened in the center of the room and the Ring dropped about two feet until Windrider caught it mentally and held it, slightly rotating, in mid-air.

The Ring reached out to its new owner and seemed slightly puzzled when all of its efforts to turn this person into a new wielder were blocked. Windrider watched its struggles slightly amused, but also wary; were it not for a Wanderer's immunity to the lure of personal power, he would find it very difficult to resist the temptation. That, however, was also the problem; because of that immunity, he could not use the Ring himself.

The Drizzt turned, studying the Ring for a moment, and then looked at Windrider. As their eyes met, a silent question hung in the room. Windrider reached out again to try to probe the Drizzt, and again could feel nothing. Either his shielding was phenomenal, or he simply thought in some way that could not be probed. There was no choice, though; he was the only one able to use the Ring as necessary.

The Ring dropped silently into the Drizzt's outstretched palm.


Space: the final frontier.

Pliable Lad didn't believe that line for a minute.

He was standing in one of the rec lounges on the Drizztsat, looking out the viewing portal at the stars. He was on the non-planetary side of the satellite, so he was spared the sight of the asteroid belt that was once the Earth. He wasn't sure if he could deal with that just yet; he had too much on his mind as it was.

Is space really the final frontier? he wondered. I've been in the astral realm, visited the Library of Infinite Stories, encountered a counterpart of myself from another dimension, dealt with an LNHHQ transformed...into an office building, travelled through various realities as nothing more than a phantom, and now I'm in an alternate Looniverse where I never existed. I've read Sig.Lad and Doctor Stomper's papers on multiple realities, and I've even met people who can travel between them. Hell, I once had lunch with Constellation (one of the few times he had grabbed a meal, I might add)! I don't think I can honestly say that space is the final frontier...at least not with the knowledge I possess.

But, if space isn't the final frontier... he pondered, then what is?

"Penny for your thoughts?"

Pli turned around, half expecting to see Tour Guide Girl. Gestalt Lad stood in the doorway, his arms folded across his chest. His purple-and-blue costume was dirty and torn, and his brown hair was in desperate need of a combing.

"Oh, just thinking, Gestalt Lad," Pli said with a sigh. The sigh wasn't entirely sincere; it served to mask the uneasiness Pli felt. In the reality he knew as home, Gestalt Lad had mysteriously disappeared after his arrival at LNHHQ, only to return as a crazed villain called Jestalt. He had tried to kill both Pli and their Author, Ergh — until he accidentally merged with a statue.

Of course, all that was before Retcon Hour hit, bringing a heroic Gestalt Lad to the LNH. Pli wondered if Gestalt Lad would still be there after Retcon Hour.

A thought struck Pli. When wReamicus Maximus had retconned him out of the Looniverse, reality reshaped itself around the Pliable Lad-sized holes. At the time, reality happened to include Gestalt Lad. Could this be why Gestalt Lad was even here in this reality? Pli shuddered inwardly at the thought of how different things could easily be had Gestalt Lad remained as Jestalt.

"So...tell me about the real now," Gestalt Lad said.

"Well, it's pretty much like it was here before...you know," Pli said, careful not to actually say Dr. Armaggeddon's name. "The LNH has more members...lots more members...Rebel Yell hasn't returned yet, Curly's still without his intelligence...stuff like that." A gut feeling told Pli not to tell Gestalt Lad about his counterpart.

"I'm there, right?" Gestalt Lad asked.

Damn, Pli thought.

There was an awkward moment of silence as Pli struggled to decide what to say.

"...................Sort of."

"Well, um, you see...well, you know how people can be different in alternate realities..." Pli stammered.

Gestalt Lad's arms dropped to his sides. "Go on. You can tell me."

"You're a villain in the other reality."

His eyes downcast, Gestalt Lad rested his head against the wall.

"...but you may be a hero now," Pli added quickly.

"Buh?" Gestalt Lad responded.

"It um...you were...are...a retcon. As a hero, that is. I'm sorry," Pli said sympathetically.

"Damn..." Gestalt Lad said. "Y'know, I never did fit in. Even now, I don't."

"I...I don't quite understand," Pli said.

"Look at us...look at the remains of the LNH. We're led by Rebel Yell, who's just incredible at rallying us together and keeping us together. There's Kid Chivalry and his swordsmanship skills, Cannon Fodder and his healing ability, Organic Lass and her medical skills, and Curly and his great strength.

"And then there's me. What do I do? I merge with people. Not very useful, is it?"

"That's where you're wrong," Pli said. "Every superpower is useful in some way. Maybe not in the most obvious way, but in some way. How was Curly kept under control before he regained his intelligence?"

"Well...if he was needed for a mission, I'd merge with him and control the gestalt," Gestalt Lad said.

"There you go. Your power is useful."

Gestalt Lad pondered this revelation for a minute. "Whoa...I get your point now. But...if I'm a villain in the correct reality, will I revert to being a villain again when we put history back on course?"

This caught Pli by surprise. "I...I don't know."

"It is a mystery, isn't it?" Pli and Gestalt Lad turned to see the Drizzt standing in the doorway, his hands clasped behind his back and his feet apart.

"You mean...you know what will..." Gestalt Lad began.

"I didn't say that, did I?" the cosmic being said. "Besides, it's rather...overshadowed by the bigger problem at hand. Pliable Lad, I need to speak with you in private," he said, glancing at Gestalt Lad.

"I'll be with the others," Gestalt Lad said as he left the room.

"What did you want to talk to me about?" Pli asked after a moment.

"Actually, I just wanted to give you this," the Drizzt said, producing a box from behind his back. "I figured it would give you a moral boost." Pli took the box and carefully opened it.

It was his costume.

"How did you...?" Pli began.

"Find it? My computer just happened to have pics of most of the LNH on file. From there, it was a matter of programming my clothing-generating machine," the Drizzt said.

"Ah," Pli said, mentally deciding not to pursue the issue.

"Besides, that 'Kid Unknown' garb just isn't you." Pli looked down at the costume he was wearing — the one he had made when he was infiltrating the LNH to stop the Master of the Net — and agreed.

"When you have changed, come to the control room and we will see about getting this mess straightened out." And with that, the Drizzt turned and left the room.


Some time later, Pli returned to the control room wearing his own costume. The LNHers turned to look at him and several of them nodded silently. His own costume looked somehow more right.

Pli stopped in front of the Drizzt. "Okay, I think I'm ready."

The Drizzt gave him a measuring glance and then nodded. "I can send you back in time to just before the retcon happens, but what you do at that point is up to you. If you are successful, continuity will return to its correct path and no one will have any memories of this timeline. Success should also release enough energy to push you forward in time again. I have no idea what will happen if you fail."

Pli looked around at the other LNHers. Their eyes are full of encouragement and desperate hope. Kid Chivalry reached out his hand. "Good luck."

Taking a deep breath, Pli turned back to the Drizzt. "Let's go."

The Drizzt looked down at the Ring in his hand and then slowly slid it onto his finger. The Ring began to softly glow, and Windrider felt that it was content. Whether that was because the Drizzt had let it do what it wanted or if it he had somehow dealt with it another way was impossible to determine.

Looking up at Pliable Lad, the Drizzt closed his fist. The Ring began to build up power. The energy coursing through the room was obvious, as if the air were thick with invisible sparks flying off every surface. Pliable Lad began to glow with an unearthly light, and he felt strange shivers run down his spine. The power continued to grow, and the light got so bright that the other LNHers had to avert their eyes. Then, with a final flash, Pliable Lad disappeared.

There was a long silence before Kid Chivalry spoke. "What do we do now?"

The Drizzt turned back to the control console. "We wait."


It looked for all intents and purposes like a rainbow someone had bent into a cylindrical shape. Red was on top, violet to its left. There were no ends; the cylider continued on in both directions. What looked like lightning arced from one end to the other.

Propelled by the energies of the Ring of Continuity, Pliable Lad flew through the timestream, on a rendezvous with his past. The Drizzt had said he would automatically arrive at a point just before the retcon wave would hit. After that, it was up to him.

His thoughts flashed back to what Windrider had told him: The Looniverse shifted, but you did not change... You must remember that as long as you remember who you are, you cannot be affected by manipulation of the time stream.

Suddenly, several arcs of lightning seemed to converge at a point in front of him, forming a patch of energy that directly blocked his path. Instinctively he knew that this was it: the gateway that would bring him out of the timestream at the precise time he needed to be at. His face set in determination, he flew threw the portal...

And found himself in a featureless gray void. He immediately recognized it as the Astral Realm, and began looking about for 'landmarks'.

There were none.

And then he saw it in the distance. A green dot, barely noticable on the gray backdrop. As it approached, he noticed that it had become a single beam of focused energy, sent through time for one purpose and one purpose only.

To retcon.

Pli followed its trajectory, and saw what looked like a pod of some sort barreling in the opposite direction, on a collision course with the beam. On closer inspection, it looked remarkably like Spock's funeral pod from Star Trek II, but Pli knew what it really was. Who it really was. It was Pli himself, on the journey that would bring him into the Looniverse, the LNH, and his new life.

Or not, if Pli couldn't stop the retcon beam. He looked at both his past self and the beam. There wasn't enough time to intercept his past self and get him to safety; besides, the beam would probably follow them. That left intercepting the beam.

He began moving to intercept the beam.

The beam and the traveller came closer together.

He was several feet away from where they would meet.

There were only a few seconds left.

The beam was almost upon the traveller.

Time was running out.

He was in front of the beam.

Time was up.

The beam struck him, attempting to retcon him out of existance.

The Looniverse shifted, but you did not change... You must remember that as long as you remember who you are, you cannot be affected by manipulation of the time stream.

The energies blazed against his body.

Remember...he had to remember!

He had to remember!

Remember!

Remember!

REMEMBER!


A split second. An eternity. They are but the same in the Astral Realm.

The mass of green energy flared to life, an explosion of power unrivaled in all of creation. For a brief moment, the mixture of Retcon and Continuity created a gateway into the Looniverse that the traveller could pass through, thus insuring that there would be a Pliable Lad.

Propelled by the energies of the explosion, Pliable Lad shot forward through time, returning to what he knew to be the present day. But there was something different about this Pliable Lad.

For the first time in his life in the Looniverse, he knew the truth about his past.

He remembered.


Tour Guide Girl sluggishly pushed open the back door of the LNHHQ and stepped out on to the patio. Being September, the sun was hidden behind a cloud and there was a cool breeze in the air.

It had been over two days since wReamicus Maximus had retconned Pli out of existance. Continuity Champ, Jr. had repeatedly tried to undo the retcon using the Ring of Retcon, but kept running into a problem: It seemed almost as if somebody had beat him to it.

Touri heard a soft -Plink!- behind her and turned around. "Oh, hi, KC," she said.

"Hi, Touri," Kid Chivalry, one of Pli and Touri's closest friends, said. "Out enjoying the fresh air?"

"No...not really," Touri said, turning away.

"You miss him, don't you?"

"Yes," Touri said quietly.

"The LNH will find him. We'll find him. No matter where he is," KC said reassuringly.

"Thank you," Touri said. She turned and continued watching the sun set over the trees behind the LNHHQ.

"Besides," KC continued. "if Pli can survive some of the things he's been through, he can survive this. I'm sure of it." He joined her in watching the sun slowly set.

After a moment, they noticed something falling towards LNHHQ. As it approached, they could tell it looked more like a person. After a few more seconds, they could recognize the clothes the person was wearing.

"Is that...?" Touri began.

"It can't be..." KC began.

"PLI!!!!" they chorused.

"Yow!" Pli yelped, noticing that he was about to hit the ground hard. He turned into a large beach ball, and bounced around until his momentum slowed down enough for him to stop himself. "Touri! KC! Oh, man, am I glad to see you!" He and Touri embraced, kiss and all. The details are left to your imagination.

"I'm starting to feel like I'm in one of those chewing gum commercials," KC said.

Touri pulled back to look Pli over. "I missed you."

"I missed you, too," Pli said. "Come on, lets go in. We've got a lot to talk about."

"Yeah," Touri agreed.

Hand-in-hand, they walked up the steps to the porch, where Kid Chivalry was holding the door open for them, and back to their lives.

FIN

Last spun 2013-07-01 from thread modified 2013-01-04