LNH: Easily-Discovered Man #59

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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.
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The following takes place sometime after
issue #8 of the Legion of Net.Heroes mini-series
"Beige Countdown."
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-----Previously on "The Adventures of Easily-Discovered Man"-----------

Still in search of the killer of the nefarious WAFFLE QUEEN,
Easily-Discovered Man Lite travels from the villain's hometown of
Mount Roosevelt, Ohio to the great city of Net.ropolis. There,
with the help of his mentor -- the former Easily-Discovered Man
-- Lite tracks down the sorcerer TREVOR BLOUNT, who reveals that
Lite had previously encountered a teenaged Waffle Queen while traveling
in time, and that Lite’s memory of these events had been repressed.

Blount agrees to restore Lite’s lost memory -- but warns him
that the experience, much like a high school reunion, 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 returning to our story, many of our readers have no doubt
pondered the same question we oursleves have wondered about in these
days of peak television: when will one of the many streaming services
turn "The Adventures of Easily-Discovered Man" into a series, what
might such a series look like, and how long would it take for the show
to be canceled? Since San Diego Comic-Con failed to deliver in this
regard, we take it upon itself to imagine what preparations for this
milestone in entertainment might look like...

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

"We're just SO excited you were willing to take this meeting,"
the young man in the Armani sunglasses said to me, his fingers knitted
together as though he was about to show me where the church and the
steeple were.

"Sure," I said. "I've never taken a meeting before. I didn't know
that I could. Usually I just left them where they were and hoped they
didn't follow me home."

"Hear THAT?" the man in sunglasses said to the young woman between
us, who -- being closer to me than he was -- clearly had heard
everything I had to say, whether she wanted to or not. "That's the
kind of cutting-edge, Everyman humor our viewers want to see. And hear.
Isn't he just AMAZING?"

The young woman nodded enthusiastically. "And so lifelike, too."

"So tell us, Lite -- we CAN call you Lite, can't we? Our marketing
team is working up a whole campaign around the name Lite..."

"I'm sure it will do well," I said. "It always has before."

"Lite, all of us at the network want to know: what's it going to
take to convince YOU that WE want to get into the Easily-Discovered
Man business?"

"Here's the thing," I said, reaching for one of the hors d'oeuvres
on the table in front of me, before I realized that yes, it really was
just a tube of leaves stuffed with cheese, and putting it back down
again. "I don't know if you've noticed, but I'm not actually
Easily-Discovered Man. I'm his sidekick. Or I was. Easily-Discovered
Man has been retired for a while now, which means that I'm providing
advice and assistance to nobody."

The young woman beside me actually squealed. "That's exactly what
we were hoping you would say!"

"Come again?" I said. "Are you saying you want to produce an
Easily-Discovered Man series for television that doesn't actually
include Easily-Discovered Man?"

"That's EXACTLY what we want to do!" the young man said.

"I know I shouldn't ask this," I said, inspecting a plate filled
with stuffed mushrooms, "but why?"

"Have you seen a movie or TV series about super-heroes in, oh say,
the past ten years or so?" the young man asked.

"You'd have to try really hard to avoid it," I said.

"He's SO right," the young woman said.

"SO right," the man agreed. "Then tell me, Lite -- can we call you
Lite?"

"I think we've established that you can."

"Of course. Lite -- what's the most exciting moment of any
super-hero story? The part that the audience is literally squirming in
their sofas waiting for from the moment the credits roll?"

"The weird little teaser for another movie at the end?" I asked.
"The arcane detail about a character no one but die hard fans have ever
heard of that shows up in the background of an otherwise unimportant
moment? Any scene involving Jennifer Lawrence?"

"Think," the man said, excitement condensing on the rims of his
sunglasses. "It's the moment we first see the superhero appear in all
of his -- or her, no disrespect to any of the heroines out there --
glory. The rest of the movie is almost a letdown after that."

"But what if," the young woman said, "what if we were able to build on
that sense of anticipation -- keep the tension alive in our audiences
-- by having an entire series in which the super-hero NEVER appears?"

"It's the super-hero version of unresolved sexual tension!" the
young man said, practically squirming with glee. "_Smallville_ proved
it could work by keeping audiences waiting -- for ten seasons! -- for
Superman to show up in a show about Superman. Since then, we've had
not one but four shows about Batman without Batman: _Gotham_, in which
everyone was waiting to see when he would appear, and _Birds of Prey_,
_Batwoman_ and now _Gotham Knights_, when everyone keeps waiting to see
when he's going to come back from wherever it is he went to that keeps
him from popping in on his own show."

"Spoiler alert: he never does," the young woman said.

"Sony has cornered the market on making movies about Spider-Man
villains which make it seem like Spider-Man will show up eventually,
even though he doesn't," the young man said. "And now we want to do
the same with Easily-Discovered Man."

"So my role in this series," I said, "would be to somehow convince
your audience that if they just keep on waiting long enough, someone
more interesting than me is going to show up and do the same thing I'm
doing but in a more exciting way?"

"And if you're REALLY lucky," the young woman gushed, "we might
even be able to do for you what the CW did with _The Flash_... have a
show in which you are the main character, but where you barely ever
appear in an episode."

"I guess Woody Allen was wrong," I said. "Eighty percent of
success isn't showing up after all. Maybe basing my life's philosophy
around the observations of a pedophilic director from the 1970s wasn't
the best idea."

"Not necessarily," the man with sunglasses said, handing me my
contract. "Roman Polanski actually has a lot of really interesting
observations."

We now present episode #59 of "The Adventures of Easily-Discovered
Man," "The Boy in the Box." These characters are entirely fictional:
any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is evidence of the
godlike ability of the author to predict and determine future events.

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


"Easily-Discovered Man and Easily-Discovered Man Lite,"
Deathstocker said, his deep voice resonating through every corner of
the room. "The minute I saw you -- here, in Ohio, on your world, after
all these years! -- I knew this moment would come. It was...
inevitable."

"To be clear," I said, "I've never really thought of Ohio as part
of my world. It's not a red-state, blue-state thing. And I don't
really mind all the corn. I think it's something to do with all the
Bob Evans restaurants..."

"You can delay the moment all you like, Easily-Discovered Man
Lite," the arch-villain purred. "And yet you know, in the end...
there is really only one course of action for you to follow."

"Fine," I muttered, rolling my eyes and plunging the forkful of
maple-soaked waffle into my mouth. My eyes -- the eyes of my
sixteen-year-old self, anyway -- grew wide.

"It's... delicious," I managed.

"Indeed it is, my nemesis-turned-neighbor," Easily-Discovered Man
said, turning to Deathstocker with a heartfelt smile. "Truly, your
generosity toward two perpicacious peregrinators is exceeded only by
the culinary competence of your preternaturally proficient progeny!"

"That's my Connie," Deathstocker said, ruffling the ringlets of the
teenaged girl who sat between us. "Ever since her mother -- God rest
her soul! passed, she's taken on the cooking duties around the farm.
I call her my little Waffle Princess."

I waited -- that is to say the current, eighteen-year-old me
waited -- for the flood of recognition to wash over my sixteen-year-old
self. Surely he -- I -- me? had to see the face of our most relentless
enemy, the Waffle Queen, in the feral, determined smile, the icy green
eyes, the long-shapely legs of the adolescent girl who sat beside us...

Had I just said "long, shapely legs?" Oh, God. This was not
going to end well.

"I'm with you on the Bob Evans thing," the teenaged Queen said to
me, her eyes immediately appraising, evaluating and dismissing me with
the kind of ruthless disapproval only teenaged girls and Gordon Ramsay
can muster. "The food is middling at best, and the decor has all the
sophistication of a plastic lunchbox."

"I've known some pretty sophisticated lunchboxes,"
sixteen-year-old me said, as current me groaned, rolled my non-existent
eyes and performed the hands-free equivalent of a facepalm. "But you
want your breakfast done right, you find yourself a Denny's, an
International House of Pancakes, or even a Waffle Queen."

"Waffle... Queen?" Connie asked.

"Got 'em all over the place in Net.ropolis," I said, spearing
another tower of cakey goodness with my fork. "I was going to boycott
the place when I found out they were run by a super-villain, but I
still need the last two juice glasses in their 'Lesser Known Movies of
Bruce Willis' series for my collection."

"So you guys are from Net.ropolis?" Connie asked. "That explains
the weird... uh, accents."

"We are indeed, my dear young lady," the Prof said, dusting his
breakfast plate with powdered sugar. "And to thence we must return,
having tarried too long at your hospitable hearth."

"And I should think Net.ropolis would be glad to have you back,"
said Deathstocker (was he still going by Deathstocker? He seemed too...
genial to be stocking death). "It's been quite a few years since the
city had a pair of super-heroes to call its own."

The Prof paused, mid-sprinkle, and raised one masked eyebrow.
"Has some evil befallen the Legion of Net.Heroes?" he asked.
"Something... that might require our timely and immediate assistance?"

Deathstocker scratched his chin. "Legion of Net.Heroes?" he asked.
"I remember there being a Legion of Net.Hippies a while back. Not sure
if they're still active. Not sure if they were ever all that active,
to be completely honest."

"Great rippling realms of relativity!" the Prof gasped. "The
shattering of the Pocket Bureaucracy [in Easily-Discovered Man #10 --
Footnote Girl] must have hurled us like stones skipping across the
currents of the space-time continuum! We may well have returned to our
own dimension years -- or even decades! -- before we left!"

"We're... in the past? I thought everything looked that way
because we were in Ohio," I said. "Quick, Connie -- what season of
_The Simpsons_ is it?"

The young woman eyed me suspiciously. "What's a Simpson?"
she asked.

"You're kidding, right?" I asked. "Tell me you're kidding.
Tell me you don't have a television, or that you live in one of those
sad households where no one is allowed to watch MTV."

"What's an empty V?" Connie replied.

I felt reality slipping through my clenched fingers. "Do you know
who Harry Potter is?" I asked.

"Who does he play for?" asked Deathstocker, trying to be helpful.

"Wait. I'll show you," I said, looking frantically around the
farmhouse kitchen for anything seemed like it might be a computer.
"You just have to look him up on... on... how do you go online in this
place?"

"Mostly we stand," Connie said.

"No Golden Lord? No Macroman? No Mr. Net.ropolis?" the Prof
queried, looking more and more concerned with every negative response.
"Are you telling me that we are living in a world where no one is there
to protect humanity from natural disasters? Where the activities of
super-villains go unchallenged? Where skyscrapers ne'er shudder nor the
teeming masses never cry out at the spectacle of caped and cowled
champions locked in deadly combat over their very heads?"

"Not so much, no," Connie said. "Though on some nights, depending
on the wind, we can get Mexican wrestling to come in on Channel 68."

"A world without heroes," the Prof sighed, covering his head in
his gloved hands. "That I should live to see such a day."

"Now, now, old friend," Deathstocker said, patting
Easily-Discovered Man on one of his bony shoulders. "Our heroes might
not be as... colorful... as yours, but we have captains of industry,
professional athletes, famed explorers and renowned scientists who
inspire our youth to acts of courage and fortitude on a daily basis.
Isn't that right, cupcake?"

"Oh, sure," Connie muttered, settling a pair of heavy plastic
headphones over her ears. "So you're a tough guy... like it really
rough guy... can't get enough guy... chest always so puffed guy," she
added, her gaze and apparently her thoughts a thousand miles from the
dinner table.

"As a matter of fact," Deathstocker said, "although my power to
requisition anything and everything no longer works in your world, I
flatter myself that some of the advancements I have made in science and
technology could be considered a kind of herois..."

"Hold it," I said. "Connie, what are you listening to?"

"What?" Connie asked, startled. "Oh, this? It's nothing.
It's..."

"...a Billie Eilish song," I finished. "You've never heard of MTV
and the Legion of Net.Heroes doesn't exist... and yet you know all the
words to a song that just came out a couple of months ago. In my time."

"Maybe rural Ohio is more ahead of the times than you know,"
Connie said. "Oh, fine," she added, as all of us -- even Deathstocker
-- rolled our eyes simultaneously. She reached under the table and
fished out a black plastic circle the size of a quarter attached to the
end of her headphones by a long spiral cable. "Here. Are you happy?"

"What manner of mechanical marvel manifests here?"
Easily-Discovered Man asked.

"It's an iPhone 21," Connie said, lookin as smug as the cat who
had not only eaten the canary, but had somehow convinced the canary
that the whole thing had been the canary's idea. "You mean you don't
have them in your time yet?"

Deathstocker's face hardened, and for just a moment I thought I
saw the man who had tried to murder the Prof and myself in a variety of
creative ways. Then the moment passed. "I had planned to tell you
both," he said, "in my own time. The truth, you see, is that..."

"You're the guy who invented Apple!" I gasped. "I always knew
there had to be a super-villain at the back of it."

"No, my suppositious sidekick," the Prof said. "Unless I am quite
mistaken, our insightful interlocutor has discovered a means to
receive information from the future -- and is using that information to
replicate advanced technology in his own timeline."

"Indeed I did, Easily-Discovered Man! But... how did you know?"

"Your daughter's iPhone certainly resembles an Apple product, but
the monochromatic, all-plastic construction and rough lines suggest a
prototype at best -- one likely developed using a 3-D printer," the
Prof replied.

"Plus it says 'Property of Deathstocker & Co' on the bottom,"
I said.

"Introducing such advanced consumer technologies years before
their scheduled development could have catastrophic consequences,"
Easily-Discovered Man began.

"No doubt it would, my friend, if I simply released them to the
masses," Deathstocker said, his voice dripping with cool assurance.
"But a simple transistor here -- a lifesaving surgical technique there
-- a refinement of vehicle emissions filtration over here -- and my
associates and I quietly, delicately create a better, healthier world
for people like Connie to grow up in, one whose progress I can
constantly monitor..."

"Hey, you guys are going to want to hear this," Connie said.

"No offense," I said, "but angsty teenage riot-grrl pop has never
really been my thing."

"The stack of Halsey CDs you left in the Easily-Discovered Van
would beg to differ," the Prof said.

"I don't mean the music. I mean this," Connie said, pressing a
button on her iPhone. A small blue holographic image of three strange
figures snapped into place in the center of the room: a man with heavy,
black-rimmed glasses and what appeared to be a leather toga; a drag
queen wearing an astronaut's helmet, and a bearded, heavyset man in
green army fatigues surrounded by a whirling trio of plastic circles.
"This is being broadcast right now. Live. On all three networks."

"It's them," Deathstocker said, the color draining from his face.
"The worst criminals our world has ever known."

"Really?" I said. "Because I don't see Henry Kissinger anywhere."

"The one on the left is Buddy Holly Ben Hur. The one on the
right is Ol' Miss John Glenn. And their leader, the one in the
middle..." Deathstocker swallowed. "Hula Hoops Castro. They call
themselves... THE FIRE."

"What do they want?" I asked. "Apart from decades worth of
royalties from Billy Joel?"

"We would probably be able to figure that out," Deathstocker said,
"if my daughter would be kind enough to unplug her headphones."

"Oh, sorry," Connie said, the color in her cheeks rising a little.
She removed her headphones, and we caught the villains in mid-threat.

"...by midnight tonight, then the imperialist pig-dogs of your
paper tiger capitalist puppet show will face the inconceivable might of
our RED CHINA JOHNNY RAY... and that will mean real trouble in
the Suez!"

"Why do I feel like these guys might be working with the Space
Monkey Mafia?" I said, as the holographic scene switched to a
commercial for Efferdent. "Or hiding out at Elvis Presley Disneyland?"

"That gives us only a few hours to save the world!" declared
Easily-Discovered Man, striking the breakfast table so hard with his
fist that even the corn muffins jumped.

Deathstocker rose from his chair. "You can't do it alone," he
said.

"And yet we must," Easily-Discovered Man said. "For, as you have
told us already, the world has not yet given birth to its next
generation of heroes. Perhaps... perhaps we shall become the ones
to inspire them!"

"I hope so," Deathstocker said. "Come with me to the barn.
There is something there I need to show you."

"Pass," I said. "Nothing good ever followed those two sentences."

"Fear not, Lite," Easily-Discovered Man said, placing an arm
around my shoulders and gently guiding me forward. "Can you not taste
the sweet flavor of destiny in the air?"

"I thought that was goat," I said. "What did you all keep in this
barn, anyway, before it got filled with all kinds of science
doohickeys?"

"We held a middle school dance here once," Connie said.

"I must confess," Deathstocker said, as one florescent light after
another illuminated the vast indoor space, "that even I have little
control over the information that comes to me via my temporal receiver.
I leave it to my future self -- or perhaps my ancestors? -- to
determine what morsels of inspiration to transmit through the device.
And yet nothing they... or I... have sent myself is anything like the
message I decoded just a few days before you yourselves arrived in my
time. It is, as you say, Easily-Discovered Man, destiny."

The last light shone on a tall translucent box at the top of a
pulsating metal ziggurat. Within the box stood a man -- who, because
he was stark naked, and somewhat younger than I was used to, it took me
a few seconds to recognize.

"Allow me to introduce my latest discovery -- the greatest hero of
the 21st century, and the one who may very well save the 20th,"
Deathstocker said. "He has not yet revealed his name to me, but I
call him..."

"...Substitute Lad!" I gasped.

TO BE CONTINUED...

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

NEXT ISSUE: What is Substitute Lad doing in the past? Will
his power be enough to help Easily-Discovered Man defeat the combined
might of The Fire? Wouldn't "Red China Johnny Ray" make a better
name for a themed restaurant than an ultimate weapon? Will the
author ever be able to get that song out of his head? All of this,
and hopefully somewhat more, in an episode we're tentatively calling
"Breaking(fast) Bad."

CHARACTERS: Footnote Girl is (c) Saxon Brenton. The Legion
of Net.Hippies is (c) Arthur Spitzer. Golden Lord is (c) Hubert
Bartels. Macroman is (c) Dave Van Domelen. Mr. Net.ropolis is (c)
Amabel Holland. All other characters are (c) the author. More
information about these and other Legion of Net.Heroes characters
is available at: https://lnh.diamond-age.net/wiki/Main_Page.

SPECIAL THANKS: To Arthur, Drew and Scott for their kind
words on episode #58, and to Apocalypso for time, confidence and
continued inspiration.

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

“I want to pull it apart and put it back together
I want to relive all my adolescent dreams
Inspired by true events on movie screens
I am a one man wrecking machine."
--Guster

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












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