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Omaha Project Twenty-Years-Later Annual #1

(AKA Just Another Multi-Writer Cascade That Will Probably Never Have An Ending #6)

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Foreshadowing Lad wandered the halls of the LNHQ, rubbing his forehead, looking down at the go-go-checkerboard tile floors and trying to remember. The Croissant Queen was going to attack their sandwiches? No, that wasn't it...

His head collided softly with someone. He flailed, stepping back and pinwheeling his arms. "Ah, s-sorry! I didn't see you there!"

"Oh, no, it's quite all right." He looked up, blushing, and saw a vision. She was tall, with perfect white hair, and a white eyepatch covering one eye. She extended a hand to him. "Hi! I'm Non-Judgmental Agnostic! What's your name?"

——^v^v^v————^v^v^v^v^v^————v^v^v^——

Merissa confidently lead her goth minions out of the mall towards the LNHQ. The rifts were emanating from there, so she'd probably find the most crossover energy in that direction. But first, her double-headed sonic screwdriver was telling her that there was a rift right nearby...

Right nearby, Cameo Gazonga of the Legion of Young.Heroes muttered and grumbled. "Aren't the rifts coming from the LNHQ? Shouldn't we be going in there?"

"Well yeah, if you want to deal with five at once," said the Green Knight. "But we should maybe probably figure out how to seal them before doing that?"

"Why don't—" started Jive Turkey.

"Because I have to get right up to one before I can get a good look inside it," said Lacuna.

"We can see the tear from one side, but not the other," pronounced Apostrophe. "The instruction manual is incomplete; we must translate the Mandarin."

"There." The Green Knight peered through their sensors. "That place holds a rift."

"That hole-in-the-wall store?" Cameo Gazonga looked dubious.

"Nah, man, I know this joint," said Jive Turkey. "Half oldschool arcade, half used book store."

Lacuna gasped. "In the future, this store will become one of the Community Pillars that will support Neo.tropolis during the Beigewar!"

"Good thing they're getting a lot of customers, then," said Cameo Gazonga, peering at the multitude of young ladies in dark clothing who were filing into the front door.

"The shades of outdated antivirus programs give warning," said Apostrophe, the cloud of UTF-8 characters swirling and buzzing around her head. "Melissa virus infection detected."

"Melissa— that's Vector!" said the Green Knight, shifting to a battle-ready pose, weapons flipping out.

"GK, chill!" said Cameo Gazonga, putting a hand on the rotary plasma buster. "We don't want to blow the place up. Look at those girls – they don't expect an attack."

"...hrm." The Green Knight flipped their panels back into place. "Okay, let's try and be cool about this. Everybody, act casual."

They shuffled into the store through the back entrance, between Super Street Fighter II Championship Edition and a shelf of well-loved RPG sourcebooks. The Green Knight, hidden by a hologram.thingy, narrowed their visual sensors at the girl turning her nose up at a rack of books that had been adapted into movies five years ago.

"That's her," they whispered, accessing records from the Legion's Rogues Gallery. "Individualized Vector clone #0057 – Merissa."

"How do we take her out without takin' the place out?" whispered Jive Turkey.

The Green Knight's plan-hatching processors whirred. "Apostrophe, do you think you can communicate with the short-lived Vector clones and—"

WHAM! The door was kicked down, and a woman in combat gear stepped through. "Sorry, folks, but this is necessary. My name is Agent Susan Susannah, and this place is now under the control of the LNH-Readers-Who-Are-Sick-To-Death-With-These-Damn-Neverending-Events Liberation Front!"

——^v^v^v————^v^v^v^v^v^————v^v^v^——

There was a falling hum, and Masterplan Lad fuzzed into existence in the coat room just off the LNHQ lobby, left over from its days as the Net.ropolis Grand Hotel. After all, he told himself, no sense in stepping right in and perhaps running into someone he'd offended in some as-yet-untold story.

Masterplan Lad stuck his ear to the door. Hmmmm, there was definitely someone out there...

"Ah, thank you," said Irony Monger, accepting a clipboard from Kyoko the receptionist.

"No problem," said Kyoko. "Fill these out thoroughly and we'll see about getting you a Peril Room test – ah, sorry, that's the phone..." She walked off.

"Why are we just sitting here?" muttered Kid Remender, swinging his legs on the plastic chair. "I could take this place out by myself."

"The hell you could," said Penultimate Savior, rolling his eyes.

"Anyway," whispered Continuity's Champion, "destroying the LNHQ won't stop the rifts. We must not only destroy the planet itself, but collapse the space around it – create a spatial knot that the cracks can't unravel."

"Indeed," pronounced Irony Monger softly. "And for that, we will need access to one of the most powerful weapons the Legion of Net.Heroes ever had &ndash the Mega-Ultra-BIGGUN."

"Reaching the weapons vault of the LNHQ seems a fearsome task, though," said Occultism Lord.

"It's not in the vault," said Irony Monger. "The Mega-Ultra-BIGGUN used to belong to an LNHer who has since disappeared from usability, leaving it undefended. All we have to do is reach room 58008 – and while the LNH is testing one of us as a 'new member', the rest can sneak off and reach it..."

Masterplan Lad frowned. 'Stop the rifts' – clearly there was a storyline going on already. But collapsing the planet? What kind of ends-justify-the-means characters *were* these?

Should he step out and confront them now? Or perhaps it'd be better to keep an eye on them and wait for the rest of his allies to get here. Admittedly, this sounded like a cosmic-level crisis, and they might perhaps be a little out of their depth... Maybe he should simply try talking to them, and see what the problem was. Hmmmm.

Suddenly, Masterplan Lad's umbrella began pulsing. There was a rift right in the coat room with him. It hadn't been there five minutes ago, but now it was expanding geometrically!

He could see it – a thin line of shifting green-blue light that twisted and snapped until it formed the shape of an L. He pointed his umbrella at the rift, analyzing the rays pouring out of it. Crossover energy...

Then he could see it – a form slipping through the crack, folding through the higher dimensions with an aggravating casualness. There was only one Hypertext Time-active being who had the style to do that and the lack of class to do it in a situation like this.

In a burst of chromatic light, Chaos Theory unfolded themself into the cramped room. "Mmmmh! Now that's a bit more comfortable. Whew." They dusted off the shifting fractals on their shoulders.

"Chaos Theory!" Masterplan Lad whisper-shouted. "What are you doing here?"

"Adding yet another character to an already-overstuffed cascade, apparently. You think anyone on RACC has ever heard the expression 'less is more'?"

MPL scowled. "What's going on? Rifts and crossovers and grimdark warriors trying to destroy the world. Is this your doing?"

Chaos Theory affected an impressively hurt expression, considering lack of face. "Now is that any way to talk to someone who's bringing you a gift basket of helpful exposition?"

Masterplan Lad stuck out his tongue. "Fine. What've you got in your basket, then? Where are these rifts coming from?"

"Simple version: So many Writers have been starting stories and not finishing them that it's affecting reality."

"Phenomenal. And aren't you already in one of those unfinished stories?" MPL quirked a brow.

CT shrugged. "That's where I came from, posthaste. If this timeline is threatened, that affects me too."

"Please. You're from any timeline that'll have you, and several that specifically won't."

"It's a fair cop. But this is a point where multiple possible futures are converging, because it's no good for any of us if the Writers build up such a backlog that they decide they don't want to write for the LNH anymore. That's where the 'Saviors of the Net' out there are coming from."

"Hmmmm, very astute. Somehow, though, I don't think collapsing the planet is the right answer."

"Nope! There's only one thing that can close the rifts: Inspiration particles."

"We're embarking on a Pratchett ripoff, then."

"Just a bit. You have to flood a rift with enough inspiration to get the writer in question to move forward with their storyline – to get a new issue posted."

"Oh, wonderful. It'll be easy as pie to herd the feline fellowship that posts here."

"There's more. The more the rifts open, the more things will fall through them – things from the unfinished storylines. And the further they spread, the more possible futures you'll have to deal with."

Masterplan Lad rubbed his eyes. "How did you come upon this information, anyway?"

"Oh, I'm going to read this story after it gets posted. That's how I know this is where I leave." Chaos Theory's body began fading away, washed out by the light from the rift.

"What? No! Confound it! Chaos Theory, I– I need you—"

But they were gone.

Masterplan Lad flopped on a chair and gave a deep sigh. Well, at least the situation couldn't get any worse.

He immediately regretted thinking that.

The shimmering light of the rift doubled, then tripled. Half-blind, Masterplan Lad threw his hand up in front of his face.

Outside, Penultimate Savior shifted in his seat. Favorite pudding flavor? Probably pistachio. Known allergies? Well, he did break out in hives when exposed to power ballads from the late '80s...

Then something caught his eye – there was some kind of weird light coming out from under the door to the coat room. He stood up, drawing the other Saviors' eye, and threw open the door.

The rift stretched, distending along the eleventh dimension, a humanoid form passing through it and spilling out onto the floor. As the light faded, Penultimate Savior could see that the being was wearing a black spandex suit with gray accessories, with a bright red power symbol, and holding a spoon in his hand...

"Killswitch?" PS whispered.

——^v^v^v————^v^v^v^v^v^————v^v^v^——

The world was shrouded in grey mist. He couldn't tell how long he'd been falling.

How many worlds had he passed through so far? How many more before he came home?

He could see something through the mists... a shifting line of green-blue light...

——^v^v^v————^v^v^v^v^v^————v^v^v^——

Non-Judgmental Agnostic and Foreshadowing Lad were chatting, trying to figure out if their forgotten ultra-important missions were somehow related. So far, nothing was ringing a bell.

"You dated Slobbering Grue Jr.?" said Foreshadowing Lad. "I used to be in the original's comic. Wonder if there's some sort of cosmic connection."

"Maybe!" shrugged N-JA. "I'm not going to assume anything."

"Makes sense. I remember one time—" But Foreshadowing Lad was cut short as, with a crackle, a jagged line appeared on the wall, outlining itself in green-blue light.

"That looks... familiar..." frowned Non-Judgmental Agnostic.

"Wait... rifts... the rifts!" shouted Foreshadowing Lad.

"Of course! How could I have forgotten the rifts?"

"Wait a minute— what's that coming through?"

Just like the other two times in this issue, a humanoid figure slipped out of the rift. It was a young man wearing a red bodysuit with a blue stripe going down the left-hand side of the chest and down the right leg, with a blue waistband, gloves, and boots. He shook himself out and looked around, silently, taking it all in.

Foreshadowing Lad and Non-Judgmental Agnostic looked at each other. N-JA stepped forward. "Hi! I'm Non-Judgmental Agnostic! What's your name?"

The man blinked. "Y-you can see me?" He reached out a hand and touched her lightly. "I'm really here! I can interact with things! I must be back home in the Looniverse!"

"You're definitely in the Looniverse," said Foreshadowing Lad encouragingly.

"Whew. And this is LNHQ, right?" When FL nodded, the man slumped, relaxing. "Awesome. Oh, I'm sorry." He looked up at Non-Judgmental Agnostic. "I'm Pliable Lad. Are you guys new members?"

"Pliable Lad?" Non-Judgmental Agnostic thought back. "Wait, I thought..."

It was then that Bad-Timing Boy stepped through a nearby door, holding an iPhone in one hand and a Vanilla Coke in the other and wearing a "Clerks 20th Anniversary" T-shirt. "Man, I love living in the year 2014! Do you guys want to watch the trailer for the big-budget Hollywood movie they made of Guardians of the Galaxy?" Then he did a double-take. "Pliable Lad? Didn't you retire years ago?"

"..."

Pliable Lad put his face in his hand. "Oh, boy."

——^v^v^v————^v^v^v^v^v^————v^v^v^——

Yes, this is totally legit – Pliable Lad used with permission. This appearance actually takes place during Pli's world-hopping journey in Pliable Lad Annual #1, part of the original Omaha Project crossover – and yes, there is most definitely a reason for that.

And for that matter, I should probably confirm – Killswitch is an LNH20 character, last seen in the Spoon of Destiny Saga. Yes, it's getting even more overcomplicated!

I meant to put the LNH3k in this issue, but there just wasn't room. Ah well.

As far as I can tell, Saxon created Merissa (off of Rob's original concept of Vector, of course). Saxon, would you say she's Free For Use?

Andrew "NO .SIG MAN" "Juan" Perron, writing up a storm today

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