John, Lord of Darkness: The Rest of the Stories
Ringo & Molly
Ringo and Molly first met in Clyattville, GA, in 1979. However, before that fateful meeting, they had both led long, interesting lives. If there’s anything that we learn from the stories of John and the Tri-Leaders, it’s that destiny often takes us on the most twisted, rambling paths it can find. This was never truer than in the cases of Ringo Moonn and Molly Dougherty.
Richard “Ringo” Moonn was born on July 7, 1953, in The City. His father, Richard, was the CEO of MoonnCorp, as well as one of the most powerful crime figures in the City, the latest in a line of Moonn crime lords dating back to the 1800’s. Richard was an absentee father, leaving Ringo and his mother, Ann, alone for months on end as he pursued both legitimate and not-so-legitimate aims. However, he continuously dictated Ringo’s life, without having any contact with him. Ringo longed for a real father, and swore that he would be there for his son the way Richard had not.
Often, Richard’s absences were as much a matter of pleasure as they were business. Over the course of his adult life, he engaged in innumerable affairs with secretaries, interns, and even the occasional wife or family member of a friend or employee. These affairs produced several children. Three are particularly notable. A tryst with a member of his legal team, Cynthia Carlson, led to the birth of a daughter, Crescent, in 1969. Crescent was the only one of his illegitimate children that Richard ever formally acknowledged as his own, perhaps due to his relationship with Cynthia. Another involved a much more secretive (and, one could speculate, passionate) affair between Richard and Melissa Vance, the then 25-year-old daughter of his underworld associate, friend, and mentor, Caleb Vance. Their illicit union produced one child, Jordan Vance, in 1965. Although never officially a part of the Moonn family (and something of a pariah to his own clan), Jordan would nevertheless go on to play an important part in the lives of Richard’s descendents. It should also be noted that Jordan and Crescent eventually became lovers (a relationship I came up with long before deciding that Jordan was Richard’s son). They don’t know that they’re related because no one but Richard Moonn and Melissa Vance knew, and they had both died by the time Jordan and Crescent started fooling around. And finally, there was Maria Hykes, a secretary at MoonCorp in the late Fifties. Young and naïve, she was easily taken in by Richard’s charm and promises of romance. Of course, he immediately pulled back once she got pregnant (as he had with so many other girls). However, Maria - madly in love with him – pretended that it wasn’t a problem and that she wouldn’t be a liability. Since good help (and low-maintenance affairs) were hard to come by, Richard kept her around. He even went so far as to employ her as a part-time babysitter for Ringo – testament to Richard’s complete inability to empathize with another human being. Consequently, Richard spent a good deal of his childhood around Maria’s son (and, unknowingly, his half-brother) Dante Hykes, later known as Goober.
Ann Moonn, nee Campbell, was the first member of the family to have an abnormally large head (a trait she passed on to Ringo). Also, the Dance of Eternal Happiness was a tradition passed down through her family. Despite this, Ann was anything but happy. A model for magazine ads in her youth, Richard wed her as a trophy wife, and immediately relegated her to the back corner of his life, where she withered. She was also the true inventor of the Oreo, until agents of Nabisco stole her idea, and capitalized on it. Ann had begun to make an arsenal of “special” Oreos to fight back, but her original work was long since lost, along with most of her notes (with the exception of a few preliminary ones, which Ann Chovi used to get started on her own arsenal). Ann Moonn was transformed into a chicken while experimenting with these new Oreos, and her current whereabouts are unknown (although it is possible that she’s that chicken which keeps getting duct-taped to John whenever Holli and Tails tie him to a tree). According to the public report given by the Moonn family, however, she died of leukemia in 1967.
Shortly after Ringo’s graduation from high school and the loss of his mother, his father sought to establish him in the family business. He gave Ringo a small crew to run in Marble Gardens, in charge of several elite extortion rackets. But it wasn’t long before Ringo, disgusted beyond all tolerance of his father’s life of crime, packed up his stuff and ran away. He travelled a little ways south before reaching Leonardo, NJ, where he was finally able to realize a lifelong dream: to become a clown. He and his friends John Lemon, Paul McGyver, and George George, joined a local circus and became the Leonardo Travelling Troupe Spectacular Clown Quartet. They spent the next several years touring the country. Shortly after Ringo’s disappearance, Richard officially recognized Crescent as his daughter, and began to raise her as a suitable heir to his legacy.
As a side note, Ringo did keep in touch with one member of his family—his half-brother, Jordan Vance. Despite the fact that Jordan was something of a sociopathic monster, he and Ringo just seemed to get along pretty well. Both being somewhat itinerant (Ringo as a clown, Jordan as a super-criminal), their paths crossed often out in the world, and eventually they began to meet for a drink, once a year, in Philadelphia. Jordan’s later almost-kinda affection for John (see The Origin) is due to the fact that he knows he’s Ringo’s son.
Family troubles were not exclusive to the Moonn’s, however.
Molly Dougherty was born on July 5, 1953, and from the start she had always had difficulties with her mother, Brianna. Half of it was teenage rebelliousness that she never grew out of; the other half was Molly’s passion for science. By the age of twelve, she was already well-versed in quantum physics, and was working on a mathematical proof for the existence of the fifth dimension. Her mother, on the other hand, focused more on the metaphysical, and believed strongly in Irish superstitions. Molly accused her of constantly frightening her as a child with tales of a Banshee that followed their family. Molly left home (in Clyattville, GA) right out of high school, and went to study at the Institute for Extraspatial Studies in New York City. It was there that she discovered a working method of time travel, partially based on her studies of a mythical artifact called the Time Matrix. She built her own time machine, named “Old Betsy” and made her first successful jump back in time on September 16, 1975, in which she went back two weeks to find out the name of that guy she half-remembered meeting in a bar a few weekends ago (his name, it turns out, was Oh God, He Looked A Lot Better When I Was Drunk). After graduating, she made many more jumps, furthering historical knowledge, and getting paid heavily. She has only talked to her mother twice in the time since she left home (her mother is, to the best of my knowledge, still alive, but has since moved on from Clyattville and back to Ireland). Molly never knew the identity of her father, and fought the temptation to find out using her time machine, convincing herself that it didn’t matter one way or another. But because we have the benefit of omniscience: her father was Roger Williams, a married American in Ireland on a business trip.
As stated above, Molly and Ringo met in Molly’s hometown of Clyattville, GA, on the warm night of June 18, 1979. Molly was taking a brief vacation from the top-secret government work (some of it under the auspices of a certain Colonel Roger Sampson… we can talk more about him another time), and decided to visit home. Not that anywhere particularly felt like “home” anymore to a wayward time-traveler like Molly. Besides, her first night in Clyattville presented a great opportunity: the Leonardo Travelling Troupe was in town for one night only. Now, Molly had faced many dangers during her chronologically jumbled journeying, but there was one thing which still frightened her beyond all others.
Clowns. Molly was deathly afraid of clowns.
However, she ended up enjoying the show, so much so that she blurted out: “I can’t believe I was ever afraid of clowns!” The circus came to a screeching halt, and the ringleader announced that the presence of a coulrophobe in the audience meant only one thing: they needed to cure her! Molly was dragged down into the ring, and told by the ringleader that she wouldn’t be allowed to leave until she had shared a dance with one of the clowns. Molly was too petrified to decline. And then, one of the clowns stepped forwards, as strange, haunting pipe-organ music began to play. Almost in a daze, Molly allowed herself to be led into the center ring by the clown, and the two began to dance. As the dance went on, she found herself more and more enchanted by the clown’s easy grace, by his sapphire eyes, by his large head. And then it was over, and she was walking back to her seat alone, with only one precious bit of information: the clown’s name. Ringo the Eternally Happy.
For his own part, Ringo had also felt a spark that night. But he had resigned himself, by this point, to a solitary life. He was in his dressing room, removing his makeup and resolving to put the woman from tonight out of his mind, when he heard a knock on the trailer door. He opened it, and found Molly, who sheepishly asked if he wanted to go for a walk. They enjoyed a romantic stroll around the circus grounds, talking and laughing late into the night (and being interrupted, just once, by Vinnie, the cross-dressing, marksmanship-loving son of Bertha, the Bearded Lady). They traded contact information at the end of the night, and agreed to meet up two weeks later, in New Orleans, where the tour was finishing up. Molly, a hopeless cynic, actually had to get in Old Betsy and jump ahead two weeks to make sure that Ringo would actually remember the promise before she would allow herself to buy a plane ticket.
Indeed, it was love. But early on, the young couple weren’t sure if they would make it. Ringo’s life was dominated by the Leonardo Travelling Troupe, and he wasn’t quite ready to retire. And Molly wasn’t about to quit time travelling and go on the road with him. They were both beginning to contemplate whether or not they could handle a difficult, long-distance relationship… when destiny stepped in. After a show in Tulsa, a member of the Spectacular Clown Quartet, John, was gunned down by a disgruntled audience member. Said audience member was a kid who had actually sat next to Molly at the circus, the first night she met Ringo, wearing a Mooby the Cow shirt. He was eventually acquitted, after his lawyer successfully argued that the chemical ingredients in Mooby Burgers had made him temporarily mentally unstable (today, this is known as “the Mooby defense”). The Spectacular Clown Quartet, devastated by the loss of their friend, soon broke up. Paul and George absconded off to Hawaii to begin a new life together, and Ringo finally hung up his clown suit to begin a new life with Molly.
On May 15, 1980, Ringo proposed to Molly in a Showbiz Pizza. She accepted, and they were married on November 15 of that year, in a ceremony that was notably absent of most of their family members. The only people known to have attended were Paul, George, some of Molly’s friends from work, maybe a friend from the past who she befriended through time travelling, and Jordan Vance. They settled down in Hope Springs, CO, and happily began their life together.
Or, at least, that was how it seemed. Ringo found himself missing life on the road, the thrill of being a clown. He would occasionally take part-time gigs. One, very early in the marriage, was a travelling gig, which hit several major sites in the Great Lakes states, and took Ringo away for an entire month of 1981. It was here that he cheated on his wife for the first time, during a drunken one-night stand with a married woman named Mae Chovy. By the end of this month, Ringo had all but decided that he never should have settled down, and was trying to figure out the best way to tell Molly. Before he could, she revealed to him that she was pregnant. Shocked into responsibility, Ringo stayed, and welcomed his first two children into the world: Roses and Ann. For a brief span of time, it seemed that everything would work out.
And then, in 1986, Molly gave birth to John. Now, Ringo had always wanted a boy—a chance, as he saw it, to be a better father than his father had been to him. So when John was born, he became the sole focus of Ringo’s life, to the almost complete exclusion of Roses and Ann. Molly, Roses, and Ann grew to resent his blatant favoritism, especially because as he grew, John became more and more of a preening brat. Two years later, Molly found a strange child living on the street, with no memory of his previous life. She adopted him and named him Roseidous, and suddenly John found himself sharing a room, and toys, with an older brother.
The lines were drawn from then on, and the Moonns began to descend into all-out family warfare. The fighting became particularly fierce after Molly used her time machine to find out what, exactly, Ringo had been doing during that month on the road in 1981. Ringo claimed that using the time machine was cheating (which is kind of funny, considering), and then said that this established a precedent for them to use it to solve all of their arguments (For example: “How about that time you told me X?” “I never said that!” “Oh, yeah? We’ll let’s hop in the time machine and find out.”) They began to resort to this more and more as time went on, and “Old Betsy” started to show some wear.
And then, one day, during another visit to the past to resolve a petty argument, there was an enormous explosion. The shack where Molly kept “Old Betsy” was blown apart, but when the area was searched, no sign of the machine or either Molly or Ringo could be found. Roses told the other siblings not to worry, that their parents always disappeared and then came back. They just had to wait.
In one way or another, they’ve been waiting ever since.
The kids were all put in the foster care system, and, as destiny would have it, ended up being adopted by families in Ronkonkoma, NY, where they all attended the Extraordinary Very Intelligent Learning (EVIL) School.
A final note on these families. As mentioned above, Molly never knew her father, a married American named Roger Williams who had met her mother in Ireland during a business trip. Born in Philadelphia on September 9, 1925, Roger married his grade school sweet heart, a woman named Martha Seppanen. They had two sons: Jason, born in 1953, and Andrew, born in 1955. Roger and Martha eventually retired to Florida, where he passed away in 1997. Their sons moved to the West Coast, Jason to Washington and Andrew to California. Jason married a woman named Sally Forbes, and had several children… including a boy, born in 1982, who they never got to name. He was born early, during a family vacation to Denver, CO… and, somehow, was lost before he could even leave the hospital. Although we can only speculate as to what really happened, it is theorized that, upon opening his eyes for the first time, he caught a glimpse of his reflection in something shiny and, enchanted by his own beauty, managed to crawl out of the hospital on his premature muscles, following everything from car fenders to rivers, in pursuit of that dazzling creature staring back at him. He was discovered in an alleyway in Denver in 1988 by one Molly Dougherty, admiring himself in a puddle of dog piss. Startled by her approach, he attempted to say, “Please, come no closer! I am naught but a foundling—a child of feral disposition, bereft of home and hearth, and never properly socialized. My primitive mind, unnourished as it has been, has not prepared me for interaction with my fellow man. Indeed, so long have I languished, engaged in nothing but the examination of my own handsome visage, that I have upon occasion wholly forgotten that there even are other people in this world, save myself!” Unfortunately, he had never properly learned English, so it came out: “KALOOKALEE!!!! I AM THE SEA GOD!!!!!” He promptly ran straight into a wall. Fortunately, Molly was able to get him some serious counseling and, in time, he began to bear some resemblance to a civilized human being. She planned to name him Poseidous, in honor of a former king of Atlantis who, Ringo had always petulantly theorized, she’d once had a fling with (the child’s first words to her inspired this name). The P was changed to an R upon the young Roses’ request, because A) she has her own fair share of ego, and B) she didn’t want her brother to be a “Poser” (too bad that didn’t work out). Rumors that, when Molly found him, he had a vestigial tail are supposed to be highly exaggerated.
Now, since Roger Williams (Roseidous’ paternal grandfather) was also Molly’s father, that would make Molly half-siblings with Roseidous’ biological father, Jason. Meaning that Roseidous is technically Molly’s nephew, and thus Roses, Ann, and John’s first cousin. So yeah, his and Roses’ marriage would have been illegal anyway, you perverts. This also means that all four siblings share a common grandparent in Roger Williams. Trippy, huh?
One more word about the Williams’. Roseidous’ father, Jason, was the oldest of two brothers (as mentioned above). The younger, Andrew, lived in California, where he met a woman, fell in love, got married, and also had a few kids. He only had one boy (born in 1981), who he named Jasper (or “Jasy”). Jasy was the pride of the family throughout high school—an all-state football running back, Homecoming King his senior year, passing most of his classes. But sometime during high school, he discovered (while watching TV) that he had the ability to channel his natural life energy, or chi, and that this allowed him to do spectacular things. Right out of high school, he decided to forego college and pursue a career as a super hero, redubbing himself Studmuffin. His family was humiliated, and disowned him (hence why, after “The Awakening,” someone tries to call Studmuffin’s family to find him, and they hang up at the first mention of his name). So, Roseidous and Studmuffin are indeed first cousins (the same going for the other siblings).
There is an additional problem: in The Novel, Studmuffin mentions that Roseidous is his cousin. Now, the Dance of Eternal Happiness which gave everyone back their memories in Tri-Leaders On Vacation, is a Moonn/Dougherty thing. Why would it also reveal to Roseidous his biological origins, since he isn’t a Moonn or a Dougherty by birth? (One possible answer: Because we said so.) Still, it seems that by the time of The Novel, which occurs only a few months after Tri-Leaders On Vacation, that Roseidous and Studmuffin already have a friendly relationship. Okay, they’re both pretty congenial guys, but it should also be taken into account that Studmuffin was trying to unravel the mystery of the Awakening at this time, and his appearance in The Novel coincides with a brief return he made to the Justice League in the middle of his quest. So here’s what I’m going to say happened:
At completely different points, sometime late in the year 2001, both Roseidous and Studmuffin were watching the news. In both cases, this is probably because they had already seen the re-run of Lizzie McGuire that was airing on the days of these respective experiences.
In Roseidous’ case, he happened to see a report about the relatively-new Justice League, particularly an interview with Studmuffin. Something about this super hero enflamed Roseidous’ soul. For a moment he couldn’t figure it out, but then he realized: he looked just like him! Well, not just like him, but enough that there was no way that they couldn’t be related. Amazed, Roseidous vowed to find this handsome stranger.
In Studmuffin’s case, he happened to see a report about the then-new Tri-Leaders, particularly some file footage of Roseidous during the First Battle of Albuquerque. Something about this villain enflamed Studmuffin’s soul. For a moment he couldn’t figure it out, but then he realized: he looked just like him! Well, not just like him, but enough that there was no way that they couldn’t be related. Amazed, Studmuffin vowed to find this handsome stranger.
(I could do this all day).
Anyway, they eventually met up (after, of course, Roseidous went to the Hall of Justice at the exact same time that Studmuffin went to the Fortress), and Studmuffin revealed that he had once heard his parents whispering about his uncle Jason, and a son who had been “lost” shortly after birth. Although Roseidous had no memories with which to fill in the gaps of the story, they concluded that they must be cousins. Overjoyed, the two began a friendship which lasts to this day.
There were a few stories I never got around to telling in EVIL School.
First off was the snow day epic that Holli and I had planned, and started, immediately following the school’s disastrous production of Hamelt: The Musical! The basic plan was that the kids would all get snowed-in at EVIL School, and left to their own devices by the teachers. After that, a parody of Lord of the Flies would follow, with Roses as Ralph, Ann (and kinda Roseidous) as Piggy, Holliantails as Samneric, John as Jack, Silent Jim as Simon, Ian (and kinda Roseidous) as Roger, and Murray as The Beast. The story evolved a bit when I started writing the beginning. So here’s what was supposed to happen, starting with a quick recap of what you already know.
The students of EVIL School are disappointed to find that, even though it’s snowing outside, they will still be going to school. Apparently, along with several other protective charms of varying purposes, the school also has some magical contingencies to protect it from being negatively affected by the weather. But during the day, a mysterious man appears outside, wearing a long coat, a wide-brimmed hat, and a cloth around his eyes. He is Enoch, the Blind Man. He confers briefly with Morzoko, a frost spirit, and then begins to communicate, psychically, with Mr. Satan. It seems that the Blind Man knew Satan when he was an angel (Satanael), and taunts him. Knowing that the Blind Man poses a serious threat to the Management’s interests (notably including something which they are, at that very moment, secretly holding in the catacombs beneath the school), Mr. Satan puts out a “White Alert,” and assembles all of the faculty at the front gates of the school to defend it. The Blind Man goads him to the point where Mr. Satan opens the gates and removes the protective spells, just long enough for him and the faculty to step outside to fight. Suddenly, a powerful wind blows up, and the faculty find themselves in the center of a blizzard. Mr. Satan suddenly realizes the trap he’s walked into: the Blind Man has slipped inside while they were coming out, and is now using Morozko to bury the school in snow and ice, so that they can’t get back in. He only has time to curse before he’s covered in snow.
Meanwhile, inside of the school, the kids realize they’re alone, and thus will have to band together to survive. At first, the boys and girls form separate tribes on either side of the lunch table, but John and Roses negotiate and the two tribes unite. Lost references abound, because by the time I actually started writing this post, I’d started watching Lost. In the boy’s tribe, it should be noted that there is a constant power struggle between John and Malfoy who, of course, despise each other. They have also decided that no one is allowed to speak unless they’re holding a trumpet that someone stole from the band room. The girls abolish this practice when the two tribes unite, because boys are stupid.
From there, things start to get messy. John, Roses, and Malfoy all struggle for leadership. Attempts to break through the snow outside, or get a message to the outside world, are all found to be fruitless. Silent Jim begins to have strange visions, notably of the head of a mascot costume (which Malfoy erects as a protective totem) speaking to him. The kindergarteners begin to terrify everyone by telling them of “The Beast” which lives in the attic. When Silent Jim goes up to investigate, he finds Murray, who chases him out of the attic and through a window.
Meanwhile, the Blind Man finds that the magic protecting EVIL School was a bit more formidable than he had expected. He’s having trouble breaking through into the actual building… until Silent Jim goes flying through the frozen window, giving him a way in. Silent Jim eventually gets out of the snow, and finds himself trapped outside of the school grounds with the faculty.
The power plays continue inside the school. While Ann (and kind of Roseidous) urge caution, Roses lets her rivalry with John get in the way, and continues competing with him. Meanwhile, Malfoy is trying to sway hearts and minds away from both of them. After Silent Jim disappears, Malfoy decides to blame it on the girls, and says that they should separate again. John reluctantly agrees (he would rather hang out with Ebony), largely because he doesn’t want Malfoy to be the leader. As the boys migrate to the Art Room, however, John suddenly receives a brief psychic transmission from Mr. Satan, who is using pretty much all of his energy to get this message out: Go to the catacombs. Get to the Square. Stop the Blind Man. There is a part of John which is finely attuned to his destiny, and that part begins to go off like an alarm clock. Almost in a daze, he abandons the rest of the boys, and heads down into the catacombs.
The boys set up shop in the art room, and Malfoy reinstitutes using the trumpet. Holliantails go to spy on them, but are captured, and tortured by Ian. Ebony and a girl named Bambi Stagwell decide that Roses is ruining their chances at escape, and so take the other girls (aside from Ann) and go to join Malfoy’s tribe. Roses decides that this means war, and pursues them with Ann. When they get there, they have a tense confrontation with Malfoy, who has already armed his tribe. Ann gets the trumpet from TAS, and launches into a heartfelt speech about working together, and how they can either live together or die alone. From high above the art room, Roseidous drops an enormous ball of paper machier that he had been making, which nails Ann, breaking her glasses and knocking her out. Malfoy whips his tribe into a frenzy, and they all begin hunting Roses, throughout the school building.
Meanwhile, John has been wandering around the Catacombs. He reaches the dead-end that he and the others found earlier that year (the Wayfarer’s Square), with the strange artifacts still lying on the floor (these were all meant to be references to Umar’s characters). But this time, there’s someone waiting when he arrives. The Blind Man. They speak briefly, the Blind Man implying that he already knows of John. He wonders aloud if this is the best that the Management could do. John tries to put on a brave face, but in all honesty he’s terrified. He’s never had to do something like this before. The Blind Man tells John that, pathetic as he is, the Management seems to have taken an interest in him. And because of that fact, the Blind Man is going to take this lovely opportunity that Mr. Satan has afforded him and kill John before the Management can make use of him. Terrified, John looks for something to defend himself. He picks up the metal staff that they found during their first visits to the catacomb (which is, by the way, supposed to be Isomorphix’s bo staff from the Remnants RPG), but the Blind Man laughs, nods, and the staff rusts away in his hands. John starts to move around the room, trying to keep as much space between himself and the Blind Man as possible, while the mysterious figure toys with him. Finally, he’s backed up against the dead-end, forced to step back and back and back until he’s right up against the wall…
Only he doesn’t hit the wall. He falls through it, as if the wall were nothing but smoke. The last thing he sees is the Blind Man, looking surprised. John finds himself in a strange, dark room, full of green mist. There is a stone pillar in the center of this room, and on top of that pillar… is a head. It looks almost, but not quite, human, its skin gray and taut, its nose and ears all but rotted away. And then it opens its eyes, grins, and says hi. John freaks out.
Meanwhile, Roses is still on the run. She’s helped, briefly, by Holliantails, but for the most part she’s on her own. It then occurs to her that, maybe, if she can get to the roof, she can get past the snow and to safety. Just then, Ili finds her. With the tribe hot on her trail, Roses runs for the nearest staircase.
Down in the catacombs, the head introduces itself as the Acephalos. Apparently, it’s a demon whose headless body haunts Greek and Egyptian legend. When John asks why it’s not attached anymore, the Acephalos says that it has a much greater purpose: “I’m a key,” it says. “The Third Key, to be exact.” It turns out that it’s one of the Four Keys of Dis (which, of course, John has never heard of before), specifically for the ring of Malebolge. The Management has been hiding it down here until they can figure out how to unlock it. “How do you unlock a key?” John wonders. He guesses, correctly, that this is what the Blind Man is after—only he wants to destroy the key. The Acephalos tells John that the Blind Man is an Archon, and one of the most powerful beings in existence. John asks how he’s supposed to beat it, and the Acephalos says that the Wayfarer’s Square (the dead-end) is very well protected. The Blind Man slipped in through a glitch in the system, and has been moving around unnoticed. John just needs to alert the school’s security system to his presence. John thanks the Acephalos, and reluctantly goes back out to face the Blind Man. “See ya soon,” the Acephalos says.
Roses makes it to the roof, but when she opens the door, she finds that a dome of snow is covering the entire school (Silent Jim, the faculty, and the readers have known this pretty much the whole time). She’s cornered as Malfoy triumphantly leads his people up onto the roof.
Below, John steps out of the pocket dimension (a Nexus) and back into the catacombs, where the Blind Man immediately grabs him by the throat and slams him against the wall, demanding to know if he’s unlocked the key. “No,” John says, “but thanks for telling me that I can.” The Blind Man realizes he’s made a mistake, but before he can correct it by killing John (which, just for reference, he wouldn’t have been able to do anyway… only the Crusader can do that), John reaches out to the school’s magical protection system, and alerts it of the Blind Man’s presence. The Blind Man is then expelled forcefully from the school.
Roses has been backed up against the edge of the roof, and has nothing but a few snowballs with which to keep the others at bay, as Malfoy talks about tossing her off the roof. “Did he cast some kind of spell that made you all stupid?!” Roses rages at her classmates. “I’m Roses, you idiots!! I’m going to rule the world someday! And when that day comes, do you really want me thinking, ‘Hmm, how about that time when my friends chucked me off the roof’?!” Malfoy scoffs. “Please,” he says. “What are you going to do about it?”
At this exact moment, the school expels the Blind Man, and all of the snow explodes into the air, causing flurries over the entire town. The students are terrified. They fall down and begin to worship Roses, who is just plain confused. A somewhat dazed Ann appears on the roof, and she and Roses reunite with Holliantails, and begin to talk about what, exactly, the most fitting punishment should be for their friends. Malfoy and Roseidous, they decide, will need some really special consideration. Shortly thereafter, John comes up onto the roof, and asks what’s been going on. When Roses asks where he’s been, John is evasive.
The faculty (along with Silent Jim) return to the school. Mr. Satan subtly gives John a “good job” nod, which Roses notices. In light of the day’s events, Mr. Satan then says that school will be cancelled for the rest of the day, and the next day. Everyone goes home, with much rejoicing.
The next morning, they’re all woken up at 6:30 by the announcement that school is open today, and that attendance is mandatory. Anyone who doesn’t show up has to spend a week working for Mr. Gollum. Mr. Satan, who has recorded the announcement that’s sent out to everyone’s parents, sits back at his desk and sighs, satisfied by another evil act well done.
Because I was going to start making Lost references, I figured I’d also have some flashbacks, to reveal a bit about the characters’ lives outside of school. I’d actually been meaning to show John’s home life for a long time, particularly his relationship with his foster parents, Steve and Mary Crawford, but I could never find the right place for it.
Steve and Mary were very nice people, and unable to have kids of their own. So they were very happy to get John... for a while, at least. When Ringo and Molly disappeared, John felt that he’d been abandoned, and became a very, very angry little boy. He took most of his resentment out on the Crawfords, terrifying them into letting him do whatever he wanted, making them tip-toe around him at home. They still keep trying to be good parents to him. John realizes this, but he intentionally refuses every act of kindness.
Another important part of this story, obviously, would be John’s relationship with Ebony. After Hamelt, they become pretty good friends, and I’m sure there would have been more romance at the school dance. They probably never actually get to kiss, but maybe go on a date. Silent Jim also has a crush on Bambi Stagwell, a stand-offish know-it-all who Ian can’t stand. Ian begins to discover curse words right after Hamelt (ignore the fact that he curses several times before that point in the story… it’s like how John was apparently wearing a Jar-Jar Binks mask before Jar-Jar Binks even existed), and uses them to shock and amaze his friends. I think at some point, Ian should have become the guru of the schoolyard, who everyone considered an expert on teenage and adult life, because he cursed fluently and watched porn. This would cause general chaos, since everyone would go to Ian for advice (well, you know, everyone who would go to Ian for advice) and then act on it. He’d eventually have to be stopped.
The only other story I had planned out was the last EVIL School story—at least as far as it concerned John. At some point later in the school year, John has to return to the Wayfarer’s Square, and actually unlock the Third Key (this may involve another threat like the Blind Man). In doing so he also destroys Acephalos (which he regrets, because he liked him) and also gets a glimpse beyond time and space… and into the true nature of the Management. He sees their plan, and the part he plays in it. And he doesn’t like what he sees. “They’re coming,” he whispers. “They’re coming. They’re…” He blacks out.
The memory of what he saw troubles him for weeks afterwards. And since he wasn’t supposed to have found any of that out this early anyway, the Management decides that something has to be done. So sometime later, trying not to think about what he saw, John starts goofing around in science lab, and ends up causing a huge explosion, which wipes out the school and erases the memories of everyone in the Ronkonkoma area. There is one notable exception (aside from, of course, supernatural creatures like Mr. Satan). John’s foster mother, Mary Crawford, works at a hospital in another town, so she’s away when the explosion happens. She returns, and finds that no one seems to remember anything. She even has some difficulty getting her husband, Steve, to recognize her. After he does, however, she realizes that he doesn’t remember that they ever had a foster child. And that’s when Mary, a loving woman who wanted nothing more than to be a mother, has a terrible idea. This is their chance, she realizes, to finally be free of John. So she and Steve keep the memory of John to themselves and stand by quietly as he and most of the other kids are scooped up by Child Services and put back into foster care.
During the explosion, the Management takes the opportunity to scrub John’s memory of what he saw when he unlocked the Third Key. Even after Tri-Leaders On Vacation, this one spot in John’s memory remains blank (There’s a reference to this in JohnWorld 3006, when John transcends the bounds of time and space while being readied to fight Kane: “His memory was a vast, glossy puzzle with one piece missing. The more he searched, the more and more he was sure that that piece had been lost forever, and that it had been no simple matter of misplacement.” It’s kind of awkwardly phrased, but the point is that there’s one memory he can’t recover, and, especially after finding out how he lost his other memories, he suspects that this memory was intentionally erased by the Management in order to hide something. And he’s right).
The Origin begins in the small farming town of Rockdale, IA, on September 16, 1999. John is thirteen, and utterly miserable. After the EVIL Elementary catastrophe, and the loss of his memory, he was adopted by James and Ezra Morgan. The Morgans were a relatively well-known family in Rockdale, because A) it’s a pretty tiny town, and B) James was the principal at Rockdale Middle School. When they adopted John, they were actually trying to find their son, James, Jr., who they had put up for adoption shortly after his birth (you can find out more by reading the section on The Morgans). Anyway, John was not, in fact, their long-lost son, which they realized pretty quickly. Perhaps this is why his years with the Morgans were so miserable, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was more likely because they were crazy.
Also, the Morgans already had a child, an equally unpleasant boy by the name of Daman. Daman was two years older than John, and had grown up just as miserable. However, once John was adopted, Daman found he now had someone to take all of his repressed anger out on. The one thing that sustains Daman, however, is the knowledge that he has a great destiny. “One day,” he tells his younger brother, “I’m going to rule the world.”
John is Daman’s constant sidekick and punching bag, taking the abuse because Daman promises him a part in his destiny. Secretly, though, John wishes for a destiny of his own.
So this was young John’s life. Or well, it was until that fateful day, September 16. John went to school with his father as usual (Daman was homeschooled after graduating from Rockdale Middle School… his father didn’t trust other schools with other principals). On his way across the parking lot, he is distracted by a map of the United States painted on the blacktop, and plays an almost unconscious game of hopscotch—from Michigan to Colorado to New Mexico to Pennsylvania to New Jersey. Although John doesn’t realize it, these are all important places in his life story, and this is meant to indicate that, on a subconscious level, he has some knowledge of his destiny.
Anyway, at this point John is an eighth grader. Believe it or not, he’s not terribly popular. His affections for the beautiful Chantal Conlin are constantly rebuffed, and he often has to talk his way out of a punitive beating by her boyfriend, Greg Michaels (with varying degrees of success). In other words, his school life was little better than his home life, and both were spent under the shadow of his father. However, this day promises to be a bit better, as his father announces that there will be a special assembly at the end of the day, featuring famous TV “animal man” Bart Jacobs (who you may or may not remember from Animorphs #12… the alligator was his), who will be talking about his recent adventures in Antarctica.
John sees this assembly as an opportunity to make a name for himself, to seize his own destiny: he quickly forms a plan to get himself on stage to address his classmates. If he was the center of attention, he reasons, they would have to recognize his magnificence and give him his due. Now, what his due is, exactly, John isn’t sure. You see, he’s always felt that he was meant for something more than life in Rockdale. But with no memory of his early life, he has no idea what that is. He believes he has a higher purpose, a destiny, and it eats away at him. All he knows for sure is that it has to do with power… and that he’s starving without it.
And so, John makes his plan. He enlists a school janitor for help, a cringing little man who John has bullied and blackmailed into being his accomplice. This man’s real name is Dante Hykes, but his original name tag was destroyed (in an incident involving John), forcing him to make a new one using a piece of cardboard from a candy box. John always ignores the name written on it and just calls Mr. Hykes by the name of the candy: GOOBER.
Goober helps John sneak into the school auditorium and hide backstage, as Bart Jacobs arrives and gets the stage set up. Bart Jacobs, by the way, is an asshole. At some point, his crew rolls a giant, covered cage backstage, which Bart Jacobs says contains his greatest find from Antarctica.
The assembly begins, and at an opportune time, John walks out on stage, steals Bart Jacobs’ microphone, and begins to address the student body, revealing the truth of his magnificence. Sadly, no one listens. His father, furious, orders him to sit down at once, an enraged Greg Michaels lumbers towards the stage to rip him apart, and Chantal Conlin is merely annoyed. Eventually, all three begin to argue between themselves, drawing all of the attention away from John. Frustrated, John desperately looks for some way to resolve this situation… and notices the big, covered cage that Bart Jacobs brought onstage. John throws off the covering and discovers…
… A giant Emperor penguin, with a name plate reading “BUBBA.”
John steals Bart Jacobs’ keys and frees Bubba, just as his enraged father is about to tear his head off. Before he’s enveloped in America’s first Bubba Bad Touch, John’s father mentions that John came to them from Long Island, which John files away for later. With his entire plan descending into pandemonium, John decides to take his chance and escape.
He hides in the woods, trying to figure out what to do next and not having much luck. It comes as a great surprise, then, when his brother Daman comes wandering into the forest looking for him. Even more surprising is what Daman tells him: he has wanted to run away for the longest time, to go to a “special place” that someone told him about. But until the fiasco John created at school, Daman never had a chance. He offers John the chance to come with him, and to be part of something great. Surprised at his brother’s sudden change in attitude, John agrees.
They sneak out to the outskirts of town, to a roadside motel, where Daman knocks on the door of Room #6. A man answers and introduces himself as Jordan Vance. Vance is handsome, smooth, and dangerous. He always carries two pistols under his jacket, and seems to take everything as a joke. After a brief moment of curiosity, he agrees to take both boys where they need to go. Daman explains that he and Vance met a few months ago, and Vance told him about an incredible place where all of Daman’s dreams could be fulfilled. A place called Evil School.
By the next day, a full manhunt is on for the two boys, and they hide in the trunk of Vance’s car (which, incidentally, is Elfangor’s old yellow Mustang convertible from when he was Alan Fangor) as he smuggles them out of the state. Once they’ve escaped, Vance asks John where to go next. Daman is, naturally, confused and a bit peeved that Vance is asking his little brother where to go. Vance shoots down his arguments, saying that if they’re both going to go to Evil School, John needs to find something first. “And what’s that?” Daman demands, all sarcasm. In that moment, John knows the answer: “I need to find out who I really am.” And so, with Daman grudgingly agreeing, they head off to Long Island, following the clue that John’s father let slip during the assembly.
They have many adventures, during which Daman becomes increasingly frustrated with Vance and John, and often threatens John (outside of Vance’s hearing) with abandonment. At first John finds himself clinging to Daman, but with Vance’s encouragement begins to become more confident in himself and his own destiny. John also begins to suspect that Vance knows more about his past than he admits, and that he may even have known John’s biological father.
They pass through New Jersey, which involves a brief stop at a roadside inn owned by Eric Schaible, the future Super Shibes. Heading north they stop at a QuikStop in Leonardo, NJ, so that John can use the bathroom. Discovering that the bathroom inside is currently being used by people having sex, John goes around the back to use a Port-o-Potty. Imagine his surprise, then, when he finds people inside. Two boys, to be exact.
Boys who call themselves Ian and Silent Jim.
Despite the fact that Vance and Daman are waiting for him, John allows Ian and Silent Jim to regale him with their love of Kevin Smith, tales of their adventures as small-time drug dealers in the City, and, of course, the tale of their first meeting. Apparently, both boys grew up down the street from each other in Richwhitepeopleville, ME, but ran away from home the previous year, following a mysterious call. John surmises that their destinies might be intertwined, and is about to tell them that he’s headed to Evil School when Daman comes around to drag him back to the car. Ian tells John to let them know if he ever needs any help. Before leaving, Daman notes that Silent Jim looks strangely familiar. Also, after getting back in the car, John realizes that he never peed.
Eventually they reach Long Island, and go straight to Ronkonkoma (further evidence that Vance knows exactly who John is). They go by the ruins of EVIL Elementary (there isn’t much left) and then over to an adoption agency, where Vance distracts the staff while John sneaks in and looks up his own file. He discovers that he was actually adopted twice: his family in Long Island are not his biological family. The names of his actual parents are not listed, but there is an address: for Hope Springs, Colorado.
By this point, Daman is becoming very agitated by John’s identity quest, and argues with Vance. When Vance dismisses him, Daman pulls out a gun he found in the car and shoves it into John’s ear. He says that either Vance is going to stop making detours, or he’ll just blow John’s head off and there won’t be any reason for detours. Vance, smiling as always, calms him down and convinces Daman to hand over the gun. Then, with shocking violence, he pistol whips Daman to the ground and shoves the gun against his forehead, saying that no one threatens him. Daman starts to cry and beg John for help, and after a moment’s hesitation John steps in and asks Vance to spare him. Vance grudgingly agrees, but tells Daman that if he ever messes with him again, he’s dead. John promises that after they go to Hope Springs, they can go to Evil School or wherever. If his parents are there, he says, he might even just stay, and Daman won’t have to deal with him at all. Far from being grateful, Daman is even more enraged at being saved by John.
On the way to Colorado they pass through Iowa, where they discover that the manhunt for the two boys has been called off. John is relieved, but Daman seems strangely hurt, as if he doesn’t understand why his hated parents wouldn’t want to find him. John isn’t as bothered; by this point, he’s used to not being wanted.
They reach Hope Springs and go to the address John found… only to discover that the house is up for sale. John goes inside and realizes that it’s been empty for years. Battling the disappointment, he wanders around looking for some hint of his parents, some hint of a relationship. He finds a room which might have been his once and, following a fleeting bit of memory, opens a secret compartment in a dresser. Inside he finds a few pieces of paper: a newspaper clipping about a clown who was murdered (a member of Ringo’s Leonard Travelling Troupe, John), half of a postcard from Ireland, written by “Mom” to “my little girl” (John assumes that isn’t him), some stamps, and a single, ancient piece of loose leaf covered with a child’s early attempts at writing cursive. Written carefully on the bottom of the page is a name: Molly Aisling Dougherty.
And that’s it. Some meaningless scraps and a name that might be his mother’s. Heavy with disappointment, John goes back out to the car and tells them that they can go wherever they want. When Daman asks if he found anything, John says no (though, secretly, he’s kept the papers he found). Vance tells them that with John’s journey done, they can now go to Evil School. Daman is overjoyed.
They drive up to Michigan, to a little town called Hell. John begins to get uncomfortable, and starts to wonder what Evil School is, exactly. That night, Vance says they’re going to meet some people, but not in Hell. They go to the next town over, a strange little place called the Circle. Vance takes them to a bar in the center of town called the Hell Hole. It’s very atmospheric—the bouncer even has huge demon horns (though John gets the sense that they’re real). They sit down at a table to wait. There’s a dance floor and a live DJ, and John is absent-mindedly listening to the music… until a new song comes on. And then, suddenly, John is out of his seat and on the dance floor, doing a dance which makes full use of his large head. He becomes aware of someone else doing the same dance, a girl who’s a bit older than him. And suddenly, the name of the dance comes to him: the Dance of Eternal Happiness. And, he realizes, he knows the girl.
Indeed, it’s his long-lost sister, Ann Chovi. And through the magic of the Dance of Eternal Happiness, they remember each other. At first they’re very happy to see each other, but then Ann remembers that John caused the accident that made them both lose their memories in the first place, and John remembers his rivalry with his siblings. They start to argue, and then Ann orders her ferret stole (actually Stan) to attack John. In the resulting mayhem, they both bump their heads and forget everything again (their memories are rather fragile by this point). So when John sees Ann again, all he can remember is that he hates her.
He returns to his table, to find someone new there, speaking quietly with Vance and Daman. The newcomer is a handsome man with Middle Eastern features and a sharp goatee. His ears end in slight points, and there is a strange light in his eyes, like a tiny blue flame in his pupils. He introduces himself as Mr. Iblis, the dean of students and director of admissions at Evil School. He is friendly and energetic, but there’s something phony about him that John can’t quite put his finger on.
Iblis is talking to Daman about Evil School’s programs, faculty, et cetera. John tries to glean as much information as he can, but he’s come in on the middle of the conversation. He gets the gist that Evil School is a place where you learn to discover your full potential, and take what is rightfully yours—which, honestly, sounds pretty damn good. Vance told him he needed to find out who he really is. Maybe trying to find his parents had been the wrong idea. Maybe, to discover his identity, he had to discover his destiny. But then he remembers that Daman is the one who’s going to Evil School, not him. Daman’s the one who’s going to rule the world.
Then, Mr. Iblis asks Vance if everything’s been arranged, including the necessary payment. “What payment?” Daman asks. Iblis sends Vance a furtive look, then stands up to leave. “Let me know when it’s all squared away, then.” He leaves. Vance takes the boys back to the car, but instead of driving them back to the hotel, he drives out to an old abandoned factory, pulls inside, and turns off the car. Daman demands to know what’s going on, and Vance tells him that he needs to make the proper payments before he can go to Evil School. And that payment is a sacrifice, one human life. Daman doesn’t believe him at first, but then, cautiously, asks how he’s supposed to do that. “Well,” Vance says, “we could have grabbed a drunk at the bar, or we could wander around here until we find some bums… but I thought I’d make it easy for you, and just bring your sacrifice along.” There is a long silence, as John realizes that Vance is talking about him. He looks at Daman, and sees that he’s realized it too. For a moment Daman looks doubtful, but then his face hardens with resolve. John gets out of the car and runs.
Daman chases him through the abandoned warehouse with one of Vance’s guns, nearly hitting him several times. Eventually, John trips over something and falls through a weak wall, injuring himself and allowing Daman to catch up with him. In an act of desperation, he throws a piece of debris at Daman and succeeds in knocking the gun from his hands. John grabs the gun and scrambles away, as Daman comes after him wielding a piece of pipe. John, lying on his back, points the gun at him. “You can’t shoot me, you little shit,” Daman growls, approaching. “You can’t shoot your own brother, you miserable little…”
John fires, and shoots Daman in the stomach. Stunned, his brother falls down, bleeding. He sits there, panting, looking at John in confusion and fear. “Why would you do that?” John stands up, horrified. In that moment, he honestly doesn’t know why he did it. He’s never wanted to hurt anyone, not really, and even if Daman was a jerk, he didn’t want to kill him.
So John is even more confused when he fires three more times into Daman’s chest.
He stands there until his brother stops breathing. He waits to see if he’ll vomit, or cry, or fall down stricken with grief. When none of the above happens, he goes back down to the car, where Vance is waiting. He doesn’t seem surprised to see John come out. “All right, Sparky. Let’s get going.”
Part 2 begins with John on the train to Evil School. We find out that Vance dropped him off at a small train station just outside of the Circle, and then drove away. John waited around on the platform with a number of other strange people. He catches a glimpse of a dark, attractive girl in a green shirt, but is too shy to go talk to her. After waiting for about half an hour, he realizes that he really needs to pee, but before he can sneak off to do so, the train arrives. He’s then told that due to the “bumpy ride,” he has to stay in his compartment for the first hour of the trip. By the time we rejoin the story, he’s been squirming in his seat for about 57 minutes, his kidneys at the point of bursting. (Note: the “bumpy ride” is a function of the train slipping through a crack of reality, leaving our universe for the private pocket of reality in which Evil School resides)
The moment there’s an announcement that they can safely move about the train, John jumps up and runs to the back of the train, following the rest room signs. Unfortunately, this is an evil train, and thus, there is only one uni-sex bathroom. And it’s occupied. Fortunately, there’s a Gatorade bottle lying discarded on the floor, so John picks it up and, after making sure no one can see him, proceeds to relieve himself. He’s just about finished when the bathroom door opens, and the dark girl in the green shirt walks out. After an awkward moment, they introduce themselves (the girl, for obvious reasons, declines to shake John’s hand). Her name is Ebony Trester, and she’s apparently some sort of evil mechanic/robotics expert. They seem to hit it off.
We briefly cut to Mr. Satan, hanging out in his office, speaking to a mysterious compatriot. He expresses his concerns about the Management’s plans, Evil School in general, a mysterious recent acquisition (italicized because this is an important plot point) by the school, and especially the fact that “the kid” (meaning John) is arriving this year. The mysterious compatriot agrees to keep an eye on John.
Eventually, the train arrives at Evil School, or, more accurately, the shores of the river Acheron, which connects Evil School’s pocket dimension to Hell. The students are directed to ferries, piloted by the nightmarish (but rather friendly) Charontes. John ends up on a ferry with Yago, David (from Animorphs), and Draco Malfoy, whose luggage is being carried by Dobby. He also meets Bricriu, a mischievous will-o’-wisp, who torments pretty much everyone who takes themselves seriously.
They arrive at the school, a rambling, Gothic campus behind enormous black walls. Faculty members direct the students into the Great Hall, where they are given their orientation session. They meet Mr. Satan, the vice principal and Mr. Iblis, the dean of students. The general purpose of Evil School (to teach them to be evil) is explained, they meet other members of the faculty and staff, and are given their housing assignments. John will live with Yago, David, and Bricriu. Ebony ends up living with Senna Wales, Taylor (Sub-visser Fifty-One), and Delia Taylor (a quiet, cranky girl from a story Katherine wrote… she’s a burgeoning sorceress). Malfoy lives with Visser 3 (referred to as Esplin 9466, but in Alloran’s body), Keith (from EverWorld), and Travis Kevzna (another character of Katherine’s… he’s an insane teenager who begins a cult at his high school called The Freedom, and then convinces them to commit a massive school shooting).
Now we’re getting into the part I didn’t plan out as much. Generally, John and friends have a lot of whacky adventures, while learning to be evil. John tries his best to hang out with Ebony, but Yago (the leader of their room) doesn’t care about his crush. So, instead, they hang out with another group of girls – Darla (from Buffy, who Yago is trying to hook-up with… until she tries to eat him), Rita Repulsa from Power Rangers, Stroë Blight from Captain Planet, and Annie Thelen. John can’t stand them, especially Annie, who annoys him with her peppy songs and guitar playing. While hanging out in the room one night, he lets Stroë convince him to check out one of her experiments into elemental beings (she wants to control nature, so she’s trying to figure out how elemental creatures like dryads, nymphs, etc., work). This results in a large explosion, with John at the center. However, John comes out without a scratch on him. This causes John to think back over his life (as much of it as he remembers, at least) and to realize that something must be looking out for him, keeping him safe from harm. He takes this as evidence of his destiny.
Meanwhile, we get a little peek into Ebony’s life, and learn a few things about her we didn’t know before. For example, she’s not really evil. She’s not even trying to be evil. She was recruited by the forces of Heaven to work as a spy within Evil School… specifically to keep an eye on a “person of interest,” who they believe is integral to the Management’s plans. Ebony doesn’t know this is John, and at first thinks it’s Kane. She tries to get in close to Kane by convincing her roommates to go to a party hosted by him and his friends, a frat-boy-esque crew calling themselves the Red Eye Gang, composed of Crayak, Sauron, and Randall Flagg. After meeting Kane she starts to have her doubts, but is charmed (and drunk) enough that she makes out with him. She regrets this deeply afterwards. Ebony’s main source of conflict is that, although a lot of the students at Evil School are obviously evil, there are people like John, or Kane, who also seem friendly and well-adjusted. She’s worried about whether or not she’s doing the right thing. We also discover (though it isn’t a huge plot point) that she suspects she might be bisexual.
Eventually Yago and Senna start dating (they’re using each other), so John gets to hang out with Ebony more (though he also finds himself attracted to Taylor… the feelings aren’t mutual). Meanwhile, tensions are growing between John’s friends and Malfoy’s homies, beginning as an escalating prank war, but becoming more and more dangerous as Travis and Keith start to plan some real revenge. Ebony and John become good friends. Before starting to date Senna, Yago almost has sex with Taylor, but gets freaked out when he finds out her arm is prosthetic. Taylor discovers that, at Evil School, she doesn’t need to go to the Yeerk Pool to feed every three days, meaning that her Yeerk can stay in her head all the time. By this point, their personalities have pretty much merged, to the point where it’s hard to tell where the Yeerk ends and Taylor begins. Everytime they have to be separated is hell for both of them. This is a place, Taylor realizes, where she can finally be happy. However, her experiences with Yago and others don’t help.
On the weekends, the kids usually leave Evil School and go back to our universe, frequenting the previously-mentioned Hell Hole. At some point, there’s a band called FingerCuffs playing (see FingerCuffs), and John recognizes two of the band members as Ian and Silent Jim. He reunites with them and, despite the school’s strict rules, tells them what he’s been up to. They’re both impressed, and repeat their offer to help him if he ever needs anything. John calls this in later, when he finds himself stuck on “Bring Your Lackeys to School Day.” He convinces Ian and Silent Jim to come by telling them that they’re “really more like my evil allies.” From that moment on, an indelible bond is formed between the three of them.
There is a much bigger arc going on around all of this. Remember that mysterious, recent acquisition by the school I mentioned earlier? It’s the Fourth Key (see The Four Keys of Dis), and it is being kept under heavy guard in the Chapel, the heart of Evil School. This is the place where the members of the administration go to communicate with the Management. It is constantly under the watch of N/X agents – essentially, Hell’s secret police; the kind of three-headed, four-armed, cloaked demons that attempt to kill Fi at the end of So Weird’s second season. Ebony is the first to find out about it, and when she reports back to her contact (the Blind Man), he tells her to investigate further. Meanwhile, John realizes that Iblis has taken a special interest in him, and is heavily encouraging him to learn more about the N/X, and maybe become an agent (the idea of three heads and four arms isn’t terribly appealing, however). Mr. Satan has also taken an interest, but his advice to John is a bit more ambiguous. There’s a rivalry between Mr. Satan and Iblis – partially over who should be the vice principal (Evil School’s highest position… principal is left symbolically absent, in honor of the Management), as well as the fact that Iblis was one of the demons who betrayed Lucifer for the Management, while Satan stayed loyal. Their ways of dealing with things differ as well – Iblis always holds to the company line, while Satan is (naturally) a bit more rebellious. Bricriu is also an important piece of this puzzle, as he leads John along, dropping hints, implying that he knows a lot more than he seems. Which, indeed, he does: Bricriu isn’t even really there to go to school. He’s already an agent of the Management, and they’re using him to keep an eye on John. He’s the same mysterious guest that Mr. Satan is speaking to at the beginning of the story. His motives, however, are a bit more ambiguous: he’s the Management’s agent, sure, but he also seems increasingly dissatisfied with their lack of a sense of humor.
Eventually, Ebony begins to return John’s feelings, although nothing officially happens past one slightly-drunken kiss after a night at the Hell Hole. It is shortly after this that the Blind Man reveals to Ebony that John is their “person of interest,” and that she shouldn’t get too close to him, in case he becomes an imminent threat and they need her to terminate him. Ebony is conflicted, and begins to withdraw from John, worried about what will happen. John doesn’t understand, and starts to worry that he’s about to be abandoned again. He shuts himself off from Ebony to protect himself, and things become awkward between them. It gets even worse, when John and Taylor kiss. Yeah, that obviously needs some explanation. Despite wanting to be evil, and discovering that he has a real aptitude for it, John is a pretty nice guy (you can’t really tell just from this summary, but part of how John was supposed to be portrayed in The Origin was not only as being smarter and obviously less crazy than he is in the contemporary stories, but also as being kind of sweet and sensitive, traits he furiously tries to suppress but which come out anyway). He’s particularly nice to Taylor, mostly because he’s too shy around her to be cocky or goofy. As the year goes on, and Taylor’s social life isn’t panning out exactly the way she thought it would, she starts to become a little desperate. She’s also pretty depressed, because the closer they get to graduation, the closer she gets to having to go back to the Yeerk feeding cycle. So she kind of withdrawals from everyone else, and starts drinking a lot/eating a lot of instant maple and cinnamon oatmeal (it’s like crack for Yeerks!). One night, when she’s particularly messed up and upset, John (who still hasn’t totally suppressed his nice side) goes and talks to her, and she kisses him, probably in front of Ebony. Pissed at Ebony for her apparent rejection and, obviously, attracted to Taylor, John goes with it. Taylor immediately sobers up and is horrified that she would even be within three feet of someone like John. She starts avoiding John altogether. Ebony is furious, and starts dating Kane. Thirteen-year-olds suck.
There’s a brief detour during the student council elections, which mostly comes down to Kane and Yago. Evil School’s student council doesn’t really do anything, and the elections are held late in the year… it’s just a chance for them to test out what they’ve learned about manipulation and deceit. Despite John, David, and Bricriu’s best efforts at sabotage (which includes breaking into the Red Eye Gang’s frat house), Kane wins.
Following the elections is the biggest event of the year… the Evil School Prom! Still on the outs with Ebony, John finds himself without a date. He thinks about asking Taylor, but she’s pretty much convinced herself to forget what happened between them, to prevent herself from going even more insane. So John, utterly desperate, bites the bullet and asks one of the only other people without a date who seems like they won’t murder him while they’re dancing… Annie. Meanwhile, Travis and Keith have lost interest in Evil School, and plan to kill everyone at the prom (Keith is convinced once he finds out that John’s roommates have circulated a rumor that he and Travis are lovers).
On prom night, John and Ebony are both miserable. John can’t stand Annie’s cheeriness and occasional bouts of terrifying evil; Ebony can’t stand Kane because she’s spent more than three hours with him. At some point during the night, they run into each other near the drink table and talk, but aren’t able to reconcile. It’s just after this, however, that Travis and Keith bust in with machine guns and attempt to kill everyone. Although there are many more powerful beings in the room, they are prevented from fighting back due to a protective charm cast over the dance floor to prevent the inevitable evil antics. So it’s up to John and his buddies to stop them which, somehow, they do. Travis and Keith’s memories are erased, and they’re expelled. John and friends have a meeting with Satan and Iblis, where they tell them that their actions at the prom looked remarkably like heroism, and they never want to see anything like that again, or they’ll be expelled as well. Afterwards, Mr. Satan and John briefly discuss the nature of evil, and (by implication) Mr. Satan’s own views about the Management and what they’re doing (he’s not a fan). Something he says causes John to become interested in what’s being kept in the Chapel.
John and Ebony finally reconcile, though right after this, Ebony is contacted by the Blind Man again. She says she’s not interested in “terminating” anyone, and that they’ll have to get someone else to do it. The Blind Man tells her that John isn’t of immediate interest. What they need her to do is to get the Fourth Key out of the Chapel and bring it to them, so that they can destroy it.
At graduation, Ebony takes advantage of Kane’s entrancing valedictorian speech to sneak out unnoticed. At the same time, John feels a powerful call and, almost against his will, gets up and goes to the Chapel himself. He and Ebony arrive there, and they find the Fourth Key. Iblis then steps out of the shadows and explains the whole concept of the Four Keys to them, though he’s evasive as to why exactly it’s so important to the Management. He also implies that he’s known Ebony was a double agent the whole time, and alludes to John’s involvement in unlocking the Third Key (though John doesn’t quite get the hint). He then tells John to open the Key. Mr. Satan shows up, and argues with Iblis, saying that Lucifer locked up the center of Dis for a reason, that if he wasn’t willing to make use of the raw power contained within the city, then no one else should either. Iblis ignores him, and again tells John to unlock the Key. When John hesitates, Iblis threatens to kill Ebony. John demands to know why he has to do it. “Because it’s your destiny,” Iblis said. “There. Happy now?” John, not seeing another option, steps up and puts his hands on the Key.
John is then taken somewhere else—into the Key. He interacts with it, feels the tremendously dark power that it holds back, and understands the forces he’s tied up with better than he ever has. And as he does this, he begins to realize that he has options. His consciousness returns from inside the key to find Iblis getting impatient, shouting at him to get on with it. John obliges him… and destroys the Key. There’s a huge explosion, and the entire Chapel is blown apart. John, Ebony, and Mr. Satan seem fine, but Iblis has disappeared beneath the rubble. John confirms that he destroyed the Key, but just as everyone’s starting to feel relieved, Iblis bursts from the rubble, revealing his true form as a jinn—a fearsome being of pure flame. He tells them that for their treason, he’s going to kill them all. He’s particularly happy about the fact that he gets to finally rid himself of Mr. Satan. Mr. Satan seems unconcerned, however, and says that he’s going to give Iblis one chance to just cut his losses and walk away.
Iblis scoffs. “I am Jinn,” he says, “formed from the smokeless fires of God. What are you going to do? Burn me?”
He stops laughing, however, when Mr. Satan uses some remnant of his angelic powers to douse Iblis with holy water, destroying him (all that’s left are some ashes). Mr. Satan then tells John and Ebony to go back to the graduation and not to talk about what’s happened—he’ll cover for them. He says that he always thought the Four Keys thing was a stupid idea anyway, and it’s not like the Management doesn’t have other plans. “I mean, hey,” he says to John, “they still have you, right?”
(I’m not sure exactly what Mr. Satan tells the Management to avoid getting killed himself—he probably says that John accidentally destroyed the Key, seeing as how the Management had wiped his memory of the Third Key and thus he had no idea what he was doing. He may also claim either that Iblis was killed when the Key was destroyed, or that Mr. Satan had to put Iblis down because he tried to kill John after the Key was destroyed, and Mr. Satan knows how important John is to their plans)
John and Ebony graduate with everyone, and say goodbye to all of their friends and roommates. Yago and Senna have a big, messy break-up and go their separate ways. Taylor strikes a deal with Mr. Satan (or maybe Lilith… one of the administrators), offering to come back and work at the school once she’s done all she can do with her life of villainy (really just because she sees this as the only chance she’ll have to be totally integrated with her Yeerk… the deal is accepted, and when she falls from the Yeerk Pool ceiling in Animorphs #43, she’s transported to Evil School before she hits the ground). Bricriu tells John that he’s going to be on a TV show called So Weird, and that John should check it out. At the end, John and Ebony take the train back to the Circle, and stand there together, contemplating the next step in their lives.
We pick up a little bit later, in mid-2000. John and Ebony are dating again, and trying to find a balance between their respective goals. Ebony wants to change the world for the better, and John wants to rule it. He has, somehow, convinced Ebony that these can be one in the same—if they take over the world, they’ll be in a better position to change it. They’re already living in the cave, which they moved into shortly after graduation. We see a flashback which tells us that Phabio actually showed them the property (he does specialize in formerly-evil real estate), and that there’s a very, very old deed to the cave which lists its name as “Taenarus.” Ian and Silent Jim are there as well, though they’re still detaching themselves from their outside lives. The Evil School Alumni Association occasionally checks in with John and gives him tips—the cave was one, and another is an alumni event in Hawaii. Ebony is nervous, because she hasn’t been getting anything from the Alumni Association, and fears her cover might be blown and that there might be some retribution coming. John convinces her to come to Hawaii, telling her he won’t let anything bad happen to her. “They like me, remember?” The alumni event actually ends up being pretty lame—David shows up, as do Senna, Delia, and Annie, but not too many other people from their class. John is secretly a little disappointed that Taylor isn’t there (not to mention the rest of his roommates). John and Ebony end up going on their own little Hawaiian vacation and, during an adventure that accidentally strands them on a tiny, uncharted island near the route of their cruise boat, they meet Randall. After they help him with some family issues, Randall offers his services, and John agrees to make him another of his Evil Allies (not realizing that Randall is yet another spy for the Management, assigned to keep an eye on him). When they return from Hawaii, they find a girl waiting for them in the cave. At first, John thinks it’s Ann, the hated girl he met in Michigan. However, she assures them that she’s actually Ann’s twin cousin: Jan Chovy. Jan has a similar opinion of her cousin, and offers to help John and Ebony in their bid for world domination. She tells them about Roses and Roseidous’ plan to attack Albuquerque, and John and Ebony decide that they’ll go, wait until both sides have exhausted each other, and then sweep in and defeat everyone, taking Albuquerque for themselves. They plan to accomplish this through a robot army Ebony has been building (her passion for robotics would have been established earlier in the story—she already had seven big robots who she named after the seven dwarves, her favorite being Dopey, but the army she builds are smaller, less complicated soldier robots).
They go to New Mexico, and watch the First Battle of Albuquerque rage (by this point it’s March 2001). The clone army and the baby cannibal monkeys clash. John can feel his moment of triumph at hand, that moment of destiny he’d been waiting for all of his life. The air almost seems electrified, and he can barely contain his anticipation. And just as he and Ebony are about to march their army into the city, Jeff appears and uses the Delete All button. And then there’s nothing. According to everyone else who experienced it, being near the Delete All button’s blast resulted in a terrifying feeling of utter void, followed by blacking out until several hours later.
Not for John.
John awakes in the nothingness. Something is taking him apart.
He hears voices talking, talking about him, and he realizes that he’s hearing the voices of the Management. Caught between life and oblivion, they’ve seized him in a Nexus and are performing what can only be described as spiritual surgery. They have big plans for John, they say, but so far he’s been disappointing. Weak. Soft. Far too good. They intend to change that. He hears them discussing, casually, what to remove and what to leave. Remove compassion. Leave fear. Remove confidence. Leave anger. Remove courage. Remove altruism. Leave insecurity. Leave selfishness. And love? They leave it, but it’s love without any hope of acceptance, without any hope of satisfaction. They stunt his brilliance, and excite his ambition. They dull his sense of empathy, and leave all of that fear and loathing. They kill every part of him that is kind and gentle and good, and leave him scared, angry, and desperate for approval, for acceptance, for control. John feels them twisting him, feels his very soul being torn apart… and it drives him insane.
A few hours later, Ebony wakes up to find their entire robot army wiped out. She finds John, but when he wakes up he’s not the same person he was before the Cataclysm. He’s theatrical and foolish, full of grandiose claims and maniacal laughter. John tells her that he’s had an awakening, and that from this day on he isn’t just John… he’s John, Lord of Darkness.
Time passes. John decides that his new name needs a little extra oomph, and eventually seizes on the idea of tacking a sinister fanfare onto the end of it. He goes through a few different options before deciding on (Dum Dum Duuuuuum!). Jan keeps them updated on Morphz, the Tri-Leaders, etc., and John realizes that if he’s going to rule the world, he’ll have to defeat the Tri-Leaders first. He vows that from this moment (whatever moment that might be) on, they’ll be arch-enemies. He then asks Ebony if he should write them a letter, informing them. Ebony, disturbed by how stupid John has become, changes the subject.
For her own part, Ebony has been trying to ignore the fact that her menstrual cycle has stopped. This becomes harder to ignore as the months go on, and it becomes more and more obvious that she’s pregnant.
Meanwhile, John is becoming crazier and crazier, and begins to wonder if it’s wise for him to have a partner. After all, he can’t be sole ruler of the world if it’s him and Ebony, can he? (In order to figure this out, he has to draw stick figures of himself and Ebony and count them… not to mention that he has to look up the word “sole” in the dictionary several times to remind himself that it means “one”). So he makes up his mind, and tells her that they’re not going to be allies anymore (but they can keep dating!). Ebony has finally had enough, and unloads on him. She tells him: “John, I love you… but go to hell.” Then she leaves, never to return. John sees this as her abandoning him, and immediately shuts himself off, telling Ian and Silent Jim that he never needed her anyway, and pretty much forbidding anyone to ever speak her name again. Silent Jim has some real issues with how John treated Ebony, especially since she’s pregnant, and he takes a temporary leave of absence from John’s evil organization, going down to Florida.
Meanwhile, Ebony is lost and confused and is getting closer and closer to actually having the baby. That’s when the Blind Man appears to her. He makes an offer:
“Give your child to us,” the Blind Man said. “There is a mother’s womb prepared for her in 1991. She will be carried to term, born healthy, and raised by loving parents.”
“1991?” Ebony repeated. “You’re sending her back in time.”
“It is critical that your daughter be older, to face the trials coming in the next few years. My masters will make all of the arrangements.”
“So… does that mean she’s alive right now? As a ten-year-old?”
“If I told you that, it would influence your choice.”
“Why is my choice so important, if it’s already happened?”
“Because,” the Blind Man said, “your choice is the only thing that matters. It’s the only thing that ever does.”
She agrees. Before the Blind Man works his magic, however, he asks her what the child’s name will be. “Katherine,” Ebony said. “It’s… that’s my name. My real name. The name my mother gave me.” (This, of course, would be a big surprise) The Blind Man sends Katherine back in time, and Ebony retires to Clyattville.
The Origin ends a little bit later, immediately before the first Saga begins. John is sitting on his throne, thinking back over his life, over the strange path that has led him to be here. He thinks only briefly on Ebony, and concludes that he doesn’t have time for regrets. He has a destiny to fulfill. The story ends with the first line of the first Saga:
“John, Lord of Darkness (Dum Dum Duuuuuum!) sat brooding on his throne in a brooding sort of way…”
PIZZA BOYS IN SPACE!!!!!
This, of course, isn’t an unwritten saga, but it is a story which I had more plans for, before the story ran out of steam. Since these plans tied into the overall mythology, I’ll discuss them here.
As a quick recap: this mini-RPG was about the Pizza Boys getting abducted by the sinister, and egotistical, alien dsjh4w95824hnf, who wants to make them his pizza-chef slaves on his homeworld. The Tri-Leaders, naturally, go off to rescue their friends/victims. John, Lord of Darkness (Dum Dum Duuuuuum!) and his Evil Allies get involved because, prior to their abduction, the Pizza Boys were supposed to be delivering a pizza to Ian and Silent Jim. Once John learns that the Pizza Boys have been abducted by aliens, he makes the only logical conclusion that one could make in this interplanetary, post-Yeerk-War world: these aliens must be the exact same aliens who contacted Fi on So Weird! As a devotee of the Goddess, John knows it’s his sacred duty to protect the aliens from the Tri-Leaders’ retribution. However, this creates some tension between John and Ian, who wants revenge on the aliens himself for delaying his pizza and preventing him from sating a serious case of the munchies. In the last post written, John and the Tri-Leaders have both landed on the aliens’ planet and are approaching dsjh4w95824hnf’s grounded ship, the Tri-Leaders keeping an eye on John. Meanwhile, dsjh4w95824hnf grows impatient, waiting for the Pizza Boys to make pizza for him (not understanding that he has to actually order it).
Here’s how I imagined the story going after that: John and the Tri-Leaders encounter security as they approach the ship, and hilarious hijinks ensue (which probably involves John and his Allies fighting with the Tri-Leaders and Junior Tri-Leaders while evading security), and both groups end up getting into the ship, but everyone gets separated into several smaller groups. The Junior Tri-Leaders focus on finding the Pizza Boys, while John and Ian head towards the bridge, squabbling the entire way about what they should do. Despite his frustration over Ian’s plans for vengeance, John is euphoric about meeting the aliens from So Weird. They play an important part in the overarching mythology of the show, so he’s pumped to help them get in touch with Fi so that she can fulfill her destiny (plus, he plans on asking her out while they’re on the space-phone with her). The Tri-Leaders and the other Allies wreak other kinds of havoc throughout the ship. When John arrives at the bridge and announces himself, dsjh4w95824hnf is savvy enough to pretend to be one of the So Weird aliens, winning John over to his side. He then uses John to help him identify the other intruders on his ship, and to unravel the mystery of ordering pizza. The Pizza Boys get to work, but begin to hatch an ingenious (ingenious?) plan of escape that somehow involves the pizzas they’re baking. Roses and Ann make the terrifying discovery that, apparently, if dsjh4w95824hnf eats pizza, it will actually transform him into a universe-devouring cheese monster. Indeed, this apparently happened before, millennia ago (it’s also possible that this species of alien actually invented pizza, by accident, and after their first universe-devouring cheese monster close call, decided to drop all of the remaining pizzas on a planet which, they figured, wasn’t advanced enough to duplicate them (that, of course, being Earth). However, before they can do anything about it, they (and everyone else) are captured by alien guards.
On the bridge, everyone is brought together (with all of the Earthlings except for John and Ian in chains – John leaves the rest of the Allies in chains because their faith is weak, while Ian is only free because he and John arrived on the bridge together) as the Pizza Boys deliver dsjh4w95824hnf’s pizza. dsjh4w95824hnf triumphantly pulls off a slice, smells it, and takes a bite. Roses tells John that he’s an idiot, because of the whole universe-devouring-cheese-monster thing. John is puzzled, because he doesn’t remember there being any universe-devouring-cheese-monsters in Jon Cooksey’s original plans for So Weird. It is at this moment that dsjh4w95824hnf, in a distinctly John-esque move, reveals to John that not only is he not one of the aliens from So Weird, he doesn’t even know what So Weird is (though he thinks it sounds stupid). Laughing evilly, he devours the rest of his pizza slice. John, suddenly very quiet, looks over at Ian. Ian looks at John. They nod at each other… and then begin to tear the bridge apart (Ian with his flame thrower, John with one of those nifty lightsabers left over from Saga 1.5). They free the others, and everything explodes into chaos, all of dsjh4w95824hnf’s henchmen freaking out and abandoning him, as he wolfs down the rest of the pizza. John and Ian disappear into the heart of the ship, breaking stuff. The Tri-Leaders get to dsjh4w95824hnf, but not before he’s eaten the entire pizza. He stands, triumphant, and announces that he can feel eternity growing within him, and that now all of the Secrets of the Universe lay open before him. He turns to the Pizza Boys and says that, even though he’s going to purge them in his new role as Ruler of the Cosmos, he really does have to thank them for making such a lovely pizza.
“Hey, no problem,” Nothlit says. “Just one thing you should know, though.” He grins. “That wasn’t pizza.”
It turns out that the Pizza Boys simply made something that looked like a pizza on the outside. On the inside, it was actually a jelly-and-diced-fish-sticks potato salad. They figured that dsjh4w95824hnf, who had never eaten pizza before, wouldn’t know the difference and would just let them all go after he got the fake pie (plus, they thought it would be funny to trick him into eating something like that). What actually happens is much more surprising. dsjh4w95824hnf, surprised and dismayed that he didn’t actually eat pizza, hiccups and then does begin to change. “So he turns into a cheese monster anyway?!” Roseidous demands. “Come ON!!!” But instead, dsjh4w95824hnf simply transforms into… a pizza.
“Is that ironic?” Ann asks. “I think that’s ironic.”
Meanwhile, John and Ian have done enough damage that the ship is beginning to self-destruct. Everyone escapes, with Silent Jim pausing just long enough to grab the pizza which used to be dsjh4w95824hnf. Annoyed, tired, and hungry, everyone piles into their respective spaceships and heads home. John locks himself in his room and watches So Weird. Holli and Tails welcome the Pizza Boys back with a book of “Get Out of Torture FREE” coupons (all set to expire the next day). And Silent Jim surprises a despondent Ian with a fresh pizza.
A final note: in the last post I wrote, dsjh4w95824hnf mentions to his aide, Ted (his nickname), that a “shadow human” had told them about the Pizza Boys, and apparently led them to believe that eating pizza would grant him the Secrets of the Universe. This “shadow human” is Dark Shadow. He manipulated the aliens into abducting the Pizza Boys (he knew they were constantly searching for pizza, but didn’t know about the whole universe-devouring-cheese-monster thing), in order to cause a distraction which would result in all of his rivals leaving the planet, allowing him some time to further his plans without any of them noticing. This was supposed to coincide with the Justice League’s teleportation to Antarctica, which was also partially arranged by Dark Shadow (which is why I’ve located it in Summer 2003), although that doesn’t totally make sense, since Johanna doesn’t show up in this story, and it wasn’t mentioned in the original version of A Love Story. However, since neither of those stories were written in their entirety, let’s retcon it like this: Johanna was away for the weekend, probably pursuing something related to the job Asto Vidatu hired her for (see below), so John had time to indulge his usual Fi-love.
A Love Story
It’s Valentine’s Day, 2003, and love is in the air after John spots a pretty girl walking into the evil lair next door (yes, there’s an evil lair next door… this isn’t even one of those things I ret-conned). He builds up the courage to introduce himself, and learns that she is Johanna, Lady of Darkness. At first he doesn’t realize who she is, but after a brief conversation discovers that she is actually his old neighbor, John, Lord of Darkness (dramatic reverb)… post-op. In an act of great compassion and politeness, John runs away.
Meanwhile, we, the readers, learn a bit about the origins of Johanna, Lady of Darkness. She, of course, started off life as John Wilson, born in Nashville, Tennessee to two God-fearing parents. She has one brother, Luke, who is two years younger than her and has Down’s Syndrome. Even when she was young, she never felt comfortable in her original, male body. This, an attraction to men, and a serious lack of information (Tennessee, I remind you) led her, in high school, to the conclusion that she was gay. Things were unpleasant enough then, and became even worse when she was unintentionally outed after making out with a football player. As she notes in the narration: And people wondered what it took to make someone evil. Eventually, the anger built up to the point where she decided to turn to a life of super villainy (this being in 1999, right on the line between the Second and Third Super Hero Eras, as defined in Justice League… it’s also the same year that John began his own road to destiny). She established herself as a rather serious and determined villain by murdering Tennessee’s resident super hero, the Mockingbird (Tyrone Tennyson, a member of the New Rebels) when he was visiting Nashville (she accomplished this by learning his weakness, neutralizing his powers, and putting a bullet in his head in the middle of the CMA Music Festival). She left town and eventually settled down in her current lair, right next to John’s cave (a year or so after he moved in). Still erroneously convinced of her homosexuality, she decided to create an identity for herself as a flamboyantly gay evil mastermind, rechristening herself John, Lord of Darkness (Dun Dun Duuuuuun!), that last “Duuuuuun!” being delivered with a certain sassy flair. However, she was unaware of John at this point, and thus was confused when, every time she announced her name in the middle of a dastardly plan, people immediately stopped taking her seriously. When she did find out about John, she considered just killing him and stealing his name, but being his neighbor brought out the hospitable Southerner in her, and she ended up just tastefully rearranging his furniture in the middle of the night (trying desperately to be “gay,” she’d developed pretensions of style). In the end, she just caved and changed her sound effect to (dramatic reverb). Eventually, Johanna realized that she wasn’t a gay man – indeed, she wasn’t a man at all. When she realized this, she knew she couldn’t live as John anymore. However, the idea of surgery terrified her, and it took several years before she could work up the nerve to go to Switzerland to make it official (she could have gotten it done in America, but she knew she would be vulnerable during the surgery, and didn’t want any of her enemies – all low-level super villains themselves – to take the chance to kill her while she was indisposed). When Katherine showed up, wielding a knife, in her operating tent (this being in a small, illegal, nomadic medical clinic in the Swiss Alps), she thought that she had walked into a trap. But then Katherine started to prepare for the surgery, and Johanna knew this was it, the start of her new life…
Meanwhile, back in the present, John talks to Goober about meeting (and running away from) Johanna, and, with some sage advice from his Supreme Pee-On, decides to apologize. He does this the next day, and Johanna, despite some hesitation, accepts, and agrees to go out to dinner with him. They go into town, but are shunned by a local restaurant (Les Dechets Chers) due to their evil reputations. True to form, they exact retribution on the kitchen staff. Later, in a nearby park, they eat Mooby Burger and talk about their lives. Johanna encourages John to take bigger risks with his villainy career, and to accept the offer that a mysterious crime lord calling himself “the Head Honcho” has made to include John in a nefarious plot involving the 2003 Oscars. At the end of the night, John kisses Johanna just as she’s entering her house. When she goes inside, however, Johanna is visited by Asto Vidatu, an agent of the Management, who alludes to the fact that she has sold her soul, and demands progress on a mission she has been given… a mission which somehow involves John.
Johanna and John begin to date in earnest. John does take the Head Honcho up on his offer to participate in the Oscars attack. He leaves, excited. He returns, bruised and quiet. His Allies and lackeys, who had been playing a suitably twisted version of Strip Poker in his absence, ask how it went (they were watching, but the news feed cut out shortly after the shooting started – this is something, by the way, which Deborah Walters-Thompson didn’t realize at the time, although she and Grant did film the entire event). “Fine,” John mumbles. “Yo, did Violet Princess ask about me?” Ian asks. Jan wants to know why that purple-haired hussy would ask about him, and Ian, defensively, says he was pretty sure she was checking him out during the cave battle last year. “I mean, the only woman for me is you, baby, definitely, seriously,” Ian says. And then, turning to John. “But, uh, did she ask about me?” “No,” John says. “Not at all?” Ian presses. “She didn’t even mention me?” “She didn’t mention anyone,” John snaps, suddenly agitated. “She’s not going to mention anyone. She’s dead.” His Allies are stunned, but before they can ask him anymore questions, John heads across the way to Johanna’s lair. When she asks him how it went, he gets pissed at her, blaming her for “pushing” him into getting involved with the Head Honcho’s stupid plan. Doing this always made Ebony snap back at him, which John is actually hoping for, but instead Johanna realizes that there’s something else going on, and draws it out of him. Eventually, John admits that he hadn’t realized that “massacre” actually meant people were going to get killed. He particularly seems to feel guilty about Superdude, who he fought mere minutes before he was murdered. He’s also shaken by the sight of OMEGA’s dead body surrounded by the corpses of henchmen, which he passed while escaping out the back way. Johanna comforts him, and their relationship deepens. Later that night, alone, Johanna thinks about her deal with Asto Vidatu and feels overwhelmingly guilty – it’s clear that she actually cares about John, and wants to figure out a way to not do whatever it is the Management has hired her to do.
Over the course of summer 2003, John begins working out, and loses weight. He and Johanna do everything together—movie dates, picnics, dastardly schemes. He thinks about how much happier she makes him than any other girl, Ebony included. His Allies can’t help but notice it as well (especially since John’s early attempts at exercise result in a lot of painful screaming – kind of hard to miss). Asto Vidatu leans on Johanna for progress, and Johanna essentially tells him to go screw himself. He warns her that she made a deal with the Management, and if she doesn’t follow through with her half, then her soul is forfeit. Johanna says she doesn’t care, and besides, if John is so important to them, maybe he can find a way to get her soul back. Asto Vidatu says, sure, that’s possible; but if she got her soul back without completing her part of the deal, then they’d have to take back the boon they gave her (we don’t know what this is yet).
On Christmas Eve 2003, John and Johanna attempt to thwart the Tri-Leader Christmas Party (as John does every year), with the usual amount of success. So they decide to spend the rest of the night drinking hot chocolate and making out on the couch. Now, a brief word about the psychology of our dear friend John. You might assume (and you’d be right) that he’s never really demonstrated the emotional or psychological maturity to be in a relationship with a pet rock, much less another human being. However, he flourished in his relationship with Johanna, surprising everyone with his ability to participate maturely in the relationship, even while remaining both crazy and pretty stupid (this is evidence of some of those good parts of him seeping back into his personality, the same way that his past evilness and brilliance occasionally do… this is indicative of how messy the Management’s soul-surgery was). Despite this, you might also assume (and, again, you’d be right) that John’s sexual maturity was next to nil, and that even if his former personality bled through in this regard, it would only grant him the sexual maturity of a thirteen year old. A thirteen year old who, we should add, only just lost his virginity a few weeks before the First Battle of Albuquerque. So, not much better. Anyway, this hadn’t been an issue in John and Johanna’s relationship thus far, because they had barely gotten past first base. Until this night, that is. While making out on Johanna’s couch, things start to get hot and heavy (maybe because of the hot chocolate). But as things are starting to get naughty, John suddenly, violently, remembers that Johanna was born with a penis. He pulls back, unable to hide his disgust. Although he apologizes profusely, he has deeply hurt Johanna’s feelings. Johanna summons Asto Vidatu later that night, and tells him that she’ll complete the mission she was assigned (it’s ambiguous as to whether or not he had anything to do with John freaking out, though I tend to think it was more John’s prejudices than anything else).
John and Johanna spend most of January 2004 apart. Then, later in the month, Johanna invites John over, and they reconcile. Afterwards, Johanna offers to show John her new, ambitious plan—an attack on the White House to steal one of the Eyes of Azi Dahaka, an ancient artifact of great power. It was originally held in a locked vault deep within the Baghdad National Museum. It was stolen during looting which occurred after the museum was bombed in the early days of the Iraq War (the invasion, it should be noted, started early in John and Johanna’s relationship, so there would have been a mention to it on the news early on – I foreshadow like it’s my job), and eventually ended up in the hands of a powerful Cabinet member. John is a bit surprised that she never mentioned this to him before (it seems like she’s done more than a month’s-worth of prep work), but the idea of invading the White House is so big-time that he agrees. Several days later, Washington, D.C., is suddenly attacked by a Blade Ship and a flock of dragons (John’s Allies providing a distraction, while John and Johanna sneak into the White House through one of those secret emergency exit tunnels). As they make their way through the White House (mostly evacuated what with the Blade Ship and the dragons and all), John starts to notice something strange. As he’s walking, he has this sense like there are these invisible curtains parting for him, every few yards or so. He tries to write it off as nervousness, but the feeling won’t go away (and besides, John would never be nervous!). Eventually they find and confront the Cabinet member. It turns out he’s been using the Eye to increase his own personal wealth and political power, and intends to replace Bush as president in 2008 (if not earlier). He is somewhat baffled by how they got past his “protection,” which John assumes means the Secret Service. But when he says as much, the Cabinet member reveals that he’d had layers upon layers of light-force barriers, a powerful type of white magic, erected to protect himself (by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, by the way). “But of course, you already know that,” he tells John. “After all, you broke them all.” John is confused, and the Cabinet member explains that (with the Eye’s help) he can see that something about John makes him an antidote to all white magic (this, of course, being his destiny, as the chosen one of the Management). John asks Johanna if she knew this, and Johanna admits that she was hired by Asto Vidatu – who holds Iblis’ old role as the Management’s top officer – to retrieve the Eye, and that John was recommended as a tool, both to break down the light-force barriers and to “jump start” the Eye, releasing its hidden power (just like the Four Keys). John asks her why she’s working for the Management in the first place, and Johanna tells him the rest of her story.
When she was in the Swiss Alps, just as Katherine was about to begin the surgery, Johanna lost her nerve and backed out. She spent the next few weeks consumed by guilt and self-loathing, and eventually decided that she’d rather kill herself than stay trapped in this body, too afraid to free herself. And even if she went through with it, she felt it wouldn’t be enough – even with all of the hormone therapy and the sex change, there would be some part of her which would always doubt whether or not she could ever be a real woman. Before she surrenders entirely to despair, she sends out an aimless prayer, asking if there isn’t any way out of this. And a demon answers. Specifically, Asto Vidatu. He offers to really change her into a woman. It won’t require any surgery, any knives, any blood – and when it’s done she’ll be totally biologically female. And in exchange, they want her to do something for them: retrieve the Eye. They’ll hold her soul as collateral. Not seeing any other option, Johanna agrees.
Back in the present, John is pissed. Any sympathy he might be feeling after hearing her story is immediately crushed by his anger and hurt. The Cabinet member pulls a gun and is about to shoot John, but Johanna kills him first. She tries to apologize to John for using him, to tell him that she really does love him, but he doesn’t listen. Furious and heartbroken, he destroys the Eye, and then leaves.
Johanna goes on the run, knowing that the Management will be hunting her and her promised soul in force now. On some level, she knows that running away from the Management is pointless, but she doesn’t know what else she can do. She almost says goodbye to John, but doesn’t, in the end. She destroys her lair after she leaves, in case the Management send any of their mortal agents after her.
Meanwhile, John returns to life as usual. On Valentine’s Day 2004, he sits on his throne, scheming, and tells himself that he isn’t the least bit lonely.
Just a few final details:
First of all, Silent Jim goes on a blind date with Margo Westfall of Justice League fame on Valentine’s Day, 2003. Margo has a great time, because Silent Jim’s silence allows her to talk all she wants. Silent Jim is less enthused and stops answering her calls.
Secondly, Asto Vidatu is a demon whose function was to consume the damned, and the Persians eventually worshipped him as a god of death. Being a member of the Persian pantheon, he had some dealings with Ahriman, the Persian god of evil and darkness, who is something of a second cousin to the Management. He’s always held a high position in Hell’s hierarchy, but only advanced to his current position after Iblis’ death.
Thirdly, when John’s Allies cause the aforementioned distraction in the skies above Washington, D.C., it’s noted that several aircraft which look strangely like Andalite fighters launch from a secret underground hangar beneath the Pentagon. This is an indication that the Pentagon (not to mention M.O.R.P.H.Z.) has been taking liberties with the technology deal arranged with the Andalites at the end of the Yeerk War, and manufacturing things the Andalites don’t want us to have, in secret.
Early in the summer of 2005, John decides that, okay, maybe he is lonely. This, of course, comes in the aftermath of both his break-up with Johanna and his monstrously-doomed crush on Kyla in JohnWorld 3006. Being John, he’s not particularly well-suited for dealing with the immense emotional difficulty of these two events, so it takes a lot of pouting before he decides to be proactive. He’s inspired when he discovers that Ian has stolen his Evil School yearbook, to commit unholy acts while looking at the pictures of “all the hot chicks.” John remembers that there were, indeed, a lot of hot chicks in his Evil School class. And not just that, he made out with one of them! One of the hottest, in fact! (Ian thinks he’s talking about Ebony, but at this point John is thinking of Taylor – when he points her out in the yearbook, Ian admits a great familiarity with her picture). And if he was able to get that far back then, when he was but a callow youth, how much more will the women of his past appreciate him now, that he’s come into his own as a world-renowned evil overlord? He promptly makes up a list of old crushes, gathers his Allies, and announces a road trip. No one is as excited as John is, particularly not Ian and Jan, who have just broken up due to Ian’s casual comments about the girls in John’s yearbook, and how Jan compares to them (this isn’t anything new, of course, it’s just the most recent in a constant series of dysfunctional crap in their relationship). As he makes these plans, he pointedly ignores anyone who mentions Ebony.
His first few attempts, predictably, go nowhere. He goes to California to profess his love to Cara DeLizia (after all, if she dated X-Raytor…), only to discover that she’s married. To some dude named Ben! In fact, she got married last month (May) and Ian was the stripper at her bachelorette party (this was in a JL post I did… I’m retconning a bit, because that post coincided with the creation of the Legion of Legends, but here I’m having Cara and Ben get married about a month and a half before the Legion of Legends debuts. Also, Ian is a stripper on the side, since John doesn’t pay him anything. His clients deal with the scars, somehow). John, of course, is furious, because if he’d known he would have ordered Ian both to strip and to assassinate Cara’s fiancé.
(Historical note: In reality, Cara DeLizia married Robert Chambers in 2004, and they got divorced in 2006. In 2009, she married Nick Rich. I wasn’t consulted about either of these unions. In the Tri-Leaders universe, I don’t know what happened… maybe Cara and Ben get divorced in 2006, and then she marries Nick. As an additional fun fact, Cara’s fiancé, Ben, is named after the guy one of my high school friends’ first loves started dating after she broke up with him. This is partially because I based a lot of X-Raytor’s reactions on my friend’s, because I hadn’t gone through a break up myself at that point. The aforementioned first love of this friend didn’t end up marrying her Ben, however).
He tries to look up Senna (who, it should be noted, barely even noticed him in Evil School), but finds that she apparently mysteriously disappeared from her Chicago home a few years back. While in Chicago, he does have the opportunity to run afoul of a local super hero, Silver Falcon. John isn’t terribly concerned, since Silver Falcon doesn’t even have a team. He tracks down Barbara “Babs” Stroë Blight, also known as “Dr. Blight,” to her secret lab, only to find that due to the time displacement of Evil School, she’s actually a lot older than him (in her forties at this point – also, she’s crazier than he remembers and seems to have something going on with her sentient computer, MAL).
John starts to get desperate, and eventually goes back to Rockdale, IA, where he lived after the EVIL School stories. He decides not to elaborate on his life there (the memory of his life with the Morgans and, of course, killing Daman still being very present in his mind) when asked, but plans their trip so they will give his former adoptive parents wide berth. He checks in on his old grade school crush, Chantal Conlin, to find that she’s actually left Rockdale (something which, in a conversation she has with John early in The Origin, she wasn’t sure she’d ever do) and is going to school at Notre Dame (she’s just home visiting for the summer). She’s also happy to see that John has made something of himself (she told him to, in The Origin, so she could live vicariously through him), and proudly tells all of her friends at college that she went to grade school with the John, Lord of Darkness (Dum Dum Duuuuuum!). She, as it turns out, is dating someone (sort of) at school. Meanwhile, Silent Jim stops by the one electronics store in town (it’s a very rural town) to get a replacement part for one of the Ebony Raptors computers, which was damaged in an Ili-related incident. While there, he runs into a woman named Ezra Morgan, who gasps and faints. Confused, Silent Jim buys his stuff and heads out before anyone can start asking questions. He meets up with the others on the Ebony Raptor (which is cloaked and hidden in the woods). John is about ready to call the whole thing off, but Ian convinces him to go check in on that girl he bragged about making out with (Taylor). John has been avoiding Taylor almost as much as Ebony, because he’s embarrassed by the way she rejected him (the version of the story he tells the Allies, of course, is much more in his favor), but he eventually relents and they head towards Michigan, and the Circle, to make a trip to Evil School. (Also, at some point there’s probably some misadventure or throw-away joke involving the other Allies and a werewolf – Rockdale, IA, is the site of the So Weird episode “Werewolf”).
After they leave, we go to the Rockdale Hospital, where a man named James Morgan has come to check up on his wife, Ezra. He assumes she swooned because she had a spiritual vision (she’s prone to these, being a devout adherent to He Who Dwells Behind the Screens). And that assumption is confirmed when she says that she saw their son in the electronics store. Their son Daman, he reminds her, was murdered years ago, and is with God now, a sequence of golden binary code flitting through the mainframe of eternity. “No,” his wife insists. “Not Daman. James.” Her husband is shocked by this announcement, and the two realize that they have to find him. If you’re confused as hell by this, go look up the section on the Morgans, which will shed some light on their beliefs and history.
John and his Allies stay with Jan’s family for one night before they can get to Evil School, giving John a chance to meet his other step-siblings, and the rest of the crazy Chovy family. The next day they hop the train to Evil School. Once there, John swaggers around and tries to convince his Allies that he was a Big Man on Campus. The Red Eye Gang make an appearance (including recently reinstated member Gruumsh, the cyclopic god of orcs in Dungeons & Dragons, who the Red Eye Gang are constantly remembering as “a fucking boss” throughout The Origin). He visits Taylor, who has been teaching at Evil School since the events of Animorphs #43. She’s surprisingly happy to see him, and overall seems to be in much higher spirits than we’ve ever seen her before (not having to separate Yeerk and Controller anymore apparently being a wonderful thing for her psyche). Before he can even think of how to start hitting on her, Taylor brings up Ebony, and the two have a surprisingly candid conversation about her and John’s break up. John is eventually forced to admit that he’s only been tracking down all of these other girls because he doesn’t want to admit that it’s Ebony he really misses (well, really Johanna… but Ebony was the first heartbreak, and he thinks if he can set that right that it’ll heal all of his hurt… not that John is aware of this, but that’s the benefit of being the writer, I get to see all of the various levels of John’s psyche). He decides that he’s going to find her and make things right.
When John and his Allies leave Evil School and re-emerge in the real world, they find that the Ebony Raptor has been surrounded by a small group of people wearing make-shift electrical weapons. They are the cult of He Who Dwells Behind the Screen, and they are led by the Morgans, John’s old adoptive parents. John thinks they’re after him, but James says they’re after their real son, the son they had put up for adoption so many years ago so that he could return to them when the time was right for him to fulfill his destiny. They originally thought it was John, and tried to force fate’s hand by adopting him, but the Morgans now realize this was a mistake. This whole time, their real son has been out there, learning the sacred arts of He Who Dwells Behind the Screen and becoming the savior they’ve waited for. Their son… Silent Jim. They believe that John is actually the anti-Christ equivalent of their religion, which is why he murdered Daman and “abducted” their younger son. Now they’ve come to reclaim him, and take him somewhere called “the Temple,” where he can claim his spiritual inheritance and usher in a new age of technological utopia, when all of the Luddites will be punished and all dial-up will be replaced by digital cable. Silent Jim, bewildered, has absolutely no interest in returning to the Morgans. Fortunately, before the cult can seize him, they are frightened by what seems to be a sudden appearance of He Who Dwells Behind the Scream, in blinding light and thunder. The cult members fall to their knees, completely missing that the person responsible for this theophany is really Katherine, aided by the Tri-Leaders. John and his Allies run aboard the Ebony Raptor and escape as the cult tries to take them down. James and Ezra swear that they’ll catch up with them sooner or later, especially since James now has the name of the person they’re looking for: Ebony.
John and his Allies rendezvous with Katherine, the Tri-Leaders, and Junior Tri-Leaders somewhere nearby. As usual, John is suspicious, and thinks the Tri-Leaders are trying to cock block him. However, Roses reveals that the reason they came looking for him is that something’s happened that threatens them both. She turns on the news and shows him the round-the-clock coverage attending the debut of the Legion of Legends. The Allies recognize Silver Falcon from Chicago, but John isn’t too concerned – “They won’t bother me, after the Justice League warns them about how I kicked their patooties!” He becomes a bit more worried when Roses tells him that the government has shut down all of the other super teams and imposed registration on super humans, meaning that the Legion of Legends has a lot more clout behind it than the Justice League ever had. Still, John decides not to worry about it for the time being, and refuses to help the Tri-Leaders take out the Legion while they’re still fresh and disorganized. Someone (Jan, Randall, or Damon, probably) accidentally mentions that they’re trying to find Ebony, and Katherine immediately switches over to John’s side and goes with him.
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., we see the Legion of Legends (the original lineup – Silver Falcon, SuperNova, The Lash, Horus, Optix, and Firehop) at the huge gala that’s celebrating their debut (this scene can be contrasted with the party we saw in one of the later JL stories, after Captain Justice’s debut). Silver Falcon mentions that one of the first things he wants to do is crack down harder on organized super villainy… starting with those cretins who humiliated him in Chicago earlier in the summer.
We get a flashback to the first time Katherine met Ebony, after the Second Battle of Albuquerque and before everyone goes to Hawaii on vacation. It’s actually rather awkward, and we find out that she hasn’t talked to her since. In the present, as they fly to Clyattville, John and Katherine talk about their relationships with Ebony, and each other. John expresses some regret about not being a father to Katherine, because he thinks that’s what he’s supposed to do, but gets extremely defensive when she says she’s ecstatic that he didn’t raise her. When pressed, John has to admit that he probably wouldn’t have known what to do with a kid throughout his various adventures, though he imagines that she could have had a Crapomon-themed Baby Bjorn. Eventually, they reach Clyattville, and John and Katherine go up to Ebony’s big creepy house. The door is unlocked, and they step inside to find it… empty. Totally empty. And by the look of things, it’s been empty for a few years. In the basement, John finds a machine that automatically produces small explosives, packages them, and then mails them off to John’s cave at various intervals throughout the year. Annoyed, John turns the machine off and leaves. Katherine secretly gathers some of the explosives, thinking they might be helpful.
Everyone retires to a nearby Chuck-E-Cheese to figure out what to do. John decides they should just give up. Ebony apparently doesn’t want to see him, since she didn’t even send him a damn forwarding address. Katherine is more determined, however, and eventually frightens a waitress into telling her everything she knows about the girl who used to live in the scary old house on the hill. They find out that Ebony had returned to Long Island of all places, which John and Katherine assume must mean Ronkonkoma. They also discover that she moved around the same time that everyone got their memories back in Tri-Leaders on Vacation, meaning she must have gotten her memories back as well. As they are planning their next move, however, a fire alarm goes off. As they move towards the door with the rest of the annoyed patrons, Ian trips, slowing everyone down. His foot is caught on something underneath a booth, and as they struggle to free him, everyone else leaves. Finally, Randall and Damon (the two strongest Allies) pull him far enough out from under the booth to reveal what’s holding him.
It’s a hand. A gloved hand, attached to a very long arm. The hand lets go, sending Ian flying in Damon and Randall. It slithers back behind the booth and over a partition. And then the Lash, of the Legion of Legends, steps into view. “Surprise,” he says, as the rest of the team appears. Silver Falcon informs them that they’re under arrest. The Allies and the Legion of Legends do battle, with the Allies benefitting greatly from the Legends’ lack of team experience and, of course, John’s impeccable dumb luck. I imagine we would see these match-ups: John/Silver Falcon, Ilinana and Damon/the Lash, Ian/Firehop, Silent Jim/SuperNova, Jan/Optix, and Randall/Horus. Eventually, the Allies escape, with only SuperNova giving chase. Katherine eventually gets rid of her by chucking the explosives she got from Ebony’s house at her, but not before SuperNova damages the Ebony Raptor. Back at the Chuck-E-Cheese, the waitress tells them what she told Katherine. A member of the Morgans’ cult, hidden in the crowd, overhears the conversation and relays the information to James and Ezra. The Temple is probably mentioned again, so that you don’t forget. Ahem. Also, we learn that James and Ezra can communicate directly with He Who Dwells Behind the Screen via mental implants, and that their second-in-command (the guy who was spying at the Chuck-E-Cheese) resents that they won’t let anyone else get that close to God.
The damage to the Ebony Raptor is so severe that they’re forced to make an emergency crash landing somewhere in Virginia. They decide that they’ll have to find some other way to get to New York, while leaving the Ebony Raptor cloaked and hidden in the woods. Damon volunteers (begs) to stay with the ship and look after it, because he’s so sick of being around everyone. Noting that they’re in Virginia, and relatively close to Mystic Falls, Ili warns Damon of the consequences he faces if he goes and visits “that skank Elena.” Randall has to stay behind as well, since he can’t travel incognito. Then everyone goes to the nearest city and hops a bus for New York. Unimaginable things, of course, happen when all of these people are crammed on a bus. During a rest stop in New Jersey (where Ian and Silent Jim amuse themselves by peeing on the toilet paper rolls in the stalls so that they blow up), the bus takes the opportunity to leave them all behind. Fortunately, Ian and Silent Jim run into their old friend and FingerCuffs band mate, Candace. She and her new band are playing a show in New York City, and invite the Evil Allies to ride along on their tour bus. Ian and Silent Jim relive their glory days as Jan, jealous, tries to figure out exactly how close Ian and Candace were in the past. Throughout the story, John has conversations with his various Allies about where his life is headed, particularly his evil career. He’s starting to wonder if he should give up trying to take over the world, and there’s some part of him that thinks that if he gets into a solid relationship, he’ll be able to give it up. He isn’t totally comfortable with this idea, because it conflicts with his belief in destiny, but he’s thinking about it.
Eventually, they arrive in Long Island, and Candace has the bus drop them off at a terminal in Ronkonkoma. John and Katherine ask around, but only find one person who knows Ebony, referring to her as “Billy’s girlfriend.” John, of course, is livid, even after the person they’re talking to says he or she heard that they broke up. They track down Billy, bust down at the apartment door… and discover that Billy is actually Billie. A woman. At this point, John needs a few seconds, because his head has been messed with so much on this trip already. They talk to Billie, and she explains that she and Ebony dated for a few months while Ebony was in Ronkonkoma, filling in the gaps in her past. The fact that Ebony is bisexual is something that John apparently never knew (although readers of The Origin would have found out from the chapters told through her point of view), and he has some trouble dealing with it (not to mention that, of the only two girlfriends he’s had, one is bi and the other is a transsexual). Billie and Ebony’s relationship suffered some of the same troubles that John and Ebony’s relationship did – Ebony was always the smarter partner, and had trouble being patient with Billie (or John), she was always a bit suspicious of intimacy, often hard to approach, often moody and prone to restlessness. Eventually, they broke up after Ebony decided that she needed to start a totally new chapter of her life. She apparently mentioned finishing something she started long ago, leading Katherine to believe that she’s totally become an agent for the forces of Good, and John to believe that she’s rebuilding her robot army, intent on taking over the world and solving its problems through tyranny (this thought turns him on). “What are you talking about?” Billie asks. “She went to college.” She then pulls out her laptop and brings up Ebony’s facebook profile, which lists her as a sophomore at MIT. Katherine is furious that, after taking this whole damn road trip, finding Ebony was as easy as looking her up on facebook (in John’s defense, he’d never heard of facebook).
While John and Katherine talk to Billie, Silent Jim checks in on his first set of adoptive parents, the Dixons, but doesn’t bother them when he sees they have a nice family life going. Ian finds out that his birth mother (who he never actually got in touch with after getting his memory back) died a few years ago, and he’s not sure exactly how he’s supposed to feel about this. At some point, everyone drops by the ruins of EVIL School.
As John and the Allies hop a train to Boston, the Morgans and their cult catch up with them, resulting in a whacky on-train chase scene. John and his Allies escape, of course, but not before James gets his hands on one of John’s many notes to himself, this one simply bearing the words “EBONY à MIT,” presumably written so he didn’t get the letters mixed up. James falls down on his knees and begins to pray in thanksgiving. When his wife demands to know why, since John and company have absconded with their son once again, James shows her the note. “They’re already going to the Temple,” he says.
Meanwhile, Billie is watching the news and sees a bulletin about John and his Allies, and how they’re wanted by the Legion of Legends. Frightened for Ebony’s safety, she calls the Legends’ tip line and tells them where John is going.
Shortly thereafter, John and company arrive in Boston and ride the MBTA up to Cambridge (again, unspeakable things happen when all of these people are crammed onto a subway car together). They arrive at MIT’s campus, and find out which building Ebony is staying in (she’s on campus taking summer classes). John and Katherine walk up to her door, although Katherine has to convince John not to run away. They knock. Ebony answers the door while talking on the phone. She’s wearing an MIT sweatshirt, pajama bottoms, and glasses. She looks like a college girl. When she sees John, and Katherine, she stops talking and immediately drops her phone.
“John?” she says.
“Ebony,” he says, starting to smile.
She punches him in the face. Katherine has to calm them both down, especially when Ebony’s roommate says she’s going to call the cops. The three decide that they should go somewhere quiet and talk. Once they get to somewhere quiet, however, no one seems to have anything to say to each other. Ebony tells them that she’s doing coursework in robotics and cybernetics. John tries to be his usual blustery self, especially when talking about his recent plans to take over the world, but it’s obvious that he’s about two seconds away from totally falling apart. Eventually, the conversation turns into an argument, especially when the topic of the break up comes up. John and Ebony talk about what led up to it (which is something they never actually talked about during the break up), and Katherine realizes (duh) that John’s version of events is a bit skewed. At some point, John makes fun of how mundane Ebony’s life is now. Ebony says that this is exactly the life she wants, a simple, normal life completely unconnected to all of the crazy stuff in her past. And while it’s good to see Katherine, she doesn’t want either of them screwing up what she has with their craziness. Defeated, John and Katherine leave campus (with Katherine blaming John for everything that’s happened).
The Allies spend the night in Cambridge and Boston, separately, just wandering around. Ian and Jan eventually reconcile, while walking along the Charles River. John thinks about how all of this probably is his fault, and that he screws everything up. He wonders if he could ever have a normal life like Ebony, and decides he couldn’t. But at the same time, he’s completely discouraged about his life as an evil overlord. He doesn’t know what to do. Katherine goes through something similar. Silent Jim and Ili do things relevant to their subplots. The Legion of Legends arrives in Boston, with the cracks in their team identity starting to show. Meanwhile, back at MIT, Ebony can’t study because she feels bad. She’s about to call Katherine (she still has her number from when they talked after the Second Battle of Albuquerque), but before she can there’s a knock on her dorm room door. She opens it expecting to find John or Katherine (I’d probably lead the reader to believe that you’re going to see them, too), only to find the Morgans and their cult.
The next morning, as John and the Allies regroup and prepare to leave, a conveniently-timed news report informs them that a cult of “super villains” wielding electrical weapons have taken over MIT’s campus, and are holding the students and staff there hostage (the cult has grown in numbers, becoming a small army – the main bulk of their devotees actually live in Cambridge, around MIT – “The Temple”). On the news, James and Ezra make demands via holographic display: they want their son. And if they don’t get him by noon, they’ll kill Ebony. Although John swore earlier in the story that he was going to intentionally avoid heroics (he doesn’t like how good it felt to save the world in JohnWorld 3006), his feelings for Ebony and his hatred for his former adoptive parents cause him to immediately start planning a rescue. They go to MIT, where John reveals his plan, scribbled on a piece of loose leaf paper as they headed over to the campus. It’s a typical John plan, which relies heavily on assuming that all of his Allies have Secret Alien Ninja Powers, and that the second John appears, all of the cult members will be like, “Oh no!! It’s Sexy John, the Pharaoh Wizard!! We surrender, great one!!” The plan is so stupid and crazy that even Ian and Ili (stupid and crazy, respectively) think it’s a bad idea. Silent Jim speaks up for the first time in the story, and says that there’s only one way they can make this work.
A few moments later, Silent Jim walks through the police barricade and surrenders himself to the Morgans. Cult members flood to him, worshipping him, and bear him off to the center of the campus. Meanwhile, John and his other Allies sneak in through a part of the campus briefly left unprotected when the guards ran to see Silent Jim’s arrival. They follow the crowd escorting Silent Jim, which leads them down to the basement of one of the campus buildings, where the Morgans (and Ebony) are working on an enormous machine. James Morgan reveals that he and his wife began building this machine when they were college students in Boston decades ago (not at MIT, they just had friends there), after He Who Dwells Behind the Screen revealed himself to them. Its purpose – revealed to Ezra in a dream – is to jumpstart the Chosen One’s powers, giving him control of all technology on Earth. And while they, and their devotees, have been working on it for years, they can’t finish it. Only the Chosen One will know how. Silent Jim takes a look at it and realizes, much to his surprise, that he can make it work, and that it will work exactly the way they think it will. He brokers a deal for the safety of Ebony and the other hostages, and then begins to work on the machine. At this point, John (who has been observing all of this with his Allies, in hiding) decides that it’s time to act, and tackles James (Sr.). He and his Allies are immediately subdued, and tied up along with Ebony. Much to her surprise, John admits that he did come back specifically to rescue Ebony. Fortunately, she says, she was already working on that herself – she’s activated a tiny robot of her own design, which is slowly cutting through her handcuffs. Silent Jim finishes working on the machine and turns it on. The cult bows down before him, and James tells him it’s time to seize his destiny. When Silent Jim insists that they release the hostages first, James pulls a high-tech laser weapon kinda thing on him (very similar to the weapon Silent Jim designed and sometimes uses – only this one doesn’t make you break dance, it just makes you dead) and forces him to get into the machine. There also may be an additional distraction, as the aforementioned second-in-command of the cult makes a big stink about how the rest of them deserve to try out the miracle machine, too. Just then, Ebony breaks free and hits a button on the side of her cell phone, which summons the miniature robot army she’s built out of all of the electronics in her dorm room (laptop, alarm clock, mini-fridge, her roommate’s vibrator – all of these activate and leave the room while her roommate is still there, causing the girl to freak out). The robots attack the cult as Ebony snatches the handcuff keys from Ezra and frees John and his Allies. The Allies join the fight, except John, Katherine, and Ebony, who go to confront James. Unfortunately, James still has his weapon trained on Silent Jim, and forces him to activate the machine. Silent Jim does, and electricity courses through his body, buzzing through every cell, and transforming him into a being of pure light. Silent Jim feels himself connecting to every piece of technology on the planet, feels his mind broaden out into the Internet, and suddenly he knows and is everything. And behind it all, he can sense someone (or something) else, something hungry and cruel: He Who Dwells Behind the Screen. It turns out that the god wasn’t just a drug-fueled delusion that the Morgans had in college, but an ancient, demonic force that is using them to try to break into our world. It beckons him, but before Silent Jim can be taken in by whatever this thing is, he returns his focus to MIT, to the room he’s in, to his friends. And he sees an opportunity.
Suddenly, all of the electrical weapons in the hands of the cult members explode. And the tiny mental implants which allowed James and Ezra to mentally connect to the Internet and commune with their God (these are mentioned earlier in the story) shut off, cutting them off from He Who Dwells Behind the Screen forever. Silent Jim then turns his powers on the machine itself, bailing out a moment before it explodes. The cult immediately gives up, all of them wailing and heartbroken. Only James is able to muster enough anger to lash out, calling Silent Jim an apostate, and advancing on him with the laser weapon…
John sticks out a foot and trips him. He also probably says something witty (for John) relating to their former life together. John, Ebony, and the Allies then leave the basement. They find much the same thing outside – cult members despairing, much wailing and gnashing of teeth and all of that. And they also find the Legion of Legends, who descend on them the moment they’re outside. Before they can be arrested, however, John and company reveal that while they actually saved the day, they’re willing to let the Legends take the credit. John doesn’t want heroics cramping his style. Silver Falcon realizes that apprehending a team of fanatical “science villains” who took a college campus hostage would do wonders for the Legion of Legends’ public image, and agrees, allowing John and company to sneak off-campus unnoticed.
Everyone stays an extra day in Cambridge. Ebony and Katherine spend the day together and discover that they have a lot in common. At night, John and Ebony have dinner (which he’s dreading). It’s pretty awkward. They talk about old Evil School classmates, like Taylor and Kane. They talk about Ebony’s classes and the Tri-Leaders. They talk, a little, about Johanna and Billie. Eventually, they have an honest conversation about their relationship and the aftermath. Finally, John admits something that he’s been building up to all novel: Ever since he got his memories back, he’s become more and more frightened of his destiny, and the dark direction it’s heading in. On some level, he was hoping that Ebony would be the one person capable of saving him, and setting him on a different path. But they both realize that they aren’t supposed to be together. Their lives were intimately connected once, but now their destinies (which Ebony isn’t totally sure she believe in) lie somewhere else. They both apologize for how their relationship fell apart, and end on good terms.
John and the Allies return to Virginia to get the Ebony Raptor (arriving just in time to catch Damon cheating on Ili with Elena, which earns him some awful punishment), and then head back to the cave. Ian and Jan are officially back together now, and fall quickly into the usual patterns. Silent Jim has decided that, after learning the truth about his family, he’s happier just having friends as family (there’s also some hints that, even though he destroyed the machine at MIT, he might still be experiencing some side effects). John and Katherine still don’t know exactly how they’re supposed to relate as father and daughter, but they’ve grown closer. We see the Legion of Legends on TV, being celebrated for their first major super villain bust.
At the very end, John returns to Clyattville and sneaks into Ebony’s empty house. He goes down to the basement, and turns the mail bomb machine back on. He figures this is better than nothing at all.
A major theme of this story is that all of these characters are trying to find the love that’s always been denied to them. For John, it’s romantic love – from Ebony specifically, but his break up with Johanna is a major motivating factor as well. Ian and Jan break up at the beginning, and spend the entire book trying to figure out where else they would be happy. Jan and Ian both have some separate interactions with their families (the thing with Ian’s mother actually brings them a bit closer together). Silent Jim has never had a “real” family, and the revelation of his biological family here doesn’t help much. Katherine, of course, is still trying to figure out what the hell she’s supposed to do with her parental situation. Some similar issues are probably explored with Ili and Damon (kinda… that subplots not going to go anywhere too serious), and maybe Ili talks a bit about her relationship with Fitey, starting as her split personality and now being the only personality (I can’t remember if Ili and Fitey interact in the novel about Xiao and Fred, but even if they do, that takes place after this novel).
I’d imagine that this novel would also involve John having to finally face his murder of Daman, from way back in The Origin. I don’t know exactly how that would play out – I like the idea that his Allies would be more impressed than horrified.
The Return of Dark Shadow
The story begins with a little history of Morphz and the AniNews Experience (AE) message boards, and how the two were similar and different (as a side note, message boards are both online forums and actual places that you can go in these stories – otherwise, how could John have built his barricade, back in the day?). While there was sometimes a rivalry between them, it was always friendly. However, as the years went on following the end of Animorphs (and, subsequently, Everworld and Remnants), Morphz continued to thrive (relatively), while AE became quieter and quieter. The few remaining boardies sighed and shared fond stories of the glory days, but it seemed clear to everyone that those days were gone. And it was at this time that a mysterious stranger appeared in the land of AE.
His name was Leeran.
A charismatic speaker, he won the support of old boardies and pulled in new ones with promises of restoring AE’s former glory, and vague anti-Morphz rhetoric (a theory he popularized was that Jeff wanted people to think he was really K.A. Applegate, so he could control them). Eventually, Leeran suggests to JanGirl (JG), the current administrator of the board, that he could help to spruce up the layout of the board, perhaps attracting more people. JG trusts Leeran, and willingly gives him administrative privileges so he can do just that. For a month Leeran works on his designs in secret, until finally he’s ready to invite AE boardies past and present to the Royal Palace for a grand unveiling. Everyone is there, including the AE Royal Family: King Brandon, King Tyler, Queen Hope, Princess Aldrea, Marco da Magnificent (stable boy), JG (who also serves as Royal Pet Blob), and Wolf (the royal guard). The celebration is disrupted, however, when StephenP, a boardie that JG banned some time ago, suddenly appears and starts messing up the buffet table. JG attempts to log into her administrator profile to ban him again… only to find that she can’t. Her password has been changed.
By the time they realize what is going on, it’s too late.
In the time it takes to blink, everyone except the Royal Family is gone, ejected from the palace. Everyone except the Royal Family… and Leeran. He announces that he’s in charge now, and chains begin to spring from the Palace floor and walls, capturing each member of the Royal Family, one by one. Only Princess Aldrea is able to escape. She goes immediately to Morphz, tells them what happened, and entreats them to start a spam war with AE, in order to free her board. Morphz boardies who try, however, find that AE has become a very different place – bleak and stark – and that they can’t post without creating an account, which would put them in Leeran’s power. Leeran begins a totalitarian reorganization of the board, limiting free speech and creating a new hierarchy (which really just means he gives his favorites – Morphz trolls from the past like Pinzz, Scrub Ducky, weretigerlain, Drode, and even Red Widow… anyone remember Red Widow? – special privileges, making them the “Inner Circle”). All AE boardies are to refer to each other as shorm, the Andalite word for friend (so I would be Shorm John), a symbol of their apparent equality. He renames the board United AE, and his anti-Morphz rhetoric grows harsher.
Jeff enters into diplomatic talks with Leeran, after he demands that Aldrea be returned to AE to stand trial. Eventually, a group of Morphz boardies set up a peace talk with several representatives of United AE, which will take place at a third party message board. When they arrive, however, they discover that Leeran had created that board as well, and wipes out the Morphz boardies with a Delete All button a moment after his people sign out. This is the final straw, and Jeff announces that Morphz is going to war with AE.
Back in United AE, Leeran hears this news and is rather pleased. He calls someone, and tells them that everything is going as planned.
Meanwhile, in a warehouse near Town, John, Lord of Darkness (Dum Dum Duuuuuum!) is implementing another evil plan, only to be interrupted by the Tri-Leaders. It’s a typical John plan (a new wave of Crapomon called Crapomon: Phantom – invisible game cartridges that he’ll secretly slip into the handheld game consoles of America’s youth and use to brain wash them – even if the logistics of doing this weren’t ridiculous, the plan is also foiled by the fact that the invisible cartridges are also in invisible crates, which John can’t find). We get the sense that animosity between John and the Tri-Leaders has turned into something like friendship, and everyone is just about to call it a day… when M.O.R.P.H.Z. busts into the warehouse and arrests John for crimes against the United States of America. General Jeff Sampson (both Sampsons and both Pinzz’s show up in this novel… talk about confusing) informs the bewildered Allies and Tri-Leaders that John is going to receive a federal trial, and that if they agree to testify against them, he’ll give them all total immunity for their past crimes. They then leave with John. Ili, suspicious that the Tri-Leaders planned this, makes the Allies leave before Roses can say anything.
Back at the M.O.R.P.H.Z. Main Base, General Sampson talks to an unidentified person, and says he doesn’t terribly like the idea of offering immunity to super villains. The unidentified person assures him that by the time this is over, both John and the Tri-Leaders will be destroyed.
At Morphz (the message board), oldbies begin to arrive in force, filling out the Morphz Army. We see Empress of the World Fluffer McKitty arrive, and meet up with several other high ranking officers, including Rick, Tina, BrendanWOR and Nothlit (the Pizza Brigade pledged their support early on). We also discover that Jeff is creating new and innovative weapons purely with his imagination, and has filled out his command staff with characters from his stories (Fluffer meets Sari, who appeared in one of those little pieces of writing Jeff posted on Morphz). Although they’re all nervous about the coming war, everyone feels that this might be the return of Morphz’ Golden Days. However, we also get a peek at United AE, where Leeran also has a team working on sinister new weapons (Pinzz tries to find out what they are, but Leeran plays it close to the vest, despite his attraction to her).
Back at John’s cave, the Allies argue about what to do. Leroy actually suggests testifying against John. Everyone’s pissed at Jan, because back at the warehouse she told John that he should go with M.O.R.P.H.Z. (she’s having a sudden moment of caring about him as a brother, after realizing that she likes him more than any of her other brothers, and that if he’s locked up at least he won’t get himself killed doing something stupid). As they’re arguing, they start to hear someone shouting. They realize that the sound is coming from one of the lower levels of the cave – the same level as Randall’s dungeon, but not actually his dungeon. They go down there and find a row of cells down a hallway. Goober reveals that the lackeys have standing orders to deliver food to Cell 6, but that there’s never been any evidence of someone actually being in there – Goober always just assumed that John had imprisoned someone down there a long time ago, and then just forgotten that he released them. Randall says he also knew about those orders (he knows everything the lackeys are supposed to do), but never thought to check because, “Not my job, not my problem.” However, there is clearly a woman’s voice coming from behind the door, so they open it up. Sitting in the cell is a thin, dirty, but still gorgeous Asian woman, who claims she’s been in there for years. When they turn on the lights, everyone is shocked to discover that her toes are missing. She says that her name is Veronica, and if they let her out she’ll tell them who sold John out.
Meanwhile, John wakes up in a prison cell on the M.O.R.P.H.Z. Main Base (where X-Raytor was after the prison riot… of course, chronologically, that’s a few years after this). The cell is Ramonite, the Andalite material that can change opacity, so at first John thinks it’s standing open and tries to escape, colliding painfully with the translucent wall. The person in the cell next to him (whom he can’t see) says everyone does that when they first wake up. They talk a little, but the other guy is cryptic about telling John where he is. Across the hallway in the cell facing John’s, a dark-haired teenager rolls over in his bunk and tells them to shut up. “Don’t mind Julian,” the guy next to John says, “he’s always in a bad mood.” Eventually, Agents Morgan-Wall and Ruskey show up, and escort John down the hallway to an elevator (as he goes down the hall, we discover that he’s on a long hallway lined on either side with Ramonite cells, each holding Justice League villains – Julian/Quake, The Ferret, She-Man, Loudmouth, The Silencer, and the Green Penguin – back in human form, but able to change at will now – as well as a Hot Dog Man). They get into an elevator which has a weird numbering system and, at some point, appears to be moving sideways. As they get to their destination, Ruskey blindfolds John. They pass through some sort of scanner that John can’t see, end up in a garage (he’s getting all of this from context clues), and they put him in a van. At some point during the trip, John realizes he can see a little under the blindfold, and tries to figure out where he is. He sees fields, and cows. At some point a sign goes by that indicates he’s in Kansas. They arrive at a M.O.R.P.H.Z. facility somewhere (a little building on an Army base or something), and put John in an interrogation room, where they remove the blindfold. Sampson comes in and questions him a bit, and reveals in-depth knowledge of John’s plans up to, and including, To the Barricades! When John demands to know how Sampson knows all of this, Sampson says he has a very good source… and then Dark Shadow walks into the interrogation room.
John flips out. Dark Shadow gleefully informs him that he’s made a deal with M.O.R.P.H.Z., offering them John in exchange for immunity and a significant reward. When John asks what Dark Shadow has against him, Dark Shadow implies it’s because John didn’t pay him enough (John is secretly suspicious of this, though – he thinks Dark Shadow’s playing a bigger game, here).
And it was at this point (actually, while John was still in the elevator) that I stopped writing the novel. Not by choice, mind you, but because my computer crashed and died for no reason, taking that Word document, the rest of A Love Story, and over three hundred pictures from my first few months in Southeast Asia with it. I’m still not over it. Anyway, the rest of this summary is going to be a little general.
Back at the cave, John’s Allies question Veronica. She has been a prisoner in the cave since 2002. She was originally one of Roseidous’ Super Model Clones, sent to infiltrate John’s cave and discover what his next move would be after the hunt for the Tangerine Hologram Timewatch (Roses knows John spoke to the Watch, but not what it said). John, worn out from that adventure, decided to take a vacation to Seattle. He left Ian and Silent Jim in charge of the cave, despite the fact that a mishap with Silent Jim’s transmorgifier prototype had temporarily transformed him into a snowman, and Ian into a yeti. After John left, Veronica, a tall, gorgeous Asian woman in a revealing red dress, appeared at the cave. Ian, horny as always, immediately let her in and took her on a tour, hoping to impress her. This tour includes wherever John keeps his plans. Silent Jim eventually realized that Veronica was a spy, and confronted her as she was about to escape with the plans for the barricade. Veronica gloated, but her spirit was soon broken by Silent Jim’s impenetrable silence. She surrendered, and Ian and Silent Jim locked her up. During an interrogation, however, Yeti Ian ate her toes (which is why they’re missing). Jan is appalled when she hears this story. Veronica reveals that Dark Shadow is behind John’s arrest, and that she’s been passing information to him via some mode of communication he gave her while he was still one of John’s Allies. When Ili asks where she got the information, Veronica reveals that there’s another traitor: Leroy. Before the Allies can do something memorably painful to Leroy, however, he escapes, intent on testifying against John in order to save his own skin. Veronica says she’s fine with betraying Dark Shadow because he broke his promise to break her out of her cell, but most of the Allies aren’t sure if they can trust her.
Realizing that Dark Shadow being in league with M.O.R.P.H.Z. is a bad, bad thing for everyone, the Allies begin to wonder what they should do. Lines are drawn: Ian, Silent Jim, Ili, Randall, and Goober offer to testify for the defense, while Jan, Leroy, and the Tri-Leaders plan to testify for the prosecution. Once John is formally charged (the trial is being held in Albuquerque, by the way, although whenever John is taken to the courthouse the trip takes only slightly longer than his earlier trip to Kansas… there’s something weird going on here), the Allies are allowed to visit him at a M.O.R.P.H.Z. facility. John is cool with Ili and Randall testifying for him, but tells Ian and Silent Jim to find out what Dark Shadow’s real plan is. During his initial conversation with Dark Shadow, John got some kind of hint that he was involved with the brewing Boardie War (Veronica has similar suspicions). He orders them to infiltrate Morphz and United AE, to see if they can find out anything. When he hears about Veronica, he says to take her with them, since she seems willing to sell out Dark Shadow. Because Ili doesn’t trust Ian to not fall into Veronica’s thrall again, John sends Goober along as well, to keep everyone in check. We see several witnesses get notified that they’re being called to testify in the trial, including X-Raytor (prosecution), Ebony (defense), Cole Slaw (defense), and Johanna (prosecution).
Meanwhile, the Boardie War starts, on this battle field that pops up between Morphz and AE. Morphz uses various secret weapons created Billy-Weir-style by Jeff: green monsters and killer robots from that prologue he showed us, Egyptian gods, a psychic named Anthony and his tulpa, Billy (from Jeff’s story, “Billy”), and Blue Meanies with “harvester” wings deployed (an idea Jeff came up with for Remnants). Spam and emoticons are fired in vicious volleys. Whenever someone is struck down here, don’t die (obviously), but are no longer able to access their respective message boards from their current IP address (it’s like banning, only it can’t be undone). Throughout the novel, however, Leeran is working on his own secret weapon: a nerve agent that will injure people in the real world, through their Internet avatars. Various factions begin to arise, hoping to profit from the chaos. The Supreme Trio of Vicious Evil (STOVE), a rival Tri-Leader group formed by Katherine, Crayak, and Pr Crew back in the day (who haven’t done a whole lot together until now) hope to rule both boards. However, they’re constantly harassed by Pirate252, who distracts Pr Crew, and OMEGA, who bothers Crayak (Katherine is distracted enough trying to decide whether she’ll testify for or against John). Monster, Mol, and Secret Knight offer their services to Leeran, with Monster (spelling skills as atrocious as ever) naming them the “brain trust.” Umar doesn’t take sides, but will occasionally step in to defend an innocent bystander.
In Albuquerque, the trial of John, Lord of Darkness (Dum Dum Duuuuuum!) begins. John is defended by a slick lawyer named Oran Greene. Earlier on, he moves for change of venue, arguing that John couldn’t get a fair trial in Albuquerque, but the judge denies it. The prosecution begins to call witnesses. Leroy testifies, making John so angry that he’s eventually sent back to his cell. X-Raytor – really James Jansen, since the Justice League was disbanded over the summer – arrives in Albuquerque and meets with Sampson, who invites him back to the M.O.R.P.H.Z. base to talk. X-Raytor has some misgivings about the trial, since he and John bonded during JohnWorld 3006, but believes that it’s probably the right thing to do. He’s also still a bit pissed at Sampson because of the Legion of Legends. Sampson, however, treats him almost like an old friend, and seems genuinely interested as to how he’s doing as a retired super hero. They go from the court house to a M.O.R.P.H.Z. facility, which X-Raytor assumes in the base Sampson was talking about. And then Sampson leads him to a room in which there’s a large portal of light. They step through… and end up somewhere else. “Welcome to the Tesseract,” Sampson says.
The Tesseract is a new type of M.O.R.P.H.Z. base, built in the fourth dimension. When M.O.R.P.H.Z. used its experimental Sario Rip generator for the first and only time in JohnWorld 3006, it left a pocket of fourth dimensional space that they could access. They built the Tesseract there, a meta-building that can access different points in space… and, theoretically, time. This is why whenever John is taken out of the Tesseract, he’s somewhere else: there are portals to the Tesseract in M.O.R.P.H.Z. facilities all over the country. M.O.R.P.H.Z. is doing a lot of their really top secret work here, including some stuff involving the super soldier program (though Sampson doesn’t tell X-Raytor about this). One place they visit is called the Continuity Department, a group of mildly-insane scientists who are looking into various paradoxes in the JLoD/Tri-Leader/JL universe (i.e. how Animorphs and So Weird are fictional works, but also historical realities, and more importantly, why no one realizes this… also, Captain Continuity might work there). X-Raytor is so freaked out by this place that he actually asks to have his memories of the fifteen minutes he spent in there erased. X-Raytor meets Dark Shadow, who he immediately dislikes, and discovers that he’s contributing his genius to M.O.R.P.H.Z.’s big plan: turning the Tesseract’s theoretical potential to move around in time into a reality. X-Raytor asks Sampson how sure he is that he can trust Dark Shadow, and Sampson replies that sometimes it’s worth it to have someone you know you can’t trust.
Meanwhile, Ian, Silent Jim, Goober, and Veronica are deep in the Boardie battlefield. This is a kind of Frodo, Sam, Gollum situation, since you’re never sure when Veronica’s going to suddenly screw the others. We learn a bit more about Veronica. She was designed to be more independent than the other clones, so that she could be a more effective spy. After years in the cell, she grew bitter when the Tri-Leaders never came to rescue her, especially when she heard them repeatedly visit the cave. Despite her independence and intelligence, she, like all of the clones, has a strange, powerful love for Roseidous. So, when she was apparently abandoned by him (he actually just forgot, and the Tri-Leaders were soon distracted by their wedding adventures), she began to thirst for vengeance—against John, against the Tri-Leaders, all of them. During John’s imprisonment in the Coal Mines, Dark Shadow noticed the lackeys bringing food down to her cell and decided to investigate. This was how he first came into contact with Veronica, and enlisted her help in his plans. She remained in contact with him after his exile, passing along information which was, in turn, passed to her by Leroy. Shortly before the beginning of the story, however, Dark Shadow contacted Veronica and said that, because his master plan is about to come to fruition, he won’t actually be able to free her like they agreed. But he’ll get around to it eventually! Sensing that she was being betrayed again, Veronica began to holler to get the Allies’ attention. However, she still holds a grudge, and plans to kill the other three after she finds Dark Shadow. She starts to bond with them (especially Goober, who is, of course, particularly kind), however, and begins to waver. Eventually, the four of them infiltrate United AE, and begin to make their way to Leeran’s palace.
The trial continues steadily. Ebony briefly visits John, and says she’s going to put in a good word for him. Jan testifies against John, which he watches in stony silence. Greene scores some points when he cross-examines Jan, building on his main defense that John is too incompetent to be a real threat to the world. The Sisters of Mercy, who run the orphanage next to John’s cave (the one he kept tossing Ebony’s bombs into), testify, as do various people from Town, citizens of Albuquerque who were held hostage by the Hot Dog Men, Silver Falcon, the noble ambassador from Whydontyoueatyourveggies, the Trix Rabbit (“Aren’t you supposed to be dead?!” John demands, not helping his case), and Grand Maestro Julia. X-Raytor testifies, and is somewhat relieved when Greene undermines the reliability of his testimony by playing into the lingering public distrust of the Justice League. Katherine testifies for the prosecution, but when Green cross-examines her, she testifies in John’s defense. Everyone is thoroughly confused. Johanna gets up to testify, much to John’s surprise (he didn’t know she was there), but halfway through her testimony starts speaking on his behalf, prompting the judge to hold her in contempt. John’s so stunned, he doesn’t even know what to say when she’s walked past his table. The Junior Tri-Leaders testify, but the court adjourns for the day before the Tri-Leaders can. They will the next day, along with the prosecution’s star witness, Dark Shadow.
The Tri-Leaders, all stressed out, decide to go to a club across from the hotel to unwind. I thought about this scene in great detail, and it involved Roseidous loudly singing the radio edit version of L’il John’s “Get Low.” Just as they’re about to leave (the girls pretty much dragging Roseidous and Tyrael out), “My Humps” starts playing prompting Roseidous to scream “THIS SONG IS MY LIFE!!!!” and plunge back into the club, joined by Tyrael. “Crap,” Roses mutters, as Ann uses the key chain remote to unlock their rental car across the parking lot. “If we’d just left a few seconds earlier, we’d be gone already.” Just as she says this, the rental car explodes. The Tri-Leaders wonder who would have tried to kill them, and realize that the Allies are too dumb to do something like that. They begin to suspect that it was Dark Shadow, but wonder why, exactly, he would be trying to screw them over when they’re testifying against John. When they find out about Ian and Silent Jim’s mission, they have the Junior Tri-Leaders sneak away from their federal handlers, and head to the Boardie War battleground to investigate.
Meanwhile, Sampson, Dark Shadow, and X-Raytor (all hanging out, I guess) find out that M.O.R.P.H.Z. has finally found a way to make the Tesseract access different points in time.
On the Internet, Morphz seems to be gaining the upper hand (despite several heroic and melodramatic sacrifices, and other war movie clichés that I really would have enjoyed writing). But then, United AE unleashes a new type of spam, created from the combined vitriol of Scrub Ducky, StephenP, and the rest, and the tables begin to turn. Ian, Silent Jim, and Veronica infiltrate the palace and make their way to Leeran’s throne room. Meanwhile, the Junior Tri-Leaders are sneaking into United AE themselves.
John’s trial resumes that morning. We see a little of Ann and Roseidous’ testimonies which, of course, make John look both stupid and dangerous. But when Roses takes the stand, she surprises everyone by testifying that John actually contributes a lot to the world, and should be praised, not condemned. Greene doesn’t even cross-examine her, he just thanks her for her testimony.
Finally, the prosecution calls Dark Shadow to the stand. He begins to testify, but then it just turns into a monologue, in which he calls John, Sampson, and pretty much everyone else an idiot. He tells them that he’s already won, and then something explodes. In the resulting chaos, Dark Shadow escapes, kills a few M.O.R.P.H.Z. agents, and then goes to the Tesseract. We learn that he’s already reprogrammed the security system, and locks the door behind him. He calls Leeran and tells him that the master stroke is underway, and that it’s time for him to end his Boardie War. Leeran asks how much time he has, and Dark Shadow says he’s just going to do a few final things, and then head straight for the time travel portal.
Back at the courthouse, John gets close to Sampson and says that if they want to stop Dark Shadow, they’re going to need his help. Sampson reluctantly agrees, and he, John, and X-Raytor head for the Tesseract portal. John tells Ili (and Damon, who’s there), Randall, and Katherine to go to United AE and help Ian and Silent Jim. When they get to the Tesseract portal, Sampson is able to override Dark Shadow’s security protocols and get them in. When they do, however, they find themselves confronted by… all of the Justice League villains who were held on the prison level. Sampson and X-Raytor prepare to fight them, as John heads to the time portal to stop Dark Shadow. John confronts his former spy and tackles him, tearing off his hood to reveal, at long last, his true identity:
Meanwhile, at United AE, Leeran orders his scientists to release the nerve gas on the Morphz army. However, Pinzz has knocked out all of is scientists and stolen the nerve gas – she was a double agent for Morphz the whole time. Leeran has one last fall back: an ultimate Delete All button that will wipe out both Morphz and AE. He heads to the highest tower in the palace to activate it… and is confronted by Ian, Silent Jim, and Veronica. A moment later, the Junior Tri-Leaders burst through a wall and confront him as well. They are followed, moments later, by a triumphant Morphz force, led by Princess Aldrea. Leeran, the great orator, says he can explain everything… and then runs away. When the others try to pursue, the palace comes to life, creating spam monsters that attack them. As some folks (probably Princess Aldrea and the Morphz generals) go to rescue the prisoners in the palace dungeon, and others (including, once they arrive, Ili, Randall, Damon, and Katherine) fight the spam monsters and other United AE soldiers, Ian, Silent Jim, Veronica, Goober, and the Junior Tri-Leaders pursue Leeran.
Sampson and X-Raytor are still fighting the super villains, although they’re soon aided by Silver Falcon and maybe some M.O.R.P.H.Z. agents. X-Raytor has the roughest time, being the only available member of the Justice League for everyone to vent their frustrations on. Julian particularly wants a piece of him, but X-Raytor is able to knock him out before he blows everyone up. As Sampson and the others handle the rest of the villains, X-Raytor decides to go help John… and his path is immediately blocked by the Green Penguin. “Hello, James,” the Green Penguin says, creating a radioactive snowball.
“How many times do I have to tell people?!” John demands, back at the Tesseract. “It’s always Richard Simmons!!!” (This is what he said at the end of Roseidous’ trial). It is at this point that we fill in some holes:
For one thing, on a certain level, Dark Shadow isn’t really Richard Simmons. Dark Shadow is Dark Shadow, a malevolent force manifested as a dark cloak, which possessed Richard Simmons sometime in 2001 (Simmons allowed this because he was seduced by Dark Shadow’s promises of power… and especially that no one would ever laugh at him again). He’s been working behind the scenes from the start, plotting domination of the entire universe and the downfall of anyone who would stand in his way. More details about this can be found in Dark Shadow’s profile. Richard Simmons has totally surrendered to Dark Shadow ever since John and Katherine supposedly killed him after Roseidous’ trial. But John wants to know where Dark Shadow him/itself came from, and why it has such a hard-on for John. Dark Shadow touches John’s forehead, and John realizes… Dark Shadow is him. Part of him, anyway – Dark Shadow is a sentient manifestation of John’s former evil, the darkness he had before the Management tampered with his soul after the First Battle of Albuquerque. He hates John because John represents all of his weaknesses, everything that ever held him back. He says he’s going to take special pleasure in torturing John when he’s in charge of reality, and that entire galaxies will disintegrate before John stops suffering. Then he jettisons Richard Simmons from the cloak (dropping him on top of John) and flies into the time portal (so… he’s just a cloak now. Everybody still with me? Okay, good). John gets out from under Richard Simmons, who is sobbing and apologizing for all of the terrible things Dark Shadow has done, and jumps into the time portal after Dark Shadow.
X-Raytor and the Green Penguin fight furiously. Uncle Bubba clearly has more control over his Green Penguin form than he’s ever had before, but X-Raytor isn’t nearly as frightened of him as he was in the past. Just as he’s about to win, though, the Green Penguin knocks him down, and prepares to crush him.
Leeran reaches the palace tower, where the administrative control panel is. He uses his psychic powers (“I didn’t call myself Leeran for fun, you know”) to defeat the Junior Tri-Leaders and Ian. Silent Jim, however, has his nifty breakdancing laser gun, and is about to use it on Leeran… when Veronica knocks him out. As Leeran telekinetically restrains the others, Veronica tells Leeran that she’s a fellow agent of Dark Shadow, here to make sure he completes his mission.
The Green Penguin is just about to kill X-Raytor, telling him that he should have just done what he was told. X-Raytor, at the last moment, gets his chance and blasts the Green Penguin full in the face with his laser vision. The Green Penguin is temporarily blinded, and X-Raytor beats the crap out of him until he turns back into Uncle Bubba. Sampson checks to make sure X-Raytor is all right, and he says that he feels the best he has in the last five years.
Meanwhile, Veronica flirts with Leeran. As Leeran is distracted by this, Goober sneaks around behind him and logs into the administrative control panel. Leeran tries to stop him, but Veronica attacks him, causing him to throw her, telepathically, out of a tower window. But he’s too late. Goober becomes the administrator. He discovers that Leeran doesn’t actually have psychic powers at all… in fact, he’s actually more of a pawn than anyone thought. Leeran is actually former Morphz boardie and attempted super villain Zebby-Boy (remember Zeb? He’s got a whole self-made mythology behind him… I’ll explain everything in Dark Shadow’s profile). He always wanted to be a super villain, but was rejected by the Tri-Leaders, and anyone else he tried to recruit. Dark Shadow, posing as a recruiter for a super villain coaching program called Altimax, Inc., offered him the opportunity to become a real super villain, giving him a machine that simulated psychic powers. Dark Shadow’s messed with his mind to the point that Zebby-Boy doesn’t even totally realize he’s doing anything wrong – it’s like he’s living in a dream where he’s this awesome super villain. Goober explains what’s happening, and Zebby-Boy surrenders. Goober uses his psychic-powers-machine to link the minds of the warring Boardie factions, and to teach them that they’re really all very similar. They were all looking for a place where they could feel at home, and they found it, either at Morphz, AE, or both. The Great Boardie War ends in a truce.
After jumping through the time portal, John finds himself floating in the fourth dimension. Dark Shadow attempts to go back in time to when he and John were separated, in order to convince the Management to just kill John and give him John’s destiny. They battle across time and space, popping in and out of various historical events and important moments in John’s life (no one can see them, by the way). Dark Shadow is winning (because, come on, John can’t fight), until John realizes that the only way he can defeat his former darkness is by drawing on whatever light is in him. He grabs Dark Shadow and shoots them to a happy time. They land on a street in Hope Springs, Colorado, where Dark Shadow frees himself from John’s grip and prepares to kill him. As he begins to make yet another arrogant, dramatic speech, he notices that John isn’t paying attention. Dark Shadow looks over… and sees Ringo Moonn, playing on the front lawn with a two-year-old John. Dark Shadow is suddenly infected by John’s “weakness” – happiness, sadness, loss. John draws on his positive emotions and blasts Dark Shadow with light. He is destroyed, along with any chance John ever had of reclaiming his former evil. John gets up, says something witty (for John). He watches his younger self play with his dad for a few moments longer, and then returns to the fourth dimension.
He floats there for a moment, trying to figure out the possibilities of having the entire space-time continuum before him, like TV channels. He checks in on the various universes where the others he met during JohnWorld 3006 live: He sees John (Cinque) at home with his wife, Lori, and their baby. He sees Kane in the middle of a fierce battle with the alien Xanga. He even checks in on “JohnWorld,” where he sees Amber and Natalie making a speech in front of a banner that reads REBUILD 3007. But he realizes there’s only one thing he really wants to see. And so he goes back in time, to when he was in fifth grade, shortly before the accident that erased everyone’s memories. He goes back to see what he found when he went down into the Catacombs and unlocked the Third Key. And he fills in the last remaining hole in his memory.
John returns to the Tesseract, and is immediately taken back into custody, but he’s quiet now, not quite sure what to do about what he’s just learned. Word comes in that the Boardie War has ended. AE is back under JanGirl’s control, they’re working on a way to get the “dead” boardies back online, and appropriately awful things are happening to Leeran’s Inner Circle. X-Raytor meets with Sampson, who informs him that they’re shutting down the Tesseract, closing all of the portals, and collapsing the fourth-dimensional pocket they created, so that no one will be able to do what Dark Shadow did. X-Raytor isn’t sure if he totally believe that, but goes with it. Having defeated the Green Penguin, and gotten a few answers for some lingering loose ends concerning his family, X-Raytor feels like he can finally retire in peace now (which is funny because, in retrospect, X-Raytor will realize that part of the reason Sampson showed him so much secret stuff in the Tesseract is because he was already planning on asking him to lead the Sentinels).
The next day, the trial resumes. Jan stands up in the middle of court and says that she wants to repeal her testimony and speak in John’s defense. But the judge says that won’t be necessary, and announces that, in light of John’s heroics and the fact that the prosecution’s case was built on information provided by Dark Shadow (who no one considers a reliable source now), they’re going to throw the case out and clear John of all charges. John, however, is not happy about this. “What are you talking about?!” he demands. “I’m guilty! I’m guilty as heck!!” The judge laughs, and tells John that not only is he innocent, but he’s a genuine American hero.
“Hero?!?!” John says. “No! No, I’m a villain! I want to take over the world!! I want to conquer you all and rule over you with an iron fist!!! I’m a villain, a-”
And then, suddenly, he rounds on Roses. “YOU!!”
“Me?” Roses asks.
“You knew this would happen, didn’t you?!” John snaps. “That’s why you changed your testimony!! You were just trying to make me look bad! I mean, good! I mean… you know what I mean!!”
“Really?” Roses says, all innocence. “That would have been mighty clever of me.”
John sputters, inarticulate with rage, and then storms out of the courtroom. Roses wears a smile the size of Texas. John’s lawyer, Greene, goes to congratulate him, although John doesn’t want to hear it. He starts paying attention, however, when Greene reveals that he’s actually the man in green/Sadiss, and that he was sent by the Management to help John out. If John was going to be found guilty, Sadiss would have changed the jury’s mind. But since that wasn’t needed, Sadiss just wants to thank John for providing him with a few boredom-free days. John sees Johanna, who was just released from the holding cell she’s been in since she was found in contempt of court. They make eye contact, but John can’t work up the nerve to go talk to her, and she leaves. “So,” the man in green asks John, “what next?”
We end with a few follow ups. Veronica, it turns out, did not die when she was tossed out of the window, and goes off to have her own adventures (with prosthetic toes). She probably sees Roseidous first, though, and does something that helps her get over him (like kicking him or something). Leroy is assigned to all kinds of vicious work under Randall’s watchful eye, and someone else is given his old job of being John’s Number Two lackey. John and Jan reconcile, very awkwardly. In the end, John assembles all of his Allies and tells them that they have a lot of work to do. Something big is coming, and they need to be ready. When the Allies ask what it is, John smiles.
“Destiny,” he says.
(I know, that summary was huge. Feel free to ask me any clarification questions, because I’m not even sure if that all made sense.)
Dorothy and the Mexican, or How Bubba Got His Groove Back: An Associates Tale
Laura and I started writing this while were on vacation at the beach. It was awesome and we disturbed the people in the room next to ours by laughing too much. It’s not finished, but there are some scenes and a summary of the plot points. I’m putting this on the timeline as 2006, because John, etc. are busy doing other things and they wouldn’t be involved in this story except at the very end. –Margie
Alone in his cabin at Camp Milk and Cookies, Vinnie took a moment to relax. He wrapped his hand around the familiar shaft, pushing up, then down, the gentle stroking calming him. Slowly, oh so slowly, he polished away his worries.
Suddenly, the door slammed open! Vinnie dropped his polishing cloth. Fired twice. Stan cowered in the doorway, two bullet holes punched neatly through his sombrero. He raised his head cautiously and chittered.
“Knock next time,” Vinnie growled.
He retrieved the polishing cloth from the floor. You don’t just barge in on a man when he’s polishing his gun. It’s plain discourteous.
Stan crept into the room, chittering madly the whole time. Vinnie sighed. He’d grown up in the circus, spent half his life doing violent things in foreign countries, and worked for the Tri-Leaders for who knows how many years, but he still couldn’t understand one frightened ferret.
“Slow down,” Vinnie said.
Stan took a deep breath and slowed his speech just enough for Vinnie to make out three words: Danger. Experiment. Shelter. Looks like Vinnie was stuck inside the rest of the day. He went back to polishing his gun. Stan curled up in the corner, as far away from Vinnie as he could manage.
“You don’t get to stay,” Vinnie snapped.
The cabin shuddered once. Then, without any other warning, it launched itself into the air. Vinnie heard something scream. A gun fell off the wall, flung by fate into Vinnie’s temple. He immediately fell unconscious.
“No, I don’t care how many blonde nesting dolls you have!” Roses shouted, speaking into the portable phone in her cabin. “I need the brunette ones!”
She was pacing back and forth in her cabin at Camp Milk and Cookies while the wind picked up outside. A storm seemed to be brewing, but that was the least of her troubles at the moment.
The male voice on the other end of the phone told her to wait just a minute and the sounds of some form of Russian muzak filled her ear. Roses rolled her eyes and almost tripped over a bag of mysterious white powder on the floor. Muttering to herself about Ann and not bothering to clean up and experiments gone wrong, she gave it a rather violent kick. The bag flew under Ann's unmade bed and made a suspicious clanking sound for a bunch of powder, but Roses decided it was best not to examine the situation any further. Luckily, the muzak stopped and a female voice began speaking in broken English.
“Well, he may be the most mystical man in all Russia, but if you can’t get me what I want, that title will go to me! Does Vic need to call on you?”
The voice backtracked, filling the phone with flowery compliments and reassurances.
“Look, I don't care about the shipping costs or how many people in the factory had to work overtime. My shipment of nesting dolls will be here this week. That’s what I thought. Dosvedanya, Anya!” she said, hanging up.
The plan was going well. The nesting dolls would be the perfect accessories. And maybe they could hide things in them. Things like…
Her hand-carved mahogany door burst open. Billy Jo rushed inside, followed by his entire company of security squirrels. Roses didn't really pay attention to their excited chatter until one squirrel smashed into the back window and landed on her bed. Roses held up her hand for silence.
"Did that squirrel just fly?"
Billy Jo nodded from his perch on the windowsill.
"We have flying squirrels now?"
"Squeak. Squeaker squeak."
"Uh-huh. Your cousins, you say?"
"Squeak," Billy Jo gestured for her to come closer and she leaned down to listen. As she did, another of the flying squirrels attempted to land on her moving ceiling fan and was immediately thrown off.
"I see," she said. "Not the best branch of the family tree, so to speak."
Billy Jo shrugged.
"So why are they here? And why are all of you here?"
All of the squirrels started squeaking loudly again, gesturing outside. One spun in a circle until he got dizzy and fell over and a few others mimed that they were having some trouble walking. Billy Jo frowned and whistled loudly. His usual regiment snapped to attention, but the flying squirrels looked confused. He glared at them and then explained the situation to Roses.
"I might have misheard," she said when he'd finished. "A giant tornado is surrounding the camp and my cabin is directly in the vortex. It's not moving, so damage to our property is minimal, but anything past the lake is gone. Oh, and no one can get into camp or out of camp? Is that what you said?"
The squirrels nodded. Roses walked to the door and threw it open. Sure enough, the kitchen, office, and living quarters were fine, but she couldn't see through the swirling wall of water and debris to tell if Vinnie's cabin was intact. And she definitely couldn't see a way out, unless it was straight up into the one spot of clear, blue sky. After a few moments of contemplation, and one moment of wondering if a cow really just flew by or if that was too cliché, Roses wasn't sure what she was going to do about this situation. But she did know one thing. She knew exactly who to blame for this.
"Son of a...JOHN!"
Vinnie awoke to a woman shrieking. Before consciousness fully returned, he grabbed the nearest gun and ran outside. The sight that greeted him wasn’t even in the top hundred strangest things he’d ever witnessed.
The pizza boys – TAS, Cait-Sith, Nothlit, Todd, and Yoda – stood in the middle of a street, dressed in full pizza boy regalia. All five of them stared at a body on the ground. Vinnie caught a glimpse of the face before Cait covered it with a sheet. It was Ann Chovi.
“Hands behind your head!” Vinnie shouted, pointing his gun at each of them in turn. “Face down on the ground! On the ground!”
Todd burst into tears and fell facedown on the pavement.
“We didn’t kill her!” TAS shrieked with his hands behind his head. “Don’t shoot!”
“She’s not dead,” Nothlit said. “Look, you can see her breathing.”
With his gun trained on the pizza boys, Vinnie worked his way over to the body.
“Stan!” Vinnie shouted.
The ferret scampered out of the cabin. His sombrero was a little battered but he seemed uninjured.
“Keep an eye on these pizza boys,” Vinnie said. “If any of them acts suspicious, run up their pants and bite the first thing that dangles.”
Cait got a cunning look on his face.
“And if you try anything, I’ll shoot you.”
Vinnie knelt beside the body and whipped the sheet away from her face. He felt a little of his tension ease. It wasn’t Ann Chovi. Sure, from a distance it looked like her. Same features, but this woman’s face was thinner, with a bright, hooker-red lipstick his employer wouldn’t be caught dead in. Jan Chovy. Ann’s identical cousin. Had to be. Vinnie checked her pulse. Strong, and her breathing regular. If it weren’t for the bloody gash on her forehead, she could be sleeping.
“All right!” Vinnie rose from his crouch. “Here’s what’s going to happen! You tell me what’s going on, and I won’t shoot you. You lie to me, I shoot you. You move, I shoot you. You keep crying and screaming like that, and I shoot you twice.”
TAS’s mouth snapped shut. Tears kept sliding down Todd’s face, but at least he stopped wailing.
“You,” Vinnie said, pointing to Yoda. “You seem reasonable. What happened here?”
Yoda looked at Vinnie with adoration in his eyes. “You – you saved us Miss Vinnie!”
“Just Vinnie,” he snapped.
“She was going to steal our truck!” Cait shouted.
“Was I talking to you?”
Cait look down at his feet. “Sorry, sir.”
“We need our truck!” Yoda said. “We can’t deliver our piping hot, delicious pizza in thirty minutes or less without it! Have you ever tried to deliver a pizza on TAS’s skateboard? It can’t be done!”
Vinnie looked at Yoda. “You don’t talk anymore. You,” he said pointing to Nothlit. “What happened?”
Nothlit looked straight ahead, standing at attention. It was the position he used to make his delivery reports and it would serve him well now. “Jan wanted to steal our truck, sir! There was a giant waterspout at Camp Milk and Cookies, sir! Your cabin fell in the middle of the street, sir! Jan got hit with debris, sir! You threatened to shoot everyone! Sir!”
“Why did she want your truck?”
“It was too far to walk to the Cave in her ruby-red hooker boots, sir!”
“About this waterspout…” Vinnie started.
“How did you not notice it?” Cait said. “It’s right behind you! Any idiot can see it! You just turn around and look!”
“Stan?” Vinnie said, gesturing toward Cait.
The ferret shed his sombrero and ran for Cait. The pizza boy only had time for a look of confusion to cross his face before Stan ran up Cait’s pant leg. His eyes crossed and he shrieked a manly shriek. He fell straight back, hands holding his crotch.
Vinnie turned around slowly, always keeping the pizza boys in sight. Just as that mouthy Cait Sith had said, a giant…hurricane? Waterspout? Twister? Whatever it was, it had centered itself on Camp Milk and Cookies. Even from here, Vinnie could hear the roar of the wind. He’d attributed the sound to head trauma. This was normally the type of thing he’d notice. He’d had a long night.
Vinnie glared at the pizza boys. “Why would-“
A squeal of tires and a crunch interrupted what Vinnie was about to say.
“I told you I should have driven today!” a voice shouted, followed by the slamming of a car door. Tails.
“That cabin came out of nowhere!” a voice that could only belong to Holli shouted back. “Who puts a house in the middle of the road?”
The two girls wafted around the side of the cabin. They were each a vision in fluffy, sparkly pink. A ridiculously tall tiara perched atop each of their heads.
“Helloooooo, boys!” Holli trilled, blowing a kiss at the pizza boys.
To a man, they cringed.
“Oh, hi Vinnie,” Tails said. “Where are your shoes?”
Vinnie waved his hand at the town, the pizza boys, the waterspout, and his cabin, trying to convey in a gesture the mess the morning had become.
Tails floated over to the unconscious Jan. “She doesn’t look too good. Yo, Holli, I need some help over here!”
Holli stopped poking Nothlit with her magic wand and glided over.
“Grab a boot,” Tail said. “Poor, helpless Jan can’t hope to get better with her fabulous ruby-red hooker boots still on.”
“She certainly can’t,” Holli said.
She grabbed the right boot and Tails took the left. Jan’s boots came off surprisingly easy. Tails wafted over the Vinnie, Holli following.
“Vinnie, I found you some shoes!” Tails helpfully waved her boot in the air.
Vinnie backed away. “I couldn’t wear those.”
“It’s okay,” Holli said. Somehow the girl had got behind him. “She’s not using them.”
“Besides,” Tails said, leaning in close. “She’s a bad witch.”
The two girls giggled. In a flash of sparkle and pink chiffon, Vinnie landed flat on his back, the ruby-red hooker boots jammed on his feet.
“So much better,” Tail said, stepping back to admire their work. “Now your poor feet won’t get cut on all that broken glass.”
“And those boots look fabulous on you,” Holli said.
The two Junior Tri-Leaders floated back to the car.
“Ta ta!” Holli sang, waving her fingers at the pizza boys.
“Wait!” Vinnie said, struggling to his feet. Those boots were tight. “I need a ride back to camp!”
“I don’t know if you noticed,” Holli said, “but there’s a giant tornado over the camp.”
“You should go see the wizard,” Tails said. “He might know how to fix this.”
“So give me a ride to see the wizard,” Vinnie said, his non-gun hand closing into a fist.
“Sorry, can’t.” Holli slid into the driver’s seat. “We’re almost late for our pretty, pretty princess party.”
“It’s my turn to drive!” Tail said, hands on her hips.
“We agreed you can drive when we stop for gas. Have we stopped for gas yet?”
“The wizard?” Vinnie prompted before the girls could descend into an argument.
Holli rolled her eyes. “He’s insisting we call him that. Just follow the wooded dirt road.”
“Follow the wooded dirt road!” the pizza boys repeated in unison.
“And take this with you,” Tails said, popping open the trunk.
A small screaming something sprang from the trunk. Tails watched it take a lap around the car, arms folded.
“Are you quite finished?” she asked.
Vinnie identified the screaming thing as Vic moments before the gnome stopped. Vinnie lowered his gun.
“He’s all yours,” Tails said.
“He’s been impossible since we shoved him in there,” Holli commented.
“You can’t treat an officer of the GLF like this! Have you ever had an army of garden gnomes bent on your destruction?”
“Not this week,” Holli muttered.
“You cannot imagine the pain that will rain down upon you for this indignity! Mothers will terrify their children with the tales of what happens to you!” Vic took a deep breath, his first since he’d been released from the trunk. “And after I found those ridiculous princess dresses for you.”
Holli looked sweetly at Vic. The pizza boys all took a step back. “And do you remember what you said?”
Vic looked around, shifty eyed. “I, ah, I don’t recall the specific –“
“You called our pretty, pretty princess party stupid,” Holli said. “And then you said – what were the exact words?”
“If you wanted to recapture our lost youth, we should just bang a couple high schoolers like normal cougars,” Tail supplied.
The pizza boys gasped.
Vic backed away from the powder pink car slowly. “I don’t see your point, but whatever. Don’t you have somewhere to be?”
“Oops!” Holli leaned over to look at the “rented” car’s digital clock. “Get in!” she said to Tails. “We’re almost late! Katherine said she wouldn’t hang around in a sparkly dress all day!”
Tails slammed the trunk. “And don’t think we’ve forgotten about this,” she said to Vic while getting in the car.
Holli peeled away, narrowly missing the cabin.
“All right, Dorothy,” Vic said to Vinnie. “Let’s get this party started.”
“Just follow the dirty dirt road!” Todd shouted.
“Follow the wooded dirt road,” TAS corrected.
“Follow the wooded dirt road,” the pizza boys echoed. “Follow the wooded dirt road! Follow, follow, follow, follow, follow the wooded dirt road!”
“These pizza boys are kind of creepy,” Vic said.
Stan chittered in agreement. He took another swig of mouthwash, trying to get the taste of Cait out of his mouth.
Vinnie sighed. “I guess we’re off to see the wizard.”
“Two cups sugar,” Ann Chovi sang as she poured it in the mixer. “One stick butter. Beat till creamy. Froooooosting, yum!”
Ann danced around the shuttle’s tiny kitchen, scooping up ingredients.
“Two brick cream cheese, little bit of whipping cream. Beat till fluffy. Froooooosting, yum!”
She wiped her hands on her apron and let the mixer do its work. Time to check on the weather experiment! If all was going well, as it no doubt was, a small waterspout will have formed in the center of the lake, to the delight and terror of the Boy Scout Camp.
Ann checked the readings. That couldn’t be right. Her small waterspout wasn’t capable of this sort of power. She flipped on the surveillance monitor. She’d installed a security camera and the roof of the cabin she and Roses shared, back when they suspected John’s minion Leroy was nesting up there.
Nothing came on the monitor except a grayish brown blur. The camera must be broken. As she was about the turn the monitor off, a squirrel blew by, arms and legs waving helplessly. Ann looked closer. That wasn’t weird static on the monitor; that was water and debris! The squirrel blew by again.
Ann’s happy little waterspout had mutated into an uncontrollable monster! In the kitchen, the frosting exploded with a soft “wumph.”
“Roses isn’t going to like this,” Ann said.
Vinnie and Stan and Vic are walking along the dirty dirt road. They come across Sally being used as a scarecrow in an alfalfa field, wearing nothing but a straw hat and a smile. Stan refuses to let Vinnie deflate Sally so he has to carry her along.
Roses sends the flying squirrels off for help! Can regular squirrels ride the flying ones? That could be hilarious. And Roses yells "Fly, fly you crazies!" and cackles.
Back to the main event! Our intrepid heroes come to a kumquat grove, where Al Broker stands there, frozen by a logic problem. Stan snaps him out of it. One of Al's heads is attached to his hand. He has to see the wizard to re-attach it. The squirrels show up and try to get the boots and they throw kumquats at everyone. Look, they're HELPING!
As they run away, Sally gets hit with a rogue kumquat and starts to deflate. It's very tragic.
Cut scene with Tyrael! He's at the Fortress, being the doorman of the Dread Portal. Mr. Packard is trying to deliver a giant package, but doesn't have the correct password. Also, Mr. Packard looks more like a movie star than a mailman. Pretty suspicious. Poor Mr. Packard doesn't get paid enough for this.
Our heroes are walking through a scary forest with scary Spanish moss hanging from the scary trees. Since Stan wouldn't let Sally just deflate, and since they didn't have anything to repair the hole, they stuffed her full of straw.
Suddenly, an ominous QUACK! Vinnie goes for the gun in his backpack but gets bit by Stan. Vic starts yelling his fool head off.
Bubba jumps out of the thicket all menacing and goes in for the hug. But he can't go through with it. Bubba has lost that loving feeling. He joins them to go see the wizard.
A Roses cut scene! The flying squirrels come back, all proud of themselves and helpfully presenting Roses with a bunch of kumquats. She sends them out again.
We rejoin the protagonists on a speedboat, speeding over to the Fortress! The clones are at the dock and are all dressed in their new poppy-print Marimekko swimsuits. They invite the travelers to hang out and sunbathe and take a nap. They scratch Stan under the chin and run sunscreen on Vinnie and giggle over Vic's crudest jokes. The only ones immune to their charms are Al Broker and Sally! Al holds Sally up and snaps them out of it! They continue on to the Dread Portal.
Vinnie knocks. After an appropriately dramatic time passes, Tyrael pops his head out through the little doorman's hole and asks for the password. Vinnie kicks down the door because he is sick of this crap.
They go into the throne room, and there's Murry, floating behind a giant magnifying glass. They tell them what they need and he says they first need to defeat the Wicked Witch of the Mountain.
When they get back on land, they're viciously attacked by a horde of flying squirrels! The battle goes badly until Vic throws a peanut butter sandwich at them and they fly away.
And now, something completely different! Holli, Tails, and Katherine are having their princess party! But they realize its not the same without Tyrael there, tied to a chair in a poofy dress. They set off to get him!
The five adventurers make it to the top of the Mountain, where Ann's spaceship is parked. Ann tells them about the weather machine and how she can't find the key. Bubba sees a tray of cookies and drools all over them. They start to melt.
"THEY'RE MELTING!" Ann shrieks.
Bubba panics and wrecks up the place. Mission accomplished. With the Witch well and truly defeated, they go back to the Fortress. Murry just cackles when they tell him what happens and he says they should go and wreck up John's place next.
But then! Roseidous emerges from behind a curtain! He's been occupied with the package Mr. Packard brought and wants to show everyone. It's Priscilla, Sally's replacement. But he ordered the wrong size, so Priscilla is now his hot air balloon! They can get to camp and shut off the weather machine. A rouge gust of wind blows Priscilla away. He cries onto Sally's shoulder. It's very touching.
Holli and Tails walk by, dragging Tyrael (dressed as a princess). They tell Vinnie the key to the weather machine's in the ruby red hooker boots. They noticed it when they shoved them on his feet but didn't think it was important.
At that moment, Ann crashes her spaceship into the courtyard. She flies away with Vinnie (and everyone else) and tells him how to turn off the machine. He'll have to parachute through the eye of the waterspout and turn the key right 3 times. The machine's under her bed. And then she shoves him out of the door.
It was the best part of Vinnie's day.
He turns off the machine the spaceship lands, the camp is in a wreck. John comes stumbling out of the woods and splutters how their wicked water attack didn't work or something. Bubba lets out a single QUACK and chases after John. Bubba got his groove back.
Roses sighs and shakes her head. "There's no place like home"
The Day of Reckoning
With his final destiny approaching, John decides it’s time to finally make good on his promise that “THERE WILL BE A RECKONING!!” That’s right: it’s time for Annie Thelen to pay for the heinous crime of ruining So Weird, and no one (NO ONE) will stand between a Lord of Darkness (Dum Dum Duuuuuum!) and his vengeance.
What John doesn’t know is that Annie is just beginning her own play for world domination, manipulating the Freemasons who control Disney. She will convince them that she is the current incarnation of Isis, and will probably somehow make Michael Eisner think that he is the current incarnation of Horus (these are all Masonic jokes… “widow’s son,” blah blah blah, I had this idea while reading From Hell), and endow him with some of her evil powers (which she uses to get control in the first place).
Meanwhile, John is going on a Kill Bill-esque streak of revenge against principle members of the Third Season crew (including Bruce Zimmerman, John Mandel, recurring directors John Pozer, Paul Lynch, and Patrick Williams, Larry Sugar, and Tom J. Astle). Just with a lot less blood, and a lot more trout. He has what amounts to a moral dilemma in whether or not he should punish people who were involved in creating all three seasons – both the So Weird he loved, and the So Weird he hated. The answer: OF COURSE!!!
The story climaxes in Disney World, where Annie (along with Eisner-Horus) is peparing to conquer the world. As John approaches Cinderella’s Castle, armed with a trout launcher, Annie sends out Alexz Johnson to fight him. As we know from her appearance at the 2003 Oscars, Ms. Johnson is insane—Annie let the Panther possess her for a little, hoping to make her obedient, but instead it just made her crazy. During this near-fight (Alexz is pretty pathetic, and so is John), the Panther will come out of nowhere, and John will defeat it by forcing it to go back to its true form—a fat Peruvian shaman (most likely using a page from the O’Shannon spell book, which he got… at some point earlier). Then Annie will unleash Eisner-Horus, who is far more powerful than John expects. However, just when it seems that Eisner-Horus is going to lay waste to the world and make Annie ruler, enter… ALAN MOORE!!! He has somehow sprouted another pair of arms, and carries the four magical weapons (and he’s dressed very symbolically… again, I had this idea while reading a lot of Alan Moore, including Promethea… this clearly isn’t a story aimed at pleasing anyone but myself). Alan Moore fights Eisner and several other Disney execs/Master Masons (all magically endowed). He will use the weapons in such a way that exemplifies the weapon’s properties—the sword will undue Annie’s manipulations, the cup will heal any who are hurt or damaged (including Alexz—it will also make people feel very, very aroused), and the wand (a caduceus!) will make anyone effected by it do his will. He will then use his coin (which symbolizes pragmatism) to buy a soda, and fly away. It will then be down to John and Annie, and they will have an epic sword fight (I’m not sure where the swords come from… the Pirates of the Caribbean ride?) on top of Cinderella’s Castle. Eventually, John defeats Annie by accidentally cutting off her thumb, freeing Fi’s ring and rendering her powerless. Exhausted, the two sit down and talk. Annie admits that she had a crush on John at Evil School, and only interrupted Fi’s run on So Weird to make him jealous. John says that he guesses her peppy music wasn’t really that annoying, and that she was a decent enough heroine throughout Season Three.
“Really?” Annie asks.
“Yeah, you were passable,” John says.
Annie decides that maybe evil wasn’t ever really her thing anyway, and decides to go play happy songs for kids in the hospital or something. John says sure, but is evasive about her offer to get some coffee.
At the end, John is at a rest stop on his way back to the cave. He’s not quite sure what to do with Fi’s ring, but before he can decide on anything, he gets a call from Ian, telling him that he just spotted Kevin Federline at the grocery store in Town, and John needs to get up there pronto if they’re going to throw monkey poop at him (they’ve apparently been storing up Leroy’s droppings for months, just in case such an opportunity arose). John is delighted, and runs out of the rest stop… not noticing that he’s dropped the ring on the way. The ring rolls along the floor, through the food court, and into the gift shop… where it hits the toe of a girl’s boots and then falls over. The girl picks it up and is revealed to be none other than Fiona “Fi” Phillips (obviously a bit older than when we saw her at the beginning of Season Three – she’d be 21 at this point). She looks at the ring, and smiles. “No way.”
Jon Cooksey – “In the Darkness” – things that Fi and Molly literally would have gone through to get Rick – but darkness isn’t just evil – things we have to deal with in life – maybe this is key to the entire series
John, Lord of Darkness (Dum Dum Duuuuuum!) is brooding on his throne in a brooding sort of way. But unlike the first Saga, he is also a bit nervous, drumming his fingers on the cardboard armrests. Ili sticks her head out from a nook somewhere in the cave and asks how long they’re going to have to stay there, because Ian apparently had Mexican food for lunch again (despite that blood oath he swore). John impatiently shushes her. Suddenly, the air in front of John begins to shimmer, and a large, bearded demon appears in front of him: Asto Vidatu. He re-introduces himself. “I know,” John says. “I’ve been expecting you. NOW!!”
All of the Allies leap out of hiding places and attempt to trap Asto Vidatu in large nets made out of fused plastic six pack rings. The “nets” disintegrate when they touch him, and Asto Vidatu sends all of the Allies (including Ili’s pets) flying with a simple flick of his finger. When he asks what that was all about, John explains that he knew that Asto Vidatu was coming because John had finally filled in the last gap in his memory. John was planning on using this information as leverage against Asto Vidatu and the Management, to get them to leave him alone so he can continue his quest for world domination in peace. Asto Vidatu says that would be foolish, since his masters just want to help John. That’s been the plan from the start, which is why the Management’s had Randall keeping tabs on him for them. John is a bit shocked by this revelation (and Randall’s embarrassed), but doesn’t care once Asto Vidatu tells him how impressed they are with his progress. He then asks John what, exactly, he knows about the Management’s plans.
“They’re coming,” John says.
He now knows what the Management’s master plan is: They’re invading the entire universe, finding ways to slip through the cracks between the Spirit World and the physical plane. The forces of Good have been holding them back thus far, but it’s only a matter of time before they totally break through and conquer everything. Asto Vidatu acknowledges that this is true. John says it’s a stupid plan, because if the Management is ruling everything, then what’s he supposed to rule? Asto Vidatu says he’ll get to rule plenty, because he has a destiny. Frustrated, John demands to know what his destiny is, already. So Asto Vidatu tells him:
The Management is, indeed, invading. And not just that, but they’re invading very soon. But in order to do that, they need someone to prepare the way, to open the final gate. Although this person is from the physical world, they contain a chip of the Management’s dark soul within their own. They are the True Face of Evil in this world. That person, of course, is John.
(And by “of course,” I mean this comes as a surprise to everyone, even John… though he immediately begins to act like he knew it all along)
Asto Vidatu also tells him that with an entire universe to rule, the Management doesn’t care much about individual worlds. As a token of thanks for his help, they’ll give Earth to John. At long last, his dream of ruling the world will come true. John thinks about this briefly, worried that it’s too good to be true, but eventually accepts. Pleased, Asto Vidatu summons Bricriu, who appears in the cave. He and John exchange a few pleasantries, but then it’s straight to business, as the Will o’ Wisp leads him and the Allies deep into the bowels of the cave, deeper than they’ve ever gone before. Bricriu asks John if he knows the cave’s name, and John admits that they just called it “the cave” (although Ian has apparently called it “Sexy Ian’s Neon Love Pad” and Ili has occasionally called it “the Secret Kingdom of Kooloolambia”). Bricriu tells him that its name is Taenarus, and that it’s been here for a very long time. It’s not just a cave, but a portal to somewhere else. John asks where, just as they come around a corner and find a vast landscape of fire, brimstone, and horror.
“Where do ye think?” Bricriu asks, giggling.
Now, at this point we take a bit of an interlude, checking in with a character labeled “The Crusader” at the beginning of each of her sections. We quickly learn that the Crusader is Fiona “Fi” Phillips from So Weird. She’s twenty-one at this point, a bit more mature and seasoned as a paranormal investigator than she was when we last saw her at the beginning of (the cursed) Season Three. Despite the fact that the school year has started, she’s extending her summer break so she can attend the last few shows of what’s supposed to be Molly’s final tour. Jack and Clu are also along for the ride (as well as Ned, Irene, and Carey, who work the tour anyway), and it feels a lot like old times. It’s been a weird year so far, even more so since Fi mysteriously found her O’Shannon ring in a rest stop. She finally met an alien – another teenager, it turns out, who (like her) lost a parent when it was young. This alien has informed her that Evil is invading the entire physical universe, and that Fi is destined to lead the fight against them. She’s kept in communication with them by turning her Universal Gateway web browser into an actual universal gateway with the help of computer genius Tad Raxall.
(As a side note: Yes, all of the above – minus the ages and the rest stop thing – are directly from the original plans for the show. Also, I realize this might not make sense if you didn’t watch the show as obsessively as I did. I’m more than happy to go into more detail, if need be!)
Anyways, she’s also learned more about her mother’s family’s heritage as Irish witches, and discovered (after re-meeting Molly’s old immortal friend Rebecca) that her brother Jack is actually a reincarnated knight, who volunteered to be her protector in her role as Crusader. She’s really embraced that role now, knowing that it’s her ultimate destiny, although she’s frightened about what that will actually entail. Molly’s last show is going to be in Chicago, but the next show just happens to be in the Town near John’s cave and Camp Milk & Cookies.
Meanwhile, John is in Hell. For a moment he starts thinking maybe this destiny thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, but then steels himself and follow Bricriu down into the Pit (the Allies stay at the border between the cave and Hell – Silent Jim, a guilty Catholic, is particularly freaked out). They meet up with Asto Vidatu and Mr. Satan, who seems vaguely displeased (but mostly resigned) to see John there. John is anxious, and asks when he gets to start ruling stuff. “First things first,” Asto Vidatu says. “You’ve never actually met the Management, have you?” Not personally, John admits, and the two demonic administrators lead him down into the walled city of Dis. At the very center is a vast, frozen lake. Asto Vidatu and Mr. Satan wait on the shore as John gingerly wanders out onto the ice. He walks for a while, trying to reassure himself, with little success. This becomes even more difficult when he happens to look over his shoulder and sees that Asto Vidatu and Mr. Satan have vanished. In fact, the entire shore has disappeared, swallowed up by shadows that seem to be moving closer and closer. John keeps walking, singing songs from “To the Barricade” nervously to himself. It starts to occur to him that, even though he’s been walking for a while, he doesn’t seem to be getting closer to the other side. Not that he can tell where the other side is, exactly, with the shadows getting so thick. Eventually he just stops, puzzled, as everything around him is plunged into darkness. For a moment he just stands there, lost in a chilly darkness blacker than anything he’s ever seen before. And then, suddenly, he realizes that he’s no longer alone.
The Management speaks to him from the darkness, in a voice that is multitudinous and not the least bit human. They ask a few rhetorical questions about John’s memory and career (which John answers anyway, of course). They say that this isn’t really the first time they’ve met and John, wanting to piss himself, acknowledges that, no, it isn’t. He remembers what happened after the Cataclysm, when the Management took apart his soul in the void. The Management explains (insofar as they actually give a shit about making John understand anything) that it was necessary, so that he could inherit his true destiny when the time was right. And although things would be a bit easier if John had united with Dark Shadow instead of destroying him, they think he’ll do just fine. They reiterate what Asto Vidatu told him: he has a piece of the Management’s soul within him, making him the one being on the physical plane most closely related to them. The Management’s tone throughout is cold, matter-of-fact. John’s frightened attempts at humor fall flat.
Eventually they dismiss him, and John finds himself back on the frozen lake, just a few yards from shore, where Asto Vidatu and Mr. Satan are waiting. He walks back and tells them that he’s officially the True Face of Evil. This sinks in, and John suddenly becomes giddy. This is it! After so much struggling and searching and doubt, he’s finally discovered his destiny. Asto Vidatu tells him that in order for him to open a breach between the physical and spirit worlds through which the Management can invade, he’s going to have to learn how to use his dark power a bit more. They’ll give him the Town, which he can rule as his own personal kingdom, recreating it in his image. In fact, they’ll block the whole area off from the outside world, so that the forces of Good (or M.O.R.P.H.Z., for that matter) can’t stop him. “Yippy skippy!” says John. Mr. Satan seems vaguely uneasy about all of this, and before John leaves, mumbles that he’s in way over his head.
John and his Allies return to the world, and John leads them to Town. As soon as they arrive the sky turns red. We see it happening above Camp Milk & Cookies, the Fortress of Doom, and the amphitheater where Molly and her band are starting to set up. From outside, it seems that the entire area (which encompasses the Camp, the Fortress, and John’s cave as well as the Town) has vanished. But inside… it’s become another world entirely.
Everything becomes dark and twisted, and a huge black castle grows out of the town square. John enters it and announces to everyone outside that he’s now their king. He sits down on a real throne, made of real stone. Bricriu appears and asks what his first decrees are. Grinning evilly, John starts giving orders. A new army of Hot Dog Men are commissioned, along with a number of horrific singing Crapomon robots that Silent Jim designs. They ransack the Town, quashing any resistance from the police and subduing the panicky populace. Hot Dog Men invade all of the restaurants that won’t serve John and cover them in trout. The town council, which repeatedly ignored John’s demands that they surrender and proclaim him their king over the years, are held captive in the Town Hall, while Hot Dog Men broadcast their secrets over a loudspeaker system. Fi and her friends and family are able to escape capture and go into hiding (John doesn’t know that Fi is there, by the way). When the final report comes in that the Town has been subdued, John realizes that he should be happy. He’s finally on his way to ruling this entire planet, and no one can stop him. He should be happy. But he’s not. And that’s because even if he was ruling the world right now, there would always be one little thing nagging at him.
So John decides to do something about that. He calls together his Allies on the Ebony Raptor, rallies his army, and heads for Camp Milk & Cookies. At the Camp, Roseidous has joined Roses and Ann from the Fortress of Doom, and they’re trying to figure out what’s going on. The theory that Holli and Tails are responsible falls apart when they show up with Tyrael (bound and gagged, of course), just as confused. They figure there must be some new evil rival trying to move in on their territory (all of the communication lines are down, so they don’t know what’s happening in the center of Town). John doesn’t even come up in the conversation. Whatever it is, Roseidous says that he and Sally need lunch before they do anything, and convinces everyone to go to the cafeteria. As they’re walking over, the cafeteria explodes.
(This is particularly unfortunate, since it was still pretty badly damaged from the last fire.)
Suddenly the Tri-Leaders and Junior Tri-Leaders are surrounded by Hot Dog Men and Crapomonbots. The Ebony Raptor hovers down into the middle of Camp, with John standing at an open door, laughing evilly. It touches down, and everyone (including John) is shocked that he doesn’t immediately trip and topple out face-first onto the grass. Recovering from this shock, John begins to gloat, informing the Tri-Leaders that his hour is at hand, and that they can either surrender or be trouted. At first the Tri-Leaders don’t believe this is seriously happening, and attempt to resist. They’re quickly defeated, and it’s evident that John has a bit more help than usual. Roses still refuses to surrender, so, to show that he’s serious, John shoots Al Broker with a Dracon beam. No one particularly cares since we’ve all pretty much forgotten about Al Broker at this point, and besides… he’s a robot. Ann will just fix him. So, John has Ian threaten Mr. Packard, which gets a better reaction. Finally, reluctantly, the Tri-Leaders surrender.
Triumphant, John frees everyone in the Coal Mines (including Cole Slaw, who becomes an official Evil Ally), and then re-fills it with anyone who refuses to bow to him in Town, the Tri-Leaders’ Associates and, of course, the Tri-Leaders themselves. He keeps them in separate parts of the Mines doing various forms of grueling work (this actually isn’t so bad for Roseidous and Tyrael, who have spent more than their fair share of time in the Mines). Roses and Ann, however, are furious and begin finding ways to send secret messages to each other as they plan a revolt.
Meanwhile, John is just chilling out in his throne room, excited and restless. He wants to conquer more stuff, and get back at more of his enemies. Bricriu appears and tells John that he’s going to be his liaison with the Management – if he wants anything, he just has to ask. John suggests having the Legion of Legends and the scattered members of the Justice League teleported into his little kingdom, so he can throw them in the Coal Mines, too. Bricriu tells him that, for now, the Management wants to keep comings-and-goings from the kingdom (which, it’s revealed, is in a Nexus – a little pocket just outside of time and space) to an absolute minimum. John muses on this, trying to think if there’s any individuals he particularly to whom he wants to see terrible things happen (Jeff, Kane, Malfoy, the Morgans, and Super Shibes come immediately to mind). Bricriu suggests that it might be fun to start holding show trials for his enemies currently incarcerated in the Coal Mines, so he can further humiliate them. John thinks this is a splendid idea, and orders Goober to draw up a trial schedule.
Meanwhile, the Evil Allies are somewhat divided (as usual). Randall is enjoying his new job as Supreme Overlord of the Coal Mines, Ili is causing mayhem all over Town, and Ian has the Pizza Boys acting as his own personal kitchen. Silent Jim and Jan have their misgivings, however (Silent Jim is concerned about the moral implications of working with the Management, while Jan is just suspicious that the Management will screw them over). They each try to talk to John, but he ignores them both. John talks to Bricriu and tells him that, after much deliberation he’s decided that he’d really appreciate it if the Management could teleport Walt Flanagan into his Nexus kingdom, so he can find out why everyone’s always talking about his dog (Google it). Bricriu suggests that maybe Katherine might be a better option. Or another ally, like Ebony or Jordan Vance. John dismisses these ideas, but the mention of Katherine gets him thinking: finally having power doesn’t just mean he gets to have his revenge. It also means he can get all of the good things he’s been denied. Hesitantly, he asks Bricriu if it would be possible for them to bring Johanna here.
Meanwhile, the Crusader evades capture by the Hot Dog Men, and she and her friends and family end up at the Camp. While Fi’s really running the show, all of the other characters contribute (this is essentially a So Weird series finale happening right in the middle of our larger story, after all). While exploring the Coal Mines, she runs into the Tri-Leaders, and they start talking…
Asto Vidatu arrives in John’s throne room with Johanna. He makes some reference to her debt – how she still owes them her soul – and then leaves them alone. John and Johanna talk for a bit, but when she asks why he had her brought here, he loses his nerve and says he just wants her to be an Evil Ally. She agrees, and the two reconcile a bit. The trials begin, with John, Ili, and Randall as judges. Townspeople and the Associates are subjected to various humiliating punishments and sent back to the Coal Mines. Finally, the Tri-Leaders and Junior Tri-Leaders are put on trial together. It’s completely crazy, of course, and after a whole day of name-calling and threats, it adjourns for the day. John and his Allies meet (along with Bricriu) to discuss what to do. Obviously the Tri-Leaders are guilty of crimes against John. It’s just a matter of figuring out sentences. Bricriu casually suggests death, and both Randall and Damon immediately jump on that suggestion. Ian and Ili take a little bit more convincing, but eventually agree as well (Ian particularly, since he got blown up by the Tri-Leaders once). Silent Jim is loudly opposed, and you know it’s important if Silent Jim is being loud. He and John argue back and forth, and eventually John accuses Silent Jim of treason, and has him sent to the Coal Mines. Jan speaks up and says he might as well arrest her too, because there’s no way she’s going along with this (it took her a while to figure this out – she’s not terribly fond of the Tri-Leaders herself, after all). John obliges, and they’re both tossed into the Coal Mines. While there, they’re approached by Tyrael, who tells them that there’s a plan in the works.
The next day, John sentences the Tri-Leaders to death. But just as the trial is wrapping up, there’s a massive revolt in the Coal Mines, and a revolutionary army – calling itself La Resistance – sweeps into the Town, battling the Hot Dog Men and Crapomonbots. They’re a much smaller force, but because Fi is the Crusader (and she’s joined by Molly and Jack) she’s able to tap into the forces of Good’s power and use them to weaken the help that the Management is giving John. Also, Silent Jim – who designed the Crapomonbots – is able to disable them with a codeword, knocking out a large number of John’s forces. The tide turns in La Resistance’s favor. John retreats to his throne room with his Allies and the Tri-Leaders, who are still captives. Asto Vidatu appears and tells John that it’s almost time for him to fulfill his destiny, but first he has to kill the Tri-Leaders. John prepares to do so. He draws on all of his anger and frustration of his career as an evil overlord, remembers all the times the Tri-Leaders defeated him. He remembers all of the plans that were foiled, the fall of the Barricade, his humiliation at the Tri-Leader Prom, the Second Battle of Albuquerque. He hates them. He’s always hated them. His entire life has been leading him up to this point, when he’ll finally defeat his greatest rivals and be rid of them forever. And after that, he knows that no one will be able to stop him. So he gets ready. He aims/raises his weapon.
And he can’t do it.
He just can’t do it, and he knows now that he’ll never be able to. Asto Vidatu snaps at him to kill them, but John just tosses the weapon away, trembling with disgust and self-loathing. The demon growls, annoyed… and then kills Ian and Ili, right in front of him. John’s so shocked he can’t make a sound, not even when Asto Vidatu turns on Damon and Randall, reducing them to bone and ash, respectively. Finally he kills Cole Slaw and Goober, and it’s only then that John’s able, weakly, to tell him to stop. Far too late. Asto Vidatu casually explains that there needed to be a blood offering for John to do what would come next, with the magic number being six. It was supposed to be the Tri-Leaders, but Asto Vidatu says that John’s Allies will work just as well. Then he says it’s time to go, and vanishes along with John. The Tri-Leaders and Junior Tri-Leaders are left alone, shocked, in the throne room. After a moment, someone notices that Johanna (who was there but wasn’t killed) is gone, too.
John and Asto Vidatu appear in the cave, and the demon orders him to go back down into the depths. He does, and as soon as they have disappeared into the portal to Hell, the sky above Town clears and it re-enters the real world. Earlier in the story, it would have been mentioned that Molly’s had dreams about a cave, a knight in ghostly armor, and her husband, Rick. The dreams return now, suddenly, in the waking world, and Fi realizes that they have to go to the cave. Following her own kind of sixth sense (which is canon, by the way), Fi heads there with Molly and Jack.
In Hell, Asto Vidatu brings John back to Dis, where Mr. Satan and Bricriu are waiting. As Asto Vidatu and Mr. Satan argue about what happened out in the world, demons begin to dress John in black armor, including a frightening, horned helmet with a mask. He’s been in shock pretty much this entire time, but something about Asto Vidatu and Mr. Satan’s conversation snaps him out of it. John actually stands up for himself, saying that this has all gone too far and that he’s not doing things their way anymore. He’s the one with the destiny, right? They need him, not the other way around. Asto Vidatu acknowledges that, yes, that’s true, but John’s sorely mistaken if he thinks he’s got the power in this situation. He then points to a black mirror built into one of the walls. It flickers, and slowly John is able to see Ian, Ili, Randall, Goober, Damon, and Cole, all trapped in its shadowy depths. Rick Phillips is there as well, although John is so overwhelmed that he doesn’t even recognize him. And that’s not all. When John turns back to Asto Vidatu, Johanna is floating beside him, bound by red, smoking chains. The demon reminds John that Johanna’s soul has been his ever since the debacle at the White House back in 2003. If John doesn’t do exactly what he says, Asto Vidatu is going to devour her soul – and those of his Allies – for the rest of eternity (fun fact: that’s essentially what Asto Vidatu does in Persian mythology). To further his point, he snaps his fingers and undoes the spell that made Johanna biologically female, just to fuck with her. Seeing Johanna so upset and scared is more than John can take, and he surrenders. Once he’s fully dressed in his black armor, Asto Vidatu tells him to sit in a huge, black throne. John asks what he has to do to fulfill his destiny. “Wait,” the demon says.
Meanwhile, Fi, Molly, and Jack pas through the portal and begin to descend into Hell. As they travel down to Dis, they have to pass through various obstacles that were foretold in the lyrics of “In the Darkness” (again, also canon). The horrific demons aren’t as bad as the ghosts from their pasts – twisted manifestations of their fears and pain, coming to life before their eyes. Just when it seems like all seems lost, Jack feels something burning against his chest. He pulls out the angel pendant that Gabe gave him and discovers that it’s glowing with golden light. He grips it tightly and, for the first time, really believes. Suddenly, Jack is clad in a suit of ghostly armor, wielding a sword of light. He’s able to slice through the nightmares and scare off the demons, clearing their way down to the infernal city.
John is watching all of this through some kind of magical security system. He recognizes Fi and company, obviously, and at first he’s thrilled (it’s his Goddess, after all). Then, he slowly begins to realize what’s going on. The True Face of Evil was something mentioned in the original plans for So Weird’s third season – it was what Rick was going to find out about when he was killed. By discovering Evil’s true face, Rick was somehow going to tip the balance for Good. John realizes that he’s what Fi needs to defeat in order for Good to triumph. It’s going to come down to the two of them, and (he realizes with horror) the Management wants him to kill her. This just seems ludicrous (again, his Goddess!), but Asto Vidatu is happy to remind him that he’s got Johanna and John’s friends held captive. He resigns himself, feeling more miserable than ever. In what seems like an uncharacteristic bit of kindness, Mr. Satan steps up and offers him a few words of advice. Particularly he says that he wishes he could help John, but these prophecies are so damn specific.
Eventually, Fi and company arrive, and she and John face off. They fight a bit, John using some demonic weapon, Fi staying one step ahead of him. Eventually John catches up with her and has her cornered. She’s not totally focused, he knows, because she can see her dad in the mirror (not to mention that Molly and Jack are captives at this point). John notices how frightened she is, despite how brave she’s acting, and realizes that, in his armor, he must look truly awesome, truly evil, like some monstrous demon warrior. But just as he’s about to deliver the coup de grace… he trips, and lands flat on his face. Fi stands over him, and suddenly her O’Shannon ring lights up and she’s filled with power – the forces of Good giving her the ability to destroy John. He looks desperately over at Asto Vidatu, wondering why no one’s helping him, and much to his surprise, the demon is smiling.
And that’s when all of the pieces fall into place.
All of this – giving him the Town as a kingdom, dressing him up in this armor, not coming to his aid – it’s all been one big set-up. What Mr. Satan told him before, about prophecies being specific, sinks in. The original prophecy was that once the Crusader had discovered the True Face of Evil, she would destroy the Management. The Management has known this for millennia… so they created their own loophole. They broke off a chip of their own soul and placed it in a mortal body, making the “True Face of Evil” a related but also entirely separate entity from themselves. They’re going to let Fi kill John – the True Face of Evil – while they remain entirely unharmed. And once John is dead, the prophecy is null and void, and Fi will no longer be destined to defeat them. It’s been a con this whole time, making the forces of Good think John was important but misleading them as to why. And they conned John too, of course – this whole time he’s been nothing but a pawn.
But now that he’s figured all of that out, he’s going to die. John realizes that he has to do something, and he has to do it now. Just as Fi is about to destroy him, John lets out the most piercing shriek he’s ever made. The sound is so startling and incongruous that Fi pauses, confused. This is enough time for John to pull off his mask and start talking. Despite Asto Vidatu’s threats, he explains everything to Fi as best he can. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense the first time through (this is John, trying to explain something extremely complex), but Fi eventually catches on, and realizes that it all makes sense (Rick probably affirms what John is saying from the mirror). Enraged, Asto Vidatu charges at John, intent on fulfilling the prophecy himself. Acting on instinct, Fi jumps between John and the demon, and puts her hands out to make him stop. The O’Shannon ring flashes, and suddenly Asto Vidatu vanishes, reduced to a pile of pitch-black bones that clatter to the floor. Fi jumps back, startled, and John almost faints.
From here, I’m not entirely sure how the climax develops. I think the forces of Good invade Hell and do battle with the forces of Evil. John and Fi return to the frozen lake at the heart of Dis and confront the Management. They quickly realize that they are in over their heads. The Management, it turns out, is older than creation, older than life itself. They are the remnants of that first darkness before existence, the chaos from which the physical plane was spun into existence. Creation exiled them, pushed them off into the darkest corner of reality, where they’ve been trapped ever since, planning. They were in Hell before Lucifer, helped him consolidate his power, and eventually betrayed him, taking control themselves. For as long as there’s been life, they’ve been planning to snuff it out, and return reality to perfect nothingness. John and Fi find themselves caught between the Management and the Blind Man/Enoch (speaking for the Powers That Be), the latter urging them to destroy the former, while the former boasts that they cannot be destroyed. In the end, it comes down to John. He gives perhaps the most articulate monologue he’s ever given, about how both good and evil are necessary in life. There’s plenty of darkness in life, but it isn’t just evil – it’s what we have to struggle with if we’re ever going to grow. And John knows something about darkness (in case you haven’t noticed, he’s the lord of it). In the end he concludes that “in the darkness is the light,” and then feels extremely clever. The Management and Enoch both pretty much tell him to shove it up his ass, and go back to saber rattling. But John and Fi come together and somehow magically reconcile the two forces – bringing them together and changing them somehow. The Management’s dark personality (the evil sentience that’s been trying to destroy life) is dispersed. Even the Powers That Be undergo some sort of transformation. Enoch can’t take this and starts to freak out, so John and Fi just leave him out on the frozen lake and return to Dis proper.
Molly and Fi join hands, their O’Shannon rings glowing, and are able to pull Rick out of the mirror, making his resurrection possible. John does a slightly less-smooth version of the same with his Allies. He also checks on Johanna, who has been returned to her female body by Mr. Satan, her soul firmly back in her ownership. It’s revealed that Bricriu has been helping Fi for a long time (his reason for turning on the Management being that they had no sense of humor). Enoch suddenly appears, furious. The change that John and Fi have enacted in the cosmic order of things have shaken his sense of identity, and he’s losing it. He attempts to kill John, but Mr. Satan steps in and slaps him down, knocking him out. “I’ve wanted to do that for eons,” he growls, with some satisfaction.
Everyone goes back through the portal, up through the cave, and back into the physical world. Rick’s spirit is provided with a new body (since his old one is currently rotting in its grave), and the Phillips family is finally reunited. Fi thanks John for his help, and gives him a big hug, which John receives pretty awkwardly. Just then, Silent Jim, Jan, the Tri-Leaders, and the Bells’ (Ned, Irene, Carey, and Clu) arrive at the cave (time, it should be noted, passes differently in the Otherworld), and there are reunions and hugs all around. Jan leaps on Ian and they begin to do filthy things right there, in full view of everyone. This is mildly traumatic, but doesn’t spoil the overall mood of celebration. John breaks away from the main group to talk to Johanna, who’s sitting off by herself. They talk awkwardly for a moment, with Johanna assuming that now that John’s finally met Fi, he’s going to try to be with her (having spent more than ten minutes with John, she knows about his crush, obviously). John shrugs and says that it probably wouldn’t work out, although he sounds just a bit reluctant. He then asks Johanna what she’s going to do now that she’s totally free of her debt to Asto Vidatu/the Management. She says she hadn’t made any plans, and John says that, if she wants, she could hang around here for a while – he was never too fond of the people who moved into her old lair, anyway. Eventually, Roses and John talk. They realize that this adventure has shown them the limit of their rivalry – they can fight each other, torment each other, annoy each other, but they’ll never destroy each other. They don’t know exactly what this means for their rival plans to take over the world, but also decide they’re both too tired to think about it right now.
After a while (and probably some partying) everyone else starts to leave, and soon it’s just John and his Allies left in the cave. Silent Jim (who’s been going by just “Jim” ever since he broke his silence to oppose John earlier) asks John what’s next. He thinks for a moment, and then says that he needs a nap, but when he wakes up he wants to have a meeting. When they gather the next morning, however, John announces that they’re closing up shop. Things have changed, he tells them. Everything they’ve done over the past few years was under the assumption that John had a grand destiny. Now his destiny’s been revealed, and fulfilled, and while it may have been greater than anyone imagined, it definitely wasn’t world domination. And now, he’s not sure what’s next. So he wants to take a year off to figure it out.
He tells everyone that they’re free of their obligations as Evil Allies and can do what they want now. Ian is so confused that he starts to cry (he can only think about three things at once, and this is more than he can bear). John assures everyone, however, that this is a good decision. And, if they want, he invites them to meet back at the cave in a year, and then they’ll figure out what to do next together. He also relieves all of the lackeys, including Goober and Leroy (who’s still serving time in Randall’s dungeon for his betrayal during the Message Board War), and gives them each a (not-even-slightly adequate) severance package. Finally, with some reluctance, everyone agrees.
The Allies prepare to go their separate ways. Ian and Jan are going on a romantic vacation in the Caribbean, and encourage the others to check out their webcam (Jim discretely slips the battery out of their laptop). Jim’s going to travel the world and catch up on some ideas for technological innovations he’s been putting off. Ili takes her pets and Damon, and they go off to have their own adventures. Randall is perhaps the most reluctant to leave, but eventually he decides to go back to Hawaii for a while, maybe scare some tourists. John and Johanna say goodbye to each of them, and eventually it’s just the two of them, standing at the entrance of the caves, holding hands. Johanna asks if he has any idea what he’s going to do now. He says that he’s not sure – he’s lived his entire life following his destiny, and now it’s over. He never imagined there would be something after destiny. Johanna says she doesn’t think it works that way – destiny’s a journey that just keeps going. John thinks this over, and decides that maybe he agrees. Maybe his destiny goes beyond the Management, or his rivalry with the Tri-Leaders. Maybe he’s even still destined to rule the world… or maybe something different. Maybe even something better. Scared, but hopeful, he reaches out and finds Johanna’s hand. They stand there, ready to start the next journey.
A musical, based on RENT, which follows John and the Tri-Leaders’ attempts to find the Tangerine Hologram Watch, in order to find their parents. I won’t get into details here, because Margie and I actually did some work on this and probably will finish it some day, but you can assume that any loose ends would be tied up and any remaining mysteries will be solved. This story would also end with an epilogue, showing where our characters end up.
One thing I do want to mention: it would be during this story that Goober would reveal his relationship to Ringo (they’re half-brothers, remember). It turns out that, after Goober discovered this as a young man, he sought Ringo out and the two became close. After Ringo and Molly married and had their kids, Ringo started to get premonitions that there was something dark surrounding John. One night, probably after a few too many drinks, he made Goober promise to look after John, should anything ever happen to Ringo. So Goober’s been shadowing John his whole life, since Ringo and Molly disappeared, watching over him. He wasn’t within the blast radius for the memory spell that occurred at the end of the EVIL School stories, so he never forgot that John and the Tri-Leaders are siblings – which explains why he’s pretty much the only person who ever tries to help them get along. After discovering that Goober is their uncle, the Tri-Leaders will realize that the reason they always liked him and wanted to invite him to their parties was because on some subconscious level they realized that he was the obligatory “cool uncle” they’d always wanted. I think Margie and I also decided that Goober would die in this story, possibly in Jean Valjean fashion (yes, I know this is supposed to be Rent).
Even though the stories would end, I like to think that these characters would keep having adventures even after we weren’t around to watch them anymore. There are more details about John and the Allies’ futures in the Character Notes section below, but here are the basics of what I was thinking:
At the end of WATCH, John and the Tri-Leaders all basically decide to retire after reuniting with their parents. John’s been thinking about it since Destiny, so it’s not that big of a jump for him, but it still takes a while for him to actually admit that he wants to leave his full-time evil overlord gig behind. As the older generation steps aside, however, the younger generation steps up. The Junior Tri-Leaders would become the Tri-Leaders, with Tyrael finally reconciling his good and evil sides during WATCH (and ending up squarely on the evil side). Katherine would take up John’s mantle, moving into the cave, dressing exclusively in black, and recruiting her own band of Evil Allies. John and the Tri-Leaders would assist their protégés in a more behind-the-scenes capacity, with the assumption that they’ll have a good place in the new world order, should any of them actually succeed in world domination. Katherine and the new Tri-Leaders also aren’t direct enemies the way that John and the Tri-Leaders were, but they pretend to be rivals in public to keep the rest of the world’s super heroes and villains on their toes. Also, Katherine occasionally forgets that they’re not really enemies, which can be awkward.
John and Johanna get married and have a bunch of kids (detailed below). They move into a nice little suburban house in the Town, and seem to live a normal, quiet life. However, hidden beneath their house is a sprawling, high-tech command center, from which they run their newest venture: Evil, Inc. Made up of John, Johanna, and the Evil Allies (with frequent help from the Tri-Leaders – old and new – and Katherine) travel around the world and take down other evil overlords, in the interest of getting rid of Katherine’s competition. X-Raytor frequently teases John by telling him that he’s a super hero, but John insists that he only fights other villains for the evilest of intentions. Still, X-Raytor also often helps out (and occasionally other members of the Justice League, though most of them – aside from Studmuffin – are a bit more uncomfortable about working with former nemeses). The only two adventures they’ve had that I know of (all taken from this year’s incomplete NaNo) are defeating a Brazilian super villain named Multi-Lord who built his own transdimensional portal (which just blew things up), and battling a super-powered Pen/cil, back and bent on revenge (as he promised at the end of the RHTRCJPB Saga) in Budapest, aided by Jaina.
As for the Tri-Leaders… Margie? I’m guessing Tyrael and Tails got married, so there’s that.
Another story I started writing was JohnWorld 3016, which took place in 2016 in the Tri-Leader universe (but obviously wasn’t solely located there). This was a follow up to JohnWorld 3006, and involved the man in green making his ultimate attempt at gaining his freedom. The premise was that, after John achieved his destiny, the Rules of the universe were altered enough to give Sadiss more leeway around his various metaphysical chains. Then he gets an even better opportunity, when the Powers That Be are murdered by one of their own (a result of him going nuts after Destiny), with only Enoch surviving. The man in green would recruit villains from across the multiverse – Kane, Brent Java and Aria from Cinque, and a resurrected Dark Shadow – to help him destroy JohnWorld, for reasons too complicated to get into right now. Enoch would similarly recruit John, X-Raytor, Cinque, and Jim (from Cinque) to stop him. All of their friends and family would be transported to Lori’s house, which would result in all kinds of whacky hijinks, especially when several of Cinque’s old enemies attack the house. I wrote 80,000 something words of this novel in November, but it’s still a long way from being done and I’ve lost the energy to do it, so we’ll see if it ever happens. In the end, Cinque and the man in green would have their final reckoning, and that’s something I really want to write so… we’ll see.
John, Lord of Darkness (Dum Dum Duuuuuum!)
A theme that was supposed to run through The Origin was that John was under the Management’s special protection. Since he’s extremely important to their plans – being the True Face of Evil, and all – they make sure that his natural clumsiness doesn’t kill him before he can be of use. This accounts for John’s extraordinary dumb luck (witnessed most spectacularly in his various fights with the Justice League).
Also, John’s status as the True Face of Evil/the Management’s Chosen One meant that he had certain special abilities. It wasn’t anything he could really concretely use, but it did manifest a few times. For example, he was able to use his powers to unlock/destroy the final two Keys of Dis (in EVIL Elementary and The Origin, respectively), and in A Love Story he was able to short-circuit white magic. He probably could have used these powers for something, actually, but figuring that out would have been far beyond John’s capabilities.
Another running theme was the number six. This was supposed to be John’s magic number, to an extent, although he didn’t consciously realize it. This showed up in a bunch of different places (pretty much any time I needed to use a random number). For instance, there was always a core of six Evil Allies (John, Ian, Silent Jim, Ili, Jan, and Randall). Others threw off the balance – Katherine (who was never totally committed), Dark Shadow (the traitor), and Damon (who couldn’t care less). Also, there are six Us in the final “Duuuuuum!” in John’s name (note that this isn’t something I decided on until later in the stories, so it’s not consistent in earlier sagas).
With Dark Shadow gone, John never recovers his former capacity for evil. However, he probably still has random moments where he occasionally displays a bit of his original evilness for the rest of his life (as he did throughout the stories). The Management was somewhat worried by these moments. On one hand it was a good sign, because it meant that their presence was still in him. But they didn’t want him to get too competently villainous – otherwise he wouldn’t be an effective dupe when the time came. For this reason, they had Randall keeping a close eye on him.
I’ve only sketched out the adventures that John would have with Evil, Inc., but I think there are a lot of fun stories to tell there (two of which were mentioned above). For now, here’s how John describes the team in JohnWorld 3016:
“[M]e, Johanna, and the Evil Allies go around the world and defeat other evil overlords and super villains. BUT we’re doing it to pave the way for Katherine’s eventual world domination and, subsequently, our own. We’re evil fighting evil for evil’s sake. So it’s TOTALLY different and not even kind of like what super heroes do AT ALL.”
Eventually, John and Johanna get married (I’m gonna go ahead and say July 9, 2011… which may or may not be the date of my actual wedding). Ian, Silent Jim, and Randall are his groomsmen, while Jan, Katherine, and Ili serve as Johanna’s bridesmaids. The guest list includes the Tri-Leaders, Junior Tri-Leaders, Ringo and Molly, Paul and George, the rest of the Evil Allies and Associates, X-Raytor, Ebony, Cole Slaw, and other friends and allies (including John’s other friends from Evil School, and maybe Cinque and Jim… it says they weren’t there in JohnWorld 3016, but that might change).
Ian plans John’s bachelor party, naturally. He invites all of the male Allies, Damon, Roseidous, Tyrael, X-Raytor, the Pizza Boys, and possibly a few of the Associates. X-Raytor serves as the DD, which surely earns him a place in heaven. The party is a nightmare. By the end of the night, several structures in Town have been burned to the ground, tape and cheese are plastered all over the floor, and anyone who actually remembers anything from the night (which does not include John) have sworn a blood oath to never speak of what they experienced.
I’m not sure where the actual marriage ceremony is held – although the chapel at Evil School is a possibility… especially if it is a Catholic service, because it would be fun to make a priest go to Evil School. Either there or the cave, with a reception held at Camp Milk & Cookies. This would be a wonderful story to write, since I’m sure the wedding was absolutely insane. Indeed, I’d probably draw on some inspiration from my wedding day (at which the real life Ian did a few very Ian, King of Unparalleled Nastiness-esque things, including smoking up in his hotel room before we entered the reception and changing into a tuxedo t-shirt halfway through the night. Also, as a fun fact: the real life versions of Ian, Super Shibes, and Right Wing Man were all in attendance, with the former two being groomsmen).
John and Johanna have four kids: three girls, and one boy. The first two girls are twins, Rose and Janet (2013), followed by Fiona (2014). Their youngest, John, is born in 2016 (see what I mean about the sixes?). Rose and Janet are quick-witted, headstrong, and mischievous. Fiona is bookish, inquisitive, and usually acts as the peacekeeper among the siblings, although she also easily gets frustrated by their antics. And John, Jr. (whose middle name is Dante, in honor of Goober) is clumsy, goofy, and ambitious, constantly trying to keep up with his older sisters. Although John is more superstitious than religious, Johanna convinces him that the kids should have godparents. And so, Roses and Ann are asked to be Rose’s godparents (yes, that’s two godmothers, so?), Ian and Jan are Janet’s, X-Raytor (believe it or not) and Ili are Fiona’s, and Silent Jim and Katherine are John’s. Just in case you weren’t concerned enough about these kids’ upbringings.
Ian, King of Unparalleled Nastiness
Ian was born on July 9, 1987 in Long Island to Cynthia Hain (father unknown). He and Silent Jim met for the first time in kindergarten at EVIL Elementary. By this time, Ian had already formed a rudimentary vocabulary of obscenities. His mother was a highly functioning alcoholic who, while she fulfilled most of his basic human needs, wasn’t all that great on the emotional stuff. Often, to keep him from bothering her while she was drinking with friends, his mother would sit him down in a room and put on adult videos. This opened Ian up to a whole new world.
After the events of EVIL School, Ian was adopted by Crenshaw and Miranda Petticrew-Howlett, blue bloods from Richwhitepeopleville, ME. They raised him as I. Roderick Howlett III, Esq. (the second Roderick Howlett was Crenshaw’s father). The founder of his grade school’s Young Republicans group, he planned on attending Princeton after two years of high school. He felt stifled in this life, and was only able to show his true self around Jim – his skill at cursing, his love of the guitar and fire, and his bizarre sexual fetishes. Ian lost his virginity to Jim’s older sister, Rita, at Jim’s thirteenth birthday party (Rita was 16). At some point, he and Jim found what they thought was a bag of oregano under Jim’s parents’ bed, and were unwittingly instructed on how to use it by Rita. The two spent an entire three day weekend absurdly stoned, and it was during this time that they saw Clerks for the first time. They went to Blockbuster and rented the rest of Kevin Smith’s movies, devouring them. By the time they were done, “I. Roderick Howlett” was gone, and only Ian remained. His parents disowned him shortly afterwards, and he and Silent Jim decided to run away to New Jersey. They spent a brief time dealing drugs in the City, but eventually ended up in Leonardo.
After meeting John, they formed a band with a local college dropout, Candace: FingerCuffs. Ian played the guitar, and Jim played the drums. They toured for a while, during which Ian and Candace may or may not have had a physical relationship (there were certainly groupies, though). Eventually, Candace kicked them out of the group (probably because Ian was high most of the time and Silent Jim kept using stage equipment in his experiments), and they went to join John.
While Silent Jim knows that John is about as sharp as a waffle, but sticks by him out of loyalty and friendship, Ian is actually somewhat in awe of his employer. Of course, Ian’s just about on John’s level, intellectually speaking, so that’s not too much of a compliment. Ian’s title, King of Unparalleled Nastiness, was given to him by John. At this point in his early career, John thought that giving his Allies lofty titles would make his entire fledgling organizations look more legitimate. Shortly thereafter, he realized that it was probably more impressive if he were the only one with a title (especially when a glance at the dictionary revealed that a king is actually more powerful than a lord). However, it was too late to drop Ian’s title, so he decided to tolerate it. Besides, it was apt.
Ian and Jan met shortly after she first approached John, offering to give him information on the Tri-Leaders. He told her his famous story (the nightmarish one with the llama and the power drill), and was surprised to find that she was actually aroused by it. Thus began the longest-running relationship in this series. While Ian and Jan break up several times, they really are meant for each other, and eventually get married in 2008. This is a whole story in and of itself, and involves the entire crazy Chovi/y family. They have five kids: Jim, Elena, Kevin, Jay, and Maeynthia. Jim was born in 2010 (almost exactly nine months after the wedding and not sooner, much to everyone’s surprise), and is actually the loudest of the kids despite being named after Silent Jim. Elena (2011) is sarcastic, brash, sensual, and named after Jan’s favorite aunt. Kevin (2012) was named after Kevin Smith and is pretty quiet; he’s more thoughtful and artistic than his outgoing siblings. Jay (2013) grows into a friendly, popular athlete and also happens to be gay. Maeynthia (2014), or “Mae,” is named after Jan and Ian’s mothers (Mae and Cynthia – the same method that Jan’s parents used to name their youngest son, Karkaider). She’s the most intelligent and responsible of the kids, but also the craftiest – a little Evil Ally in the making.
One loose thread about Ian that I never got to tie up was his mysterious resurrection following the first Saga. At the end of that story, Ian gets blown up along with all of the Crapomon stuff (which the story states in no uncertain terms). In Saga 1.5, he’s back, simply claiming “I came back!” (an explanation that doesn’t explain anything) He even suggests my original way of playing with this idea – that he’d die in every story, and then just come back. Like Kenny, on South Park. Indeed, every time he was killed someone would say, “Oh my God, they killed Ian!” Like Kenny, on South Park. This is possibly the second stupidest idea I had for Ian, right after my original plan to name him Ian, King of Unparalleled Nastiness (Bum Bum Buuuum!). No, really.* Anyway, I fortunately forgot to kill him at any point during Saga 1.5, so that idea fell by the wayside. Later on, however, I decided that Ian had actually been brought back from the dead by one of the supernatural forces at work in the stories, meaning that he owed them a debt he’d have to pay at some point if he wanted to stay alive. I never decided who did this (although I was leaning towards the Powers That Be), but I like to think that maybe that story still happens, somewhere down the line.
Ian never contacted his birth mother after regaining his memories, and regrets this a bit when, in Chasing Ebony, he discovers that she died a few years earlier.
*My undying gratitude to Margie and the real Ian, who both told me that this was a dumb idea.
Jim was born James Morgan, Jr., on April 12, 1986, in Rockdale, IA, to James and Ezra Morgan, the high priest and priestess of He Who Dwells Behind the Screen. Shortly after he was born, however, Ezra had a dream that told her to send her baby away, like Moses in a basket, so that he might grow strong in the world and return to aid them when the time was right. They put him up for adoption.
He was adopted by Henry and Ellen Dixon of Ronkonkoma, NY. He was a rather talkative kid growing up, showing a great interest in computer games, Erector Sets, and pretty much anything involving technology. However, on his first day in kindergarten at EVIL Elementary, he met Ian Hain. From that day on, Jim became quieter and quieter, finding it was difficult to get a word in edgewise. By the end of kindergarten, he had picked up the name Silent Jim.
In EVIL School, Jim had a kind of love/hate relationship with the class know-it-all, Bambi Stagwell. They probably danced together at some point, which freaked Ian out (although he probably started to get involved with girls after this).
After the events of EVIL School, Jim was adopted by Roger and Beatrice Dixon (no relation to his previous foster parents) of Richwhitepeopleville, ME. As fate would have it, Ian was adopted by a family just down the street. The two re-met, felt a connection, and immediately became friends. Ian’s parents were extremely strict and patrician (referring to him as I. Roderick Howlett III, Esq.), and Jim was one of the only people who realized how trapped he felt. Jim didn’t have the happiest home life himself. His parents had one biological daughter, Rita Maine, and then decided to adopt children from all 49 other states. The Dixons were so occupied with the publicity that accompanied this (and the adoption of each new child, who they selected carefully based on a variety of factors), that eventually they began to refer to kids by the names of the states they came from. Jim was initially New York, but then, at some point, the Dixons adopted another New York (Jim was so quiet, they forgot about him). Realizing their mistake, they tentatively renamed him Long Island (although this wasn’t the first, or the last, time they forgot him). In 1998, there was a swarm of media attention as the Dixons prepared to adopt their final child from Hawaii. Jim realized that he’d been left out of the count, and that if he disappeared, no one would notice. He and Ian decided to run away, heading for a magical land they’d learned about from certain movies on TV: a magical land called New Jersey.
They decided to follow in the footsteps of Jay and Silent Bob, briefly hooking up with some drug dealers in the City (this didn’t turn out to be their thing). Eventually they made it to Leonardo, where they camped out behind the Quik Stop. They stayed there until they met John, who inspired them to go off in search of adventures. They met a local college drop-out, Candace, and together the three formed a band, FingerCuffs. They toured for a while, and eventually ran into John in Michigan (while he was at Evil School). Eventually Ian and Silent Jim left the band to join John (Candace also kicks them out for some reason, though they remain friends).
Silent Jim was the one who created Crapomon – both the programming of the actual game, and the hypnosis element. However, he wasn’t around during Saga 1 because he temporarily left John’s organization in protest of the way John treated Ebony. He went down to Florida and, using falsified documents, began to work for Velcro-prosthetic giant EuroTech. While down there, he ran into Bambi Stagwell again (neither remembering each other, of course), and the two dated briefly, although they eventually broke up. Ian eventually made peace between Jim and John, and Silent Jim became an Evil Ally again.
In A Love Story, Silent Jim goes on a blind date with Margo Westfall (whom I’m assuming he met online). She says she’s interested in quiet guys, with the reason being that she never stops talking. Silent Jim avoids her until she stops calling him.
Silent Jim often ends up being the moral center of the Evil Allies (which seems like kind of an incongruous thing, but, hey, there you are). It was hinted at in some of the stories, but I always assumed that his moral code came from his Catholic upbringing with the Dixons.
After Destiny, Silent Jim begins to talk more, and by the time of Watch!, everyone is generally referring to him as just Jim. Ian, on the other hand, starts to put on weight and get quieter as Jan curbs some of his wilder ways. By the end of the stories, they’ve pretty much reversed roles.
In the future, Silent Jim goes on to use his technological genius (which, just in case you’ve forgotten, is better than MacGyver’s) to aid the world, eventually discovering cold nuclear fusion at a rowdy baby shower for Ian and Jan’s third child (2012). He also builds the command center and all of the tech for Evil, Inc.
Ili’s not really mine, so I don’t have too much to say about her, aside from the fact that her birthday is April 24, 1987 (or 1989? I think that’s when Lawren was born, but I’m just basing this off of EVIL School). And, in fact, that’s not even really her birthday – it’s Fitey’s. As you may recall, Ili one half of Fitey’s split personality. In the Xiao and Fred novel, Fitey refers to her as “the aggressive, cunning side. The depressed and bitter half.” The two were separated early on, and were natural enemies (or, well, Ili hated Fitey… I get the sense that Fitey was willing to get along). At some point between the first Saga and Saga 1.5, Fitey disappeared. While Ili refuses to discuss this in subsequent stories, Fitey explains what happened after reappearing in the Xiao and Fred novel:
“A long time ago, Fitey lived in a magical place known as the United States of America,” Fitey began, adjusting her crown. “Fitey lived there with her other half. Fitey’s other half was not a nice person, no. One day, she decided it would be fun to test her new dimensional transportation device on Fitey, and shoved Fitey into the machine. There was a lot of shaking and flashing of lights, and terrible pressure, and when Fitey was able to get out of the machine, she was in a strange world. Long story short, Fitey slew the dreaded Lizard King and his evil royal vizier. The people were so thrilled they crowned Fitey lord of all Moshimoshi, the largest kingdom in all Neboi! All this because Fitey always carried her anti-dreaded-Lizard-King spray with her.”
She eventually returns after Fred completes a ritual that frees him from his human bonds. The Powers That Be attempt to cast him abroad in the multiverse and replace him with Fitey, but fail. Instead, they end up stranding Fitey, far away from her queendom. She and George “Typho” White attempt to stop Fred’s associates, Xiao and Sylar (from Heroes), and get beat down for their trouble. The last we see of them, they’re on their way to the hospital. I like to imagine that eventually Ili and Fitey are reunited and settle the score between them. It should be noted that, according to how I see the timeline anyway, the Xiao/Fred novel takes place in 2007 (the same year as WATCH), so I imagine their reunion doesn’t happen until 2008 or later.
I always saw Ili as one of the smartest Allies, but also one of the craziest, which meant she was rarely the voice of reason. She’s also possibly the most loyal (as evidenced by her anger at everyone else following the Tri-Leader Prom), which is kind of weird when you think about it considering that she realizes John is an idiot. Indeed, she’s the one who took care of John after the Tri-Leaders turned him to stone, even putting a modem cord in his ear so he could get online. I’m not sure why she was so devoted, but I imagine it had something to do with John being the only person to actively encourage her appetite for mayhem.
Randall the Ticked-Off Tiki
As he revealed in The Novel, Randall was carved in the image of Ku, the Hawaiian war spirit. Tikis are supposed to serve as guardians, and Ku-tikis, specifically, are supposed to guard soldiers. While the rest of his family took this duty very solemnly, Randall preferred to watch battles, reveling in the gore and pain. He always found soldiers’ dying cries particularly hilarious, and never understood why his family members seemed so upset by them. Eventually he became bitter and withdrew from them, essentially becoming a man… uh, tiki… without a country. While looking for work, he learned about the Management from two of his friends, Kaupe (a vicious dog-headed demon) and Apukohai (a bloodthirsty shark god). These two are living nightmares, particularly Kaupe, and had been recruited by the Management themselves. Randall immediately signed up, happy at the prospect of causing some real pain and suffering.
Because tikis are tutelary spirits, Randall had certain abilities of protection and guardianship that even his surly disposition couldn’t erase. For this reason, the Management assigned him as a resource person for Evil School graduates, offering guidance for their villainous careers (specifically, making sure they stayed in line with what the Management wanted). When John graduated from Evil School, however, the Management gave him a new job – working within John’s organization and reporting on him to the Management. A meeting between them was manufactured in Hawaii, and Randall returned with John to his cave.
Randall didn’t know everything about John’s destiny, obviously, but he certainly knew that he was important to the Management. He checked in with them periodically, giving them general updates on John’s progress and general emotional/psychological state. He was specifically supposed to report on 1) any contact John had with supernatural beings, 2) any signs of goodness or compassion John might display, and most importantly 3) any random eruptions of John’s former potential for great evil. I originally wanted to make a website where you’d see the profiles that Randall was compiling on John and each of his Allies (the things he emphasized about their personalities and adventures would have given you a hint of what the Management’s priorities and plans were). He was a card-carrying member of the N/X, the Management’s secret police, and he communicated with the others under the codename KuX (this was based on Bricriu’s N/X code name, “SoV” – he was watching Fi, and his impressions of her were found on the original So Weird website).
After The Novel, Randall develops an almost-obsessive need to prove his worth to John following the Prom fiasco (Randall was one of those who laughed the hardest at the prank). If you asked him, he wouldn’t be able to tell you why this change occurred – he’s a sadist, after all, it’s only natural that he’d enjoy John’s pain. I think part of it was that, during his time as John’s Evil Director of Human Resources, he felt he had finally found his place, and was afraid of losing it. But I also wonder if some of those vestigial tutelary instincts kicked in, and he felt guilty for not protecting the one who was charged to his care. At the end of Destiny, Randall is reluctant to leave because he still feels guilty. John assures him that he’s paid his debt fifty times over at this point (although Randall does come back after the year hiatus, and is present for WATCH). He becomes a member of Evil, Inc. along with the rest of them, and actually saves John’s life when a mutated Pen/cil knocks him off of Budapest’s Millenium Monument.
One piece of Katherine’s history that was never fully explored was her membership in STOVE, the Supreme Trio of Vicious Evil. Formed in 2001 with Crayak and Pr Crew, this was meant to be a rival evil partnership to the Tri-Leaders. Their formation was also supposed to launch the Tri-Leader War, but the actual Tri-Leaders didn’t seem that interested. Their evil lair was (temporarily) in a crappy hotel room. It’s unknown whether or not Katherine maintained her association with STOVE throughout all of the Tri-Leader adventures, or if it just fizzled out.
Katherine, as mentioned above, would take over John’s role in the future, possibly calling herself Katherine, Lady of Darkness (Dum Dum Duuuuuum!) and moving into the cave. She would be smarter and more focused than John, but possibly crazier, so she’d be about as much of a threat to world peace as John was.
I’m not totally sure who her Evil Allies would be, but I have some ideas! Her former partners from STOVE – Crayak and Pr Crew – might very well have been involved, with Ebony possibly providing some of the tech (though she wouldn’t have been a full-time Ally). She’d also have the resurrected Dark Shadow on her side, which is partially explained below.
Dark Shadow is evil, and a very particular kind of evil, at that. He was the true darkness which once existed in John, but was removed during the Cataclysm following the Second Battle of Albuquerque. The Management saw this as making John more docile and malleable, thinking that just being who he was would be enough to make the prophecy work out. But removing the evil part that becomes Dark Shadow actually tipped the balance a bit further than they maybe would have liked. John’s darkness came from the same place as the Management – they’re related, in terms of substance. But by removing so much of it from John, they lost some of their potential influence over him, and perhaps left him with a bit too much goodness.
Anyway, after that darkness was removed, it became a being entirely in and of itself. It roamed the Earth for a while, hungry for power and revenge, until it found a suitable host: Richard Simmons. He has been manipulating events from the very beginning, finding little ways to undermine John and the Tri-Leaders. Under a different guise, he once worked for the Tri-Leaders, and was secretly responsible for the fire that destroyed the original Camp Milk and Cookies. Contrary to his plan, the Tri-Leaders and their associates were not roasted in the process. He also, disguised as Roseidous, raped Bunny/Katherine at a party, hoping to tear the Tri-Leaders apart with the crime (one of Dark Shadow’s biggest weaknesses is that he takes everything too seriously – in a story about bunnies and trout launchers, he tries to commit rape? Come on, now). This plan backfired, and he made Richard Simmons take the fall. When John and Katherine “killed” him with a crossbow (on the banks of the Ohnoee River, underneath the bridge to the City that would eventually bear his name), it at first seemed to be a setback. But then he realized that he could now move about freely in his Dark Shadow identity (the shadowy man in the cloak) without simultaneously having to maintain Richard Simmon’s life. Shortly after this he approached John, offering his services as a spy. John, interested at that point in building an evil organization that could rival the Tri-Leaders, immediately made him a full-fledged Evil Ally.
He sticks with John for a while, although his very presence makes Dark Shadow sick. He has a shot at the Tangerine Hologram Timewatch, but doesn’t get it. By the time of To the Barricades!, he can’t take John’s ineptitude anymore, and leaves. He lays low for a while, manipulating a few events from behind the scenes, putting together his final plan. During a time when he needs to do some serious work (maybe stealing the psychic-powers machine that he uses to turn Zebby-Boy into Leeran), he conspires to have John, the Tri-Leaders, and the Justice League occupied with other stuff so that they can’t interfere. He gets aliens to abduct the Pizza Boys, so that the Tri-Leaders (and, subsequently, John) would follow them. The tension on the Ebony Raptor was not something he’d planned, but a welcome surprise, nonetheless (he has everything bugged, of course). He also collaborates with several criminals in the City to have the Justice League transported to Antarctica (he’s also Raven’s Princess Maker 2 dealer, I think).
Eventually he goes to Sampson and offers to give him John and the Tri-Leaders, while demonstrating an incredible knowledge of quantum physics (which he got from, uh, somewhere). He causes the Great Boardie War (through his proxy, Leeran) and gets John arrested. His plan was to take control of time and space (OMEGA and the Ellimist possibly inspired him – if physical beings could become fourth-dimensional, surely a disembodied force of evil like him could as well). That didn’t work out too well.
As far as follow-up goes, I’m assuming Richard Simmons just went back to his life after Dark Shadow left him. In subsequent Justice League stories, X-Raytor notes that they’re planning on renaming the Richard Simmons Memorial Bridge, since everyone knows he’s not actually dead, now. Eventually they name it the Evans Bridge, after Oreo Avenger’s family which has done a lot for the City over the years.
If there’s one thing I like doing, it’s pulling crap from the distant, distant past of our collective Internet life, and using it in these stories. I mean, really, look at the summary for The Return of Dark Shadow: there are references to PrCrew and Pirate252, for Pete’s sake! It was this same love of the trivial that made me decide to make Zebby-Boy a pivotal character in Dark Shadow’s plans.
Created by Zeb, there were several attempts to incorporate Zebby-Boy into the Tri-Leader mythos on the Evilness 102 boards. In the first (“Zeb-Boy: The Saga”), he provided the mythology behind the character:
When Zeb was born, he had a split personalaty. One pure good, the other pure evil. The good side, aka Megazeb, is a bit boring. Now... the evil side... aka Zebby-Boy, is much more... evil. After all, he is evil. Also Zebby-Boy has pyromaniacal tendancies, so that is why as a baby the CIA came and took him. After repeatedly brainwashing him, they were making sure that only Megazeb would be the only personality. This was done to save Zeb's family (and the government) from fire damage. So when they returned the brainwashed Zeb to his family, he was all good and way too boring. And since he was pure good, Megazeb could go super sayian, but that would turn this into DBZ and ruin the story so... Anyway, so when Zeb grew up, an EVIL scientist captured him with his EVIL thugs. They drove up in their EVIL car, grabbed the unsuspecting Zeb on Halloween with their EVIL hands, tied him with their EVIL chains, and brought him to the EVIL scientist's castle. The EVIL scientist decided to turn Megazeb into Zebby-Boy. He knew little about Zeb and pyromania... So after Megazeb had turned permanatly into Zebb-Boy, and after Zebby-Boy had burned down his EVIL castle, Zebby-Boy made his escape. After getting home, everyone thought that Zebby-Boy was still Megazeb, as it is imposible to tell the difference by sight. If you have met Megazeb, though, if you got to know him you would know that there is a big mental difference. Two people: Megazeb, the quiet, nice guy, and Zebby-Boy, the evil kid who is a pyromaniac and missing his sanity... big change.
Zebby-Boy – who apparently always waddles everywhere – calls up the Tri-Leaders and attempts to join them. Ann took down some information (including his SSN and credit card number), and then never called him back (although I assume the Tri-Leaders bought something very nice for Camp Milk & Cookies with his money). Later, using the alias Zebman, Zebby-Boy attempted to recruit unemployed evil sidekicks into his evil Alliance of the Moogles (“A failed Meeting of All Evilkind”). He wasn’t received very well (though he was received with rotten tomatoes, so that’s something). After the meeting ended, he was approached by an old man in a black trench coat, who claimed to be a professional villain trainer from Altimax, Inc.
However, this man was actually Dark Shadow, using one of his many disguises. He groomed Zebby-Boy to be a real villain, teaching him how to make grandiose speeches and the art of manipulation. With the help of a machine that simulates psychic powers, he gave Zebby-Boy the ability to read minds and make others trust him. Zebby-Boy, however, didn’t quite realize the dark plans he was tied up in. He saw this as his chance to be a big-time villain, like he’d always wanted. It didn’t even occur to him that Dark Shadow was using him.
In the end, Goober helps him to realize that he’s been manipulated, and Zebby-Boy surrenders himself to M.O.R.P.H.Z. custody, where their Psychonauts, utilizing the CIA’s old research, hope to reinstate his good alter-ego, Megazeb.
There were a few hints to Dark Shadow’s true identity. In Saga 1.5, before the Tangerine Hologram Timewatch dies, it says two things: “Elvis… Disco Sweat.” Although we’ll later establish that this was the real THT’s cousin, and thus a somewhat faulty prophet, in this case it was seeing into the future a little bit. “Elvis” is a reference to the Tri-Leader wedding in Las Vegas, which would happen shortly after. “Disco Sweat” is a reference to Richard Simmons – the Watch sensed how great of a threat Dark Shadow was, and tried to warn the Tri-Leaders in this way.
In To the Barricades!, when Dark Shadow tells John off and defects, John sends Ian and Ili to beat him up. Dark Shadow runs away, and Ian and Ili return, wondering how he could run so fast in his long cloak. The reason for this is that he’s in excellent physical shape, being Richard Simmons and all! Looking back on it, I have no idea how this could be considered a hint, because how do you get Richard Simmons from that? Details.
As a side note, Dark Shadow’s true identity has been Richard Simmons for almost as long as the character has been in existence (at least since Saga 1.5). As further evidence, I call Margie Jackson to the stand, who may remember an IM conversation we had almost ten years ago where I said: “Dark Shadow is really R-” This was brilliant on my part, because there’s a ton of characters in these stories whose names start with R. Remember that, Margie? Remember? … No? Really? Oh. Um…
As for why he’s Richard Simmons: The thing that made me decide this also stands as something of a hint (albeit a retrospective one). After Roseidous’ trial, John says, in outrage, that “It’s always Richard Simmons!” And it is. It is.
In JohnWorld 3016, the man in green would have resurrected Dark Shadow to help him destroy the multiverse. However, the events of the book would have ended up making Dark Shadow more empathetic and human, to the point where he’d actually join the good guys in the end. I like the idea that he becomes one of Katherine’s Evil Allies, acting as her chief spy while not secretly plotting to overthrow her. There’s also another important piece of this puzzle that I’m not mentioning, because it’s one of the big twists in JohnWorld 3016, and I wrote 80,000 freaking words of it so I’m still holding out hope that I’ll finish it some day. Here’s a hint: It had to do with the method the man in green uses to bring Dark Shadow back from the dead.
A note about the Morgans: they were not terribly pleasant people. They were relatively upright citizens, and known for their piety and honesty by the good people of Rockdale. But they also had a rather dark secret. At home, the Morgans shed the Protestant trappings of their neighbors and indulged in a much more private faith. They worshipped He Who Dwells Behind the Screen, a bloodthirsty god of the Internet, computers, and technology in general. Every morning and evening they would spend hours prostrate before a computer screen displaying an image of their god, praying for His blessings and promising to do His will. A description:
“He Who Dwells Behind the Screen looked like a fat, middle-aged, balding white man, with gigantic glasses, stubble, and a beer gut. He wore a stained white t-shirt, and a pair of glowingly plaid boxers- giving the impression that he had never actually gotten dressed. His hands rested serenely on his crossed knees, one holding a mouse, the other holding a modem chord. In his lap was a keyboard, and he sat on a glowing, white beanbag chair. His face, however, was a different story altogether.
The face was alive and malicious, closely resembling the thin face of his father. His eyes were wide with horrible glee, and in each pupil, a sinner (one an Amish farmer, the other a hermit or some other technology-rejecting malefactor), were writhing in a pool of fiery binary code. Its mouth was bent into an ugly, bloodthirsty grin, and its serrated teeth were lit by fire.”
Although it is implied in The Origin that He Who Dwells Behind the Screen was actually just a hallucination the Morgans had while taking shrooms in college, Chasing Ebony reveals that it actually is a real being – an ancient, demonic force somehow trapped within the Internet (it was probably originally trapped in words or verse or some other mode of communication), which has been using the Morgans to free it and release it upon the world, where it will finally sate its millennia-old hunger. This would not be a good thing.
James considers himself the mouthpiece of He Who Dwells Behind the Screen, a prophet of his Holy Word. And it is because of this, he believes, that his family was blessed with a Child of Destiny.
As noted in the main story summary for The Origin, they had their first son, Daman, in 1984. And while they loved him (in their own terribly abusive and psychotic way) and raised him to be a righteous man in the eyes of their God (in other words, an abusive psychopath), they knew he was not meant for any greater glory. He was merely an Esau.
However, while Ezra was pregnant with their second child, she had a dream in which He Who Dwells Behind the Screen appeared to her and instructed her to give her son away, as Moses was floated down the Nile in a basket, so that he might grow to manhood and discover his grand destiny on his own. And what is that destiny, you might ask? Why, to bring about He Who Dwells Behind the Screen’s reign on this Earth, a time of glory and triumph when all of the Luddites and technophobes would be purged, the chains of the dial-up modem would be broken, and our world would become a paradise of cyber-bliss.
The Morgans, naturally, were very happy about this. And so, when their second son was born on April 12, 1986, they bestowed upon him the name of James, Jr., and promptly put him up for adoption, secure in the belief that he would return to them one day. And, indeed, on the very same day of the catastrophe at EVIL Elementary which cost all of the students their memories, Ezra had yet another dream, in which He Who Dwells Behind the Screen told her it was time to find her son. The Morgans went to the adoption agency, and discovered that their son had been adopted by a family in Ronkonkoma, NY (though the family had kept their name confidential). They set off for New York, rejoicing at having found their son at last.
Imagine their disappointment, then, when they got John instead.
But what the Morgans didn’t realize was just how close they’d come to finding their son; or, indeed, how his destiny was intertwined with John’s. You see, James, Jr., did grow up in Ronkonkoma, and attended EVIL Elementary. Only there he was known by his adopted name: James Dixon. Yes, that’s right. James Morgan, Jr., was adopted by Henry and Ellen Dixon and became Jim Dixon, aka Silent Jim. And while he is totally unaware of his heritage and supposed destiny, he has shown a rather uncanny aptitude for technology…
James drives a pink Pinto with a bumper sticker on the back which reads “Forever in Blue Jeans!” in flowery, psychedelic script. This is a holdover from James and Ezra’s previous lives as teenage hippies, which was essentially a drug stupor which lasted half a decade. They met during this time, and it was while tripping on a particularly potent shroom that they both discovered the glory of He Who Dwells Behind the Screen.
John, Lord of Darkness (Dum Dum Duuuuuum!): Afterlife
This story is really short and it was written in its entirety, so I’m just going to paste it here. Enjoy! Notes will follow:
* * *
John, Lord of Darkness (Dum Dum Duuuuuum!) had known, from his first orientation day at Evil School, that he would not die in his bed. He’d always known that, excluding his achievement of world domination, his life had been cut short the moment he’d stepped onto that dark subway train. Still, it was a bit of a surprise to be here, now, walking down this soft, white tunnel. It barely felt real.
But he knew it was. He admitted that, grudgingly. He had yet to admit to himself who the little creep had been who had finally done him in. That was a wound to his pride that he could hold off on for a bit.
He’d never exactly believed in an afterlife. He hadn’t particularly disbelieved in one, either- it was just that beliefs and spirituality didn’t come easily to John. He didn’t have the time, and even if he did, he didn’t care. But either way, what was happening was just plain puzzling. He seemed to be here, he seemed to have a form. He looked down. Yep, he was there, still dressed in his black cloak. The ugly hole in his midsection was gone, though, that was good. And yet, when his feet touched the shifting non-ground of the tunnel, he didn’t feel anything. He couldn’t feel his muscles move, or his clothes against his skin, or even his eyelids as he blinked. Was he even blinking anymore? Was he even breathing anymore?
John recalled the So Weird first season episode “Escape.” In it, a girl named Claire Avner used astral projection- making her spirit leave her body- to escape from her hectic life. Her spirit took on an astral form- she looked exactly like herself, just that she couldn’t talk, and you could stick your hand through her. So maybe that’s what he was- his spirit had just been manifested in his material form.
“When is this stupid tunnel going to end?” John muttered, and, just like that, the tunnel widened into an almost blindingly white space, stretching out further than he could comprehend. He stopped, seeming to stand and be suspended simultaneously.
There was a high pitched noise, almost like a whine, but more melodious than that. The white in front of him split (how could he tell?) and a figure moved gracefully through.
She- for the figure appeared to be a woman- was wearing a long, flowing robe, although John got the impression that there wasn’t anything under it. Her skin- what he could see of it on her face, hands and lower arms- was translucent and glowing, like there was a light bulb inside her rib cage. There was something of a glow- maybe aura was the right word- around her, and some level of consciousness that John didn’t understand registered it as blue.
“Welcome, John,” she said, and her voice was pleasant and musical. “We’re so glad to see you.”
“Uh huh,” John said. “Listen, I think there’s been a mix up.”
She smiled, almost pityingly, and John grated. “I’m sorry, John,” she said. “But I’m quite sure that it isn’t.”
“Listen,” John said. “I’m sure everybody who comes here tells you that it’s not their time or whatever, but this is different! I have a destiny, see, so I can’t be dead just yet.”
“Everyone comes at his own time,” the woman said serenely. “We do not make mistakes.”
“B-but I have a destiny!” John repeated, more desperate this time. “So there has to be some sort of- of mix up, or something!”
“Destiny can only take you so far, John,” the woman said. “It is never a sure thing. Destiny is only what you may do, in the undecided future. Death has cut off a great many destinies.”
“Hey, I watch So Weird, lady!” John said. “I know all about destiny, and I know that destiny can not be-“
“What about Rick?” The woman asked, smiling.
John blinked. “Uh…”
She nodded. “See?”
“Well- well he didn’t even really die!” John said. “He was taken before his time! Besides, he had Fi to complete his destiny for him! Who’s supposed to take over mine?”
“Well, who do you think?” The woman asked, and laughed.
John frowned. “Katherine? Well, I guess that makes sense…”
Defiance roared up inside him again. “But, no! It’s my destiny! I have to carry it out!”
“Leave all of that behind now, John,” she said. “Come with me, I will show you Paradise.”
The white split open again, and the woman held out a hand.
“Who are you, anyway?” John asked, keeping his astral hand close to him.
“My name is Seraphael,” she said. “I am a Spirit.”
“Oh.” John said. Of course. A Spirit. What else would she be?
Seraphael waited, her hand still extended. John hesitated, and then gave her his hand.
She led him through the opening, and suddenly John was in a great garden, a vast green utopia stretching out to all sides. Trees surrounded him, each full with green leaves, their trunks perfectly brown. The sky was sapphire blue, and the clouds were immaculately white, almost glittering beneath the golden sun. Ripe fruit hung from the trees, bursting with color, and bigger than John had ever seen them. Every bush was green and full- there were no insects here, no dead leaves or even broken branches. He could feel the warm grass, between his astral toes.
Are my shoes off? He wondered, and looked down to see-
Seraphael smiled. “Fear not. You have become your true self.”
“I’m naked!!” John said.
Seraphael nodded. “Of course. Shame and self-consciousness are things of the material world. You cast them off just as your clothes were.”
“Is everyone here naked?” John asked.
He raised an eyebrow. “You’re not.”
Seraphael laughed. “But I, unlike you, do not have an actual body. We Spirits are created formless, and only manifest what the person who we meet thinks we should be.”
“Uh, okay…” John said.
“It is eternally Summer here,” she said. “The fruits are ripe and tender, their juice is sweet. You can frolic and play and enjoy the beauty of this untouched Garden for all eternity. There is no anger, there is no sorrow, there is, indeed, no discontent. No one can be unhappy in Paradise."
“Oh yeah?” John mumbled.
She smiled at him, in an almost maternal way. “It will take some getting used to, but you will grow to love it here. Paradise has everything you could ever need.”
John looked around. The sun warmed his face, and a cool summer breeze ran over his (nude) body.
“Yeah,” John said. “But it’s not Earth.”
Seraphael smiled, and extended her hand. “Come. There is much to be seen.”
Five Earth weeks later
Seraphael finally found John in the banana grove. He was sitting, back against a tree, one leg crossed over the other. He looked up and smiled as she approached, and waved the banana he was holding.
“Well, hello, there!” John said. “And how are you today?”
Seraphael glared. “John, we need to have a talk.”
John’s eyebrows raised in mock surprise. “Is something wrong?”
“John, you know very well that something is wrong,” she said. John could tell that Seraphael was trying very, very hard to stay patient with him. “You have been here exactly five weeks, and you’ve caused more trouble than any other of the Deceased has in the history of Paradise.”
“Really,” John said, taking a bite out of his banana. “Wfamff sfflriffrf.”
Seraphael looked at him blankly. “What?”
John swallowed. “Sorry. I said, well, that’s quite an accomplishment.”
The Spirit frowned. “John, this is not a joking matter. You have been stirring up your fellow Deceased, and even trying to convince some of the Spirits to follow you in revolution. This is a very, very serious problem. The sort of problem that has no place in Paradise.”
“Huh.” John said. “Hey, I hear the last rebellion you had up here, you gave the guy who started it a nice, fiery kingdom to rule over. Do you think I could get that set up, somehow?”
“Oh, no!” Seraphael said. “We’re not making that mistake again!”
“So, what?” John asked, as his smirk started to fade. “You’re going to kick me out of Paradise?”
“Unless you stop this rabble rousing, I’m afraid that will be the only solution,” Seraphael said.
John finished his banana, and tossed the peel away. He folded both arms behind his head. “I’d like to see you try.”
Seraphael’s face flashed anger, and for a moment the crystal clear blue sky darkened. Then she controlled herself, and said, “Then you leave me no choice. John, from this moment on you are cast out of Paradise. You will return to the mortal world, and once again dwell among all of its imperfections.”
“Well, I’ll be back eventually!” John said. “As you told me, this is the only afterlife.”
Seraphael glared. “Believe me, John, I will make sure that our next meeting will not be for a very, very long time. Goodbye.”
And suddenly the Garden and the warm grass and the sunshine were gone, and John was falling back through the white tunnel. He seemed to get heavier as he fell- not physically, but spiritually. He remembered guilt and pain and loss, and all of the other feelings that had left him after his first few days in Paradise. He was falling towards a light-
John hit the floor of his cave, and got quickly onto his hands and knees. He was back, whole again, and fully clothed. He took a deep breath, felt his lungs swell with air, and then let it out. He blinked and blinked and blinked until his eyes watered. He patted himself all over, and then dropped onto his butt. He breathed a sigh of relief.
John looked down and saw that, indeed, the hole that had been in his midsection had not reappeared. And he noticed that he was, indeed, sitting in dirt and bat crap.
John stood up and brushed himself off, growling.
“Great,” he muttered. “I gave up Paradise for this junk heap. Where the heck is everybody, anyway? I die for five weeks and they all just leave? Oooooh boy, wait until I catch up with them…”
He walked over to his black cardboard throne, and dropped into it, scowling.
And after a few moments, when he was sure that no one was watching, he smiled.
* * *
This story isn’t canon. It was a writing exercise, based on a writing prompt I did in January 2004: “Take a character from any of your existing stories, and describe what might happen to him or her in your vision of the afterlife.” So, of course, I chose John. The vision of Heaven presented here isn’t really consistent with the Spirit World/Otherworld as it appears in the stories, although I did think about making Seraphael a character in the actual sagas (for any times I wanted a representative of the Powers That Be who wasn’t the Blind Man to show up).
Note the conversation about destiny here: like Rick’s destiny passing down to Fi, John’s destiny would have been passed on to Katherine. I’m not quite sure how that would have worked – I guess the Management would have had to imbue her with another chip of their soul. But you can certainly make the argument that it was always Fi’s destiny to be the Crusader, and Rick’s was only to be the Crusader’s father (Jon Cooksey implies both in his So Weird FAQs). So maybe John’s destiny never would have had to be passed down to Katherine – either the Management would protect him from death (which, as noted above, they did many times), or he’d find some way to finagle his way back to the land of the living, like he does here.
I never officially decided who killed John in this story, but I think it was either X-Raytor or Leroy.
I don’t think I ever told anyone about this.
Back in the magical year 2002, when all of our stories were fresh and new, and I dreamed that writing would be my entire career, as opposed to an enriching passion that doesn’t pay anything, I spent a fair amount of time on the hatrack forums at Orson Scott Card’s website. I didn’t post too much – I obviously already had online communities over at Morphz and Evilness 102 – but I liked to read other peoples’ writing. Usually this either taught me cool new ways of writing things, or gave me the snobbish ego boost I needed to write something new. And then, one day, I noticed that someone had started a thread with a pass-along story (what they called a ribbon story). It went on for a week or so with people posting little bits at a time – it was in a high fantasy setting, involving an aging warrior called the White Lady who, while doubtful about her prowess in her golden years, was nevertheless planning to take up her sword again to fight a new (unspecified) evil. That first week was pretty much people just writing new paragraphs of her internal monologue, as she stood in her kitchen and stared at her sword. Obviously, this wasn’t what I was used to from pass-along stories. And that’s when I got a terrible, mischievous impulse to make everyone’s day a little bit more surreal.
And so, I wrote a post in which John, Lord of Darkness (Dum Dum Duuuuuum!) shows up. And the story just kind of exploded from there. Yes, I’m patting myself on the back quite a bit, thank you.
Anyway, this story went on for a bit, and then petered out and died. Shortly afterwards, someone created a new story entitled – I kid you not – John Lord of Darkness: 2002. That lasted for entirely two posts (the second of which was mine). A little while later, a third story started up, also in a fantasy setting. It went on for a bit, and I was thinking about getting involved with an actual serious character, and then someone jokingly said it was only a matter of time before John, Lord of Darkness (Dum Dum Duuuuum!) showed up. So, he did.
All three of these stories ran out of steam long before any of ours (I’m pretty sure there are Russian novels shorter than the amount of words we’ve written about the Justice League over the years), but I salvaged the second and third story with the hope of posting them on the La Resistance web page at some point. It was always my intention to synthesize the three stories into one, big epic about the alternate, Fantasy Land version of John. And now, here’s my chance! So first, I’ll summarize each story as they appeared, with no embellishments, and once that’s finished I’ll pull them all together. Behold, the strange and fantastical world of John, Lord of Darkness (Dum Dum Duuuuum!)… the other one.
(As an easy reference point, I’m going to only put five U’s instead of six in the last “Duuuuum!” for Fantasy Land John. And by “easy” I mean, what?)
Volume I: The Big Guide to Fantasy Land
This story begins, as I noted, with an aging White Lady planning on getting back into the action. Meanwhile, not too far away, we see a small town that has recently been ravaged by the Acolytes, the minions of the Dark Lord whose rise the White Lady can sense. Weary and defeated from so much horror, the townspeople don’t even have the energy to be afraid when they see a rider in a black cloak approaching the town. When he arrives, however, he ends up falling off of his horse. Leaping to his feet, he reveals himself to be none other than John, Lord of Darkness (Dum Dum Duuuuum!), a clumsy teenage evil-overlord-to-be, who immediately demands that they bow down and worship him. The townspeople are galvanized by John’s stupidity and posturing, and chase him out of town (taking his horse, in the process). Annoyed, John decides that the only way he’s going to get respect is if people fear him. And so, he goes off to see if there happen to be any elderly do-gooders in the woods whom he might be able to defeat…
Meanwhile, back at the White Lady’s cottage, her spunky teenage granddaughter Piper arrives. She’s an orphan, and has been trained by her grandmother to be a warrior. They’re interrupted by the arrival of Fyodor, a self-assured travelling merchant who carries with him the Big Guide to Fantasy Land, a magical tome that explains all of the tropes and clichés of their world. Just then, John appears and does his typical shouting of demands for surrender and worship. I think he tries to show off some karate moves and falls down. Meanwhile, in another part of the woods, High Priest Azar, the leader of the Acolytes, captures a pair of innocent children and brings them as sacrifices to the Dark Lord. However, the Dark Lord, whose name is Aubrey, rejects the offering as being too pink and frilly. He orders Azar and his second-in-command, Montross, to go and find that annoying Lord of Darkness kid who’s been cramping his style over the last few months – he would be a fine offering, thank you very much.
Meanwhile, back at the cottage, the White Lady, Piper, and Fyodor have concluded that John isn’t really a threat to anyone (aside from himself), but they’ve locked him in a large cage just to be sure. It should be noted that this version of John is afraid of Oreos, for unexplained reasons. John flirts, unsuccessfully, with Piper. It turns out that Fyodor and John both went to Sir Gildered the Dragonslayer School for kindergarten, although John denies it when Fyodor remembers some embarrassing details about his past. John eventually agrees to help them defeat Aubrey (since it will get rid of the competition), and they let him go. The four are now ready to go on a quest, and it’s just a moment like this, Fyodor reads in the Big Guide, that the bad guys usually attack. Indeed, at that moment, the bad guys attack! The White Lady tells Piper that it’s her destiny to defeat Aubrey, and attempts to give her a magic sword… but John trips and gets in the way, cutting himself in the process. Fyodor reads in the Big Guide that this means it’s bonded to John now, and can’t be taken from him until his quest is complete (or he dies, of course). He also says this means John is probably going to prove to be the unlikely hero of the tale, and that he and Piper are probably going to fall in love (I didn’t even write this post, by the way). Piper is nauseated. Meanwhile, the Acolytes are launching spells at the cottage, and the White Lady rushes them out the back door, saying she’ll stay behind and hold them off. She and Piper are able to share a brief goodbye, but then the old lady leaps back into the fray.
The trio arrive at Fyodor’s cart, parked out back, only to find that his mule is missing. In the cottage, however, Fyodor and Piper discovered that the Big Guide also acts as a sort of magical Mad Libs – if you start to dictate your story to it, you can change little bits of reality. So, Fyodor opens the book, and says: “And so, our heroes leapt into the cart and were rushed away by a…” And then, suddenly, John (who was knocked unconscious in the first attack) sits up and screams “PUPPY!!!!!!!” A huge, evil puppy appears hitched to the cart. There isn’t time enough to yell at John, so Piper and Fyodor simply jump into the cart and get the dog to move. They escape as the White Lady, fighting valiantly, falls to the Acolytes.
They travel for a bit, with a few little misadventures happening (for example, John gets his hands on the Big Guide and uses it to create a massive parade of puppies that follow the cart… he also names the evil puppy leading the cart Fred). Eventually, the arrive at an inn, where they meet travelling friends (or twins?) Kel and Koe. Kel is loud and erratic, while Koe is more responsible, and keeps him in line. John expresses his ambition to build a cheese tower when he grows up. The relative peace is shattered, however, by the appearance of an evil Coffee Filter and Sloth from The Goonies (also note that in Fantasy Land, pop culture references are tossed around all the time). And it’s right about here… that the story ran out of steam.
(Note: The only characters I created in this story were John, Azar, Montross, and Fred. Everybody else was created by other writers.)
Volume II: John Lord of Darkness: 2002
This story was, as I noted, started by someone else (username “healeyjedi123,” who I believe was the person who created Fyodor). John wakes up on a spring day in 2002, several centuries into the future. He’s in the middle of a modern city, which is extremely confusing to him. After a few moments he hazily remembers what happened before this. There was chaos, with Fyodor, Kel, and Koe seemingly defending against something while Piper placed John in the magical equivalent of a time machine. Something happened that made it impossible for them to defeat Aubrey in the present, so they were sending him forward in time to… something. He can’t remember. He checks his hip and finds that the White Lady’s sword is still there. Suddenly, he hears approaching screams and, like the true hero he is, hides behind a toddler. He’s immediately apprehended, however, by several Men in Black types who threaten him with Oreos. From looking at billboards around the city, John realizes that these guys are Acolytes, and that he’s arrived in a future ruled by Aubrey!
John is thrown in a prison cell and contemplates his bad luck. Then he realizes that there’s another person in the cell with him, hidden in the shadows. His cellmate begins to croak something at him, and suddenly, John realizes that he/she/it is saying “Dum Dum Duuuuum!” He leans closer, to see who this could be, and discovers…
Nothing. Because no one picked up the story after that. However, healeyjedi123 did write something interesting and funny to share (if only tangentially related to any of this):
“New scenario for John: The lord of darkness DUM DUM DE DUM DUM DUM etc, finds that he has switched bodies with a crazed Russian president, who has been taken hostage by… yes you’ve guessed it! Terrorists with a weapon of mass destruction!!!! What does the dark lord himself do in such a predicament. It would be worth nothing that the Russian president is about 75 years of age. So no acrobatics.”
I would pay to see that story.
Volume III: Tricksters
A Hero walks into a bar. No, this isn’t a joke (although this story started with a bit more of a sense of humor about itself than the first one did). He chats briefly with the bartender, who seems friendly and capable. Just then, a man in a shadowy cloak enters. He sits in a corner by himself for a bit, scanning the room… and then tosses a knife into the back of the young Hero. He growls that this supposed Hero was sent to foil his mission to rescue a beautiful princess, held in a tower by dragons in the land of the north. While the patrons don’t take much notice of this event, the bartender does, and is less than thrilled. He tells the shadowy man to clean up his own mess or he’ll call the city guard. Trouble seems to be brewing…
And then we cut to outside, where John, Lord of Darkness (Dum Dum Duuuuum!) is sitting up with a headache. At first he’s confused, but then he deduces – with absolutely no evidence – that he’s in a separate, but somewhat similar, Fantasy Land from the one he originally came from. He’s pretty pumped about this, because it means he can screw being a hero and return to his original plans of world domination! However, he’s brought up short by the White Lady’s sword, still at his hip. It won’t leave him until he’s completed his quest… and it’s totally not evil to be walking around with a heroic sword. But, he wonders, how is he even supposed to fulfill his destiny in a different universe? His doubts are put aside, however, when he realizes that in Fantasy Land, things always work out best for the unlikeliest of heroes and decides, selfishly, to keep being a hero. “As I was saying, I will sally forth and destroy all those Evil Forces ™ who try to oppose me and all Forces of Good/Light ™! And destroy tyrants, and free slaves, and slaughter legions of pig-creatures that are so not orcs, and stand for Truth, Justice, and the American Way! … And get so many girls it won’t even be funny!!!!!!!”
Of course, then he realizes he’s hungry, and heads off to the nearest inn to eat, first.
Meanwhile, back at the inn, the shadowy man finishes his drink, stands up, and tosses something on the bar. The bartender is confused by the object, but the man has already gone. The object is revealed to be a thumbscrew, which the bartender thinks of as one of the old Implements. We learn that such instruments of torture were banned by the Empire – the ruling government – because they were “cruel, unusual, nasty, mean, and generally painful.” The thumbscrew looks well-used and recently-cleaned. The bartender realizes that the shadowy man must have been one of the infamous Tricksters, a shadowy cult that he learned about through his occasional involvement with the city’s underworld. Called “Hero-hunters,” they would occasionally emerge, always alone, and hunt down the most obvious heroes in the vicinity, either killing them outright or dragging them away screaming to some unthinkable demise. And, indeed, the bartender’s suspicions are confirmed when he turns the thumbscrew over and discovers the Tricksters’ emblem, a crudely drawn smiley face. The bartender puts the thumbscrew behind the bar, chilled.
Just then, another hooded figure walks in. We learn that the city is named Nowheron, in the Nine Realms, and that this man is a “blacksmith-magicker” looking for work (which the bartender informs him there isn’t much of… for his very specific trade, anyway). After the blacksmith-magicker gets his drink and retreats to his own dark corner of the bar, the bartender begins to get even more worried. Magic-wielding blacksmiths often crafted the Tricksters’ tools of torture for them. He suspects this young man might be in league with them, as unlikely as that seems from his ruffled appearance. Plus, the Empire had similarly outlawed forge magic in many places throughout the Realms, so for someone to just walk in and announce the profession was strange indeed, and invited trouble. The bartender has seen a lot, but he hasn’t seen two shady, magically-affiliated folks like this in one night since the Uprising of the Underworlders, many years ago. He worries that another uprising might be in the works, based on tonight’s experiences and other rumors. Rumors of more Trickster sightings, of heroic artifacts vanishing from castles (without the merest hint of a new hero nearby).
The night gets stranger, however, when John walks in. Frightened by the unfamiliar situation, he tries to prove his “street cred” by talking in his horrendous version of “gangsta slang.” The bartender gently explains to him that, “The more black you try to act, the more white you really are.” John sits at the bar and orders food, taking notice of the thumbscrew. When the bartender comes back with the food (something that looks like a cheese steak, but tastes like crap), he asks John what he does for a living, and John proudly announces that he’s a hero. Worried that the Trickster will return (and that the blacksmith is in league with them), he warns John not to broadcast that so much, if he values his life. Learning that John used to be an Evil Overlord (and noticng that he isn’t a particularly convincing hero), he says that John should douse his sword in black paint, so that it looks like an evil sword and the Tricksters will leave him alone. When they do this, however, the sword just looks like a piece of crap. “There!” the bartender says. “Now they’ll take you even less seriously!” John nods proudly: “All in a day’s work.”
The blacksmith, whose name is Michael, stands. He noticed John’s sword, and he’s worried that some Tricksters might have as well. Far from being in league with them, he’s actually trying to stay as far away from them as possible. He gets up to leave… and trips, falling into the arms of the most beautiful maiden he’s ever seen. She makes a terrible pun about him falling for her (sorry, Pastwatch of hatrack), and then introduces herself as Kathryn. She’s a city girl who hopes to have a life of adventure, although she’s studiously trying to avoid being the cliché fantasy heroine (the Big Guide to Fantasy Land isn’t mentioned, but she seems to have read it). John tosses his cheese steak thing away in disgust, and it sprouts legs and runs outside. Still, surveying the others, he says that this is a great set up – they’ve got a hero (“Me!”), an unconventional heroine, a mysterious blacksmith-magicker, and a bartender who excels at exposition. “And,” John says, “this means, very soon, we’re all going to be running for our lives.”
Something outside explodes.
Michael draws his dagger, immediately deducing that the explosion is magical. He’s on the run from the Tricksters, it turns out, and if they’ve come to capture him it’ll be kill or be killed. Kathryn pulls out a quarterstaff, John draws his sword, and the bartender vanishes behind the bar. A Trickster bursts through the door (it doesn’t say if he’s the same one from before, but I’m going to say no, below) on a black horse, wielding a long sword and a large mace. Michael throws a dagger at him, only to have it knocked away easily. Kathryn’s staff is smashed to pieces by the mace. John doesn’t even try to do anything, instead sipping a non-alcoholic beer in the corner. Just when all seems lost, a dagger sprouts from the Trickster’s head, and he collapses, dead. A large man steps out from behind the horse, whom Michael recognizes as Haggis McMutton (“Haggis” is just a nickname – his real name was “The Heart, Liver, and Lungs of a Sheep Boiled in its Own Intestines.” “So your parents were expecting a girl?” John asks). He speaks with a Scottish accent, and seems like someone who would be an excellent friend and a terrible enemy. He reveals that the Trickster wasn’t after Michael, but had become violently enraged when someone tossed “mutant fungus” in its path. He holds up John’s previously-discarded cheese steak thing, and everyone glares at him. The bartender sticks his head in from the back and reveals that he really needed to pee, but if they’ll hold off the Trickster for another three seconds he’ll come up with a way to kill him. Realizing that the Trickster’s already dead, he disappears back into the bathroom. Kathryn produces a large sword from the folds of her skirt and tries to get some answers about who Michael and Haggis are (learning only that they’re in the same book club). Then, the inn explodes in laughter… literally. A booming laugh fills the air, and the other patrons burst into pieces. John, Michael, Kathryn, Haggis, and the bartender are flung into the air, and then go crashing down into darkness until they land in something green and sticky. The bartender realizes, to his horror, that they’re in the Undercity. This is where, according to rumor, the Tricksters and Underworlders dwell. He tells everyone to pretend that they’re evil so that no one will mess with them. He assigns them each an evil cover name – Michael is Iago, Kathryn is Selica, Haggis (taking the role of a stone-stupid enforcer) is Thunk, he’s Goober and John is… himself. John is confused by this concept. There’s some bickering, but it cuts off when they hear someone coming. Before they can even see who it is, however, burlap sacks are thrown over each of their heads, and they’re dragged away through the sewers.
And that’s where this story stopped.
The Fantasy Stories: The Synthesis
And now I’m going to attempt to put all of that together into one (semi-)coherent narrative. This should be fun!
All right, so, let’s pick up where the first story left off. Our heroes, newly joined together and having achieved their first victory over the Coffee Filter and Slough, continue their quest, guided by the Big Guide. John and Piper start to bond, although perhaps there’s a love triangle involving Fyodor. They all have several adventures, Piper begins to develop as a hero and successor to her grandmother, and John… well, becomes slightly less useless. Eventually they’re drawn into conflict with Aubrey. The heroes think they’re well-prepared to defeat Aubrey, but it turns out they’re being led into a trap. It turns out that Aubrey has been following the Big Guide himself, and has been intentionally subverting all of the fantasy genre conventions. The heroes are completely powerless against him and, in fact, all of their efforts up to this point have prepared Aubrey to cast a powerful spell, which makes him totally undefeatable for six generations (so even if they do start defying clichés, they can’t beat him). The heroes are able to escape, but only barely. They consult someone they met earlier on the quest – a wizard or a medieval mad scientist, or something – who says that they have to send someone into the future, beyond the point where Aubrey’s spell is still in effect. Because the White Lady’s sword is so powerfully magical, they suspect that it will defeat Aubrey once the spell wears off (even if it is a cliché). Meaning that the world’s only hope… is John. They send him into the future using whatever method the wizard/medieval mad scientist has for limited time travel just as the Acolytes arrive and attack. However, the wizard/medieval mad scientist isn’t great with numbers, and he ends up sending John much further into the future than he meant to – all the way to 2002.
Now, to be honest with you, I wasn’t a huge fan of the fantasy story jumping to 2002, so this part is going to be pretty short. As we’ve already covered, John arrives (with only muddled memories of why he was sent, thanks to the wizard/medieval mad scientist’s machine, and probably his own short attention span) and is arrested by the new age Acolytes. He’s thrown in a cell, where another prisoner (crouched in a corner) seems to know who he is. The prisoner emerges from the shadows and reveals himself to be… Fred. Yes, Fred the Evil Puppy. Only now he’s grown into an adult Hell Hound, and apparently gained the power of speech several centuries ago. Fred tells John that he’s the only remaining member of the adventure party – after John escaped, Aubrey kept the others in magical stasis for the entire duration of the spell (to use as collateral against John, should he return). When the six generations passed and John never came back, he thawed the others out and killed them, before casting another protection spell. Fred only survived because Hell Hounds are notoriously hard to kill, and Aubrey was distracted. He was on the run for a bit, but the Acolytes eventually captured and imprisoned him. This cycle has been repeating for centuries (since Fred is immortal, and essentially invulnerable… but also not strong enough on his own to defeat Aubrey). After explaining all of this, he tells John that Aubrey has a version of the time machine that sent John into the future in the first place, and that John needs to use it to go back to when Aubrey’s protection spell originally ended, defeat him, and save his friends. John’s reluctant at first, but eventually agrees. Fred helps John escape and locate the White Lady’s sword. They get to the time machine, and Fred stays behind to battle the Acolytes while John travels to the past (accidentally destroying the time machine behind him as he goes).
Now we go to the Trickster story. Despite John’s original inferences, this is the same Fantasy Land he came from, just six generations after he last saw it. His brain’s a bit addled by the time machine and, well, by the fact that it’s John’s brain. Anyways, it turns out that the Empire which rules this world is actually Aubrey. He’s been ruling the world for six generations, and no one even remembers when he was just an upstart dark lord. Indeed, most people assume that the Empire is basically good, if remote. They pave roads, make sure there’s bread on tables, and punish crimes. The Heroes of the Nine Realms discussed above are all on Aubrey’s side. Many of them actually are heroes who just don’t know any better, but a lot of them are pretty much just thugs. The Acolytes serve as a kind of secret police. All magic has been outlawed, because it represents a threat to Aubrey’s power. The Underworlders are all people with magical abilities, or some other way of opposing Aubrey, who have been driven into hiding since their failed uprising. The Tricksters are a branch of the Underworlders, and are, essentially, terrorists – they kill heroes because they’re obvious symbols/tools of the Empire (although, like all good terrorists, they don’t stop to decipher whether these heroes are good guys or bad guys).
John and company learn all of this after being taken captive by the Underworlders. The Tricksters, particularly, want to kill John, because his sword marks him as a hero (despite that crafty painting-it-black plan). Somehow, John is able to convince the Underworlders that he’s Aubrey’s enemy, and maybe the only chance they have of defeating him (this might have something to do with a “prophecy,” based on Piper and company’s expectations of John’s return). The Trickster who showed up at the beginning of the story would become a relatively major character, since he seemed pretty cool in that one post where we saw inside his head (and his quest to save his princess would become part of the overall plot).
Eventually, John, his friends, and the Underworlders plan a new uprising (insert inevitable “La Resistance” joke here). However, something – maybe the story he heard from Fred in 2002 about Piper and everyone getting killed at about this point in time – prompts John to go to Aubrey’s castle by himself to try to free them. He fails, miserably, and is taken into Aubrey’s presence. Aubrey (still undefeatable until the day after tomorrow) tells John that he’s actually kind of fond of him – he reminds Aubrey of himself, back when he was just starting his evil career. He asks how sold John is on this whole “hero” thing, and offers him a better deal. If John joins him, Aubrey will make him the leader of the Acolytes, and give him an entire continent to rule. It’s not the whole world, sure, but it’s something – and besides, Aubrey is planning on expanding the Empire beyond this dimension anyway. Aubrey says that the choice is John’s… although he also reminds him that if he refuses, Aubrey will just kill John’s friends while he watches and then kill John. Eventually, John agrees. He’s become more of a hero, yes, but some part of him does still want to rule the world (we probably would have gotten a bit of background on John at this point, and found out he had some sad story that made him so bitter and power hungry, which would have made his choice a little more understandable). Meanwhile, below Nowheron, John’s friends and the Underworlders realize that John is either dead or has betrayed them, and continue to plan their uprising without him – they’re going to strike tomorrow.
John spends some time as an evil overlord, and finds that his heart isn’t in it. Aubrey releases Piper and company from magical stasis per John’s request, and he’s able to reunite with them (although they’re none too pleased about him joining up with Aubrey). John’s ashamed, but can’t see another option. That night, the uprising begins. As the Acolytes battle the Underworlders (and the Heroes of the Nine Realms choose sides) around the palace, Aubrey prepares to cast a new protection spell once the other one wears off. What John didn’t realize, however, is that this spell is much more powerful (and long-lasting) than the last, and will be powered by the death of someone with royal blood – Piper. John finally finds his inner hero, and opposes Aubrey, leading to a battle in Aubrey’s inner sanctum (by this point Michael, Kathryn, and Haggis would have gotten into the castle and joined the fight as well). Aubrey is more powerful than all of them, however, and John knows that they’re going to lose. Even though dawn (and the end of Aubrey’s protection spell) is just a few minutes away, he’s going to kill them all within that time. Unless, of course, John can buy them some time. And that’s when he remembers something from way back in the beginning of the quest – he remembers how the White Lady gave up her sword. John looks at Piper, lifts the sword, and says, “It’s yours.” Then he drops it at her feet, and goes out to face Aubrey on his own. Aubrey kills him, easily.
The others are baffled and horrified, but as the first light of the sun crests the horizon, Piper suddenly realizes what John meant. She picks up her grandmother’s sword… and it doesn’t reject her. It’s hers now. She confronts Aubrey, and stabs him through the heart just as sunlight touches the castle. Aubrey explodes in a burst of light, and the influence of his evil magic lifts from the world like fog. Outside, the Acolytes realize that they’ve been defeated and surrender. In the castle, everyone is (much to their surprise) saddened by John’s death. Then, Fyodor notices Aubrey’s copy of the Big Guide to Fantasy Land, on a podium in the room. He opens it and looks up “miraculous resurrections.” He reads through a number of options that aren’t any help, before arriving at “true love’s kiss.” Piper doesn’t think it applies, until she’s forced (despite Fyodor’s reluctance, since he still has feelings for her) to admit that she does have feelings for John. Finally, she does kiss John… and a white mist rises from her sword and covers John, healing his wounds. He sits up, screaming: “PUPPIES!!!”
Anyways, peace is restored to the land, and everyone lives happily ever after. It would probably be left open as to whether or not John was really giving up his dreams of world domination, but at the very least we’d know he would have Piper around as a good influence.
At some point (in a completely separate story) I think it would also be fun to have Fantasy World John meet the original John, even briefly.
Over the course of coming up with these stories, I developed a pretty huge mythology to account for all of the supernatural entities and concepts that would come up. It’s mostly a hodgepodge of actual mythology and fictional works I liked, with So Weird’s mythology serving as the basis for all of it. Here are all of my notes on the larger world surrounding John’s story.
The Spirit World, the “greater dimension” that surrounds and pervades our own. Here exist all spirits and ethereal entities; here is the afterlife, Elysium and Limbo; here is Paradise and the Inferno. The Otherworld serves as the home for all that is spiritual and magic, as well as the afterlife, the final destination of all souls after death.
The “region of light,” and the northern-most sphere of the Otherworld, where the Powers That Be, Archons, and most of the Forces of Good dwell. It is radiant and full of Light. It’s not necessarily Heaven, although the Powers That Be and the Archons might try to convince you that it is.
The Powers That Be: The Powers, the ruling authorities of Good, mysterious, and formless. Individuality makes them weaker and more petty than they are together—together they work towards the greater good (excuse the pun), but are relatively single-minded in that goal. Some individuals include Demiurgos, who is almost always in individual form, and is something of an asshole (he believes that he created the universe, and is still waiting for a thank you card). There’s also Sophia, who appeared to John in JohnWorld 3006 as the Goddess, and several others who I didn’t come up with. Each of them represents a facet of the whole’s personality (Sophia is wisdom and patience, the Demiurgos is will and self-righteousness, etc.). They are also known as the Aeons.
Archons: The chief servants of the Powers. They’re similar to angels, but a different breed. Enoch/the Blind Man is the chief Archon. Others include Seraphael, Philemon (who would have shown up in Destiny), and Abraxas.
Good Spirits: Spirits who have aligned themselves with the Powers, whether they be souls of the dead or others. As per the So Weird Writers’ Notes, good spirits tend to take on more ethereal, airy forms (i.e. ghosts, angels). They can project a physical form if needed, of course (i.e. Enoch).
The southern-most sphere, the realm of Evil, and currently the domain of the Management. It was, at first, the area that the angel Lucifer and his allies colonized after being cast out of the Pleroma. However, Lucifer was killed by the Management, and now they’re in charge. Hell is a construct of fear and pain, a nightmare land of fire, stone, and twisted steel. Its structure is similar to that of Dante’s, although, of course, the criteria for residence is a bit looser.
The Management: The dark, organizing force behind the forces of Evil. Their goal is to unify all evil, and invade the physical universe, thus dominating all of Creation. With Creation under their control, they intend to wage war on the Powers, and conquer the Pleroma, thus becoming the overlords of all reality. The Management is a plural entity, but individual forms are never seen—they always appear as a mass of black, a pulsing, eldritch mass of horror.
The N/X: The Management’s limbs, essentially—their army, their secret police. These are special agents, entirely made of evil spirits and demons, with the shock troops being of the three-headed variety seen in “Twin” and the Origin.
Evil Spirits: There are many evil spirits (and, indeed, many mortals) in the employ of the Management who are not in the N/X, including Mr. Satan, Randall Flagg, Evil School employees, etc. Some of them are under contract (i.e. Bricriu), and many of them have nearly the same degree of autonomy as free agents do, except that they answer directly to the Management.
Free Agents/Wild Cards: Malevolent spirits out for their own motives. A classic example is the man in green/Sadiss, and Bricriu will become one after he betrays the Management. Dark Shadow is another example of such an entity.
Evil spirits tend more towards “hard”/physical forms (i.e. demons, monsters). The more ethereal among them usually only adopt physical forms through seizure (i.e. possession, consumption).
There are many spirits of the dead who joined with Evil because they are “jealous of the living.”
The Gray Area
Not an actual name, but, y’know. There are many spirits—mostly spirits of the dead, or neutral non-humans—who exist in the regions of the Otherworld which are not aligned with either Good or Evil.
A classic example of the topography of the Otherworld. A green-lit, misty twilight world “between two ticks of the clock,” the Nexus is a hole in time, but more of a bubble or pocket in the Otherworld than an actual area—in other words, other spirits cannot invade the Nexus aside from whichever spirit opens it. Various Nexi can be opened, but they fall under the collective name of the Nexus. Its name implies that the Nexus is actually a halfway point between the Otherworld and the physical world.
A History of Hell
Hell was originally colonized following Lucifer’s rebellion. He solidified his power there with the help of the Management, a dark force from beyond the margins of reality who made an alliance with him. In time, Hell became Lucifer’s kingdom, and a place of eternal torment and horror. A natural breeding ground for evil, Lucifer and his infernal brethren (including both fallen angels and demons who had never been anything but) began to plot ways to corrupt the universe.
Evil School began as a training center for demons during Hell’s earliest days. Its founders were the demons/infernal entities who governed the qliphoth: Satan, Moloch, Beelzebub, Lucifuge, Astaroth, Asmodeus, Belfegor, Baal/Belial, Adramelech, Lilith, and Naamah, with Lucifer as acting headmaster. Although he held the position of highest authority, Lucifer soon lost interest in academics, and focused more on his new throne. He became more and more reclusive as the millennia went by, and rumor has it that he started to organize fallen cherubim into choirs to sing infernal hosannas to him. Mr. Satan, essentially, took over administrative duties, but faced some opposition from the rest of the “board” (especially Moloch, Baal/Belial, the newly-fallen Iblis, and Lucifuge, who defers to the other three). At their urging, he and the other board members decide to change the nature of the school—all of them, to tell the truth, are tired of teaching demons (with the notable exceptions of Lilith, who teaches them easily, and Naamah, who finds it beneath her to teach any other than her brood or their fellows), and demons are mostly unwilling to be taught, anyway. The new goal, they decided, would be to teach humans to be evil. However, a special school was not needed for mere corruption—nor would it be effective. This school, the founders agreed, would have to breed a new type of mortals, mortals who would not merely be affected by sin and evil, but would, indeed, be vessels for them, in their own worlds. During the debates, Lucifer made it known that he took great interest in this idea, intending such a school to act as an antithesis to the divine help that the Powers bestowed upon their heroes and chosen ones. And so, Evil School was born, with the purpose of creating villains. Mortals were not initially let in—first it was various demons and spirits, gods and extra-planar beings—but soon they were ready, and the first mortal villains were admitted for training. And now, a few words on each of the founders:
- Lucifer, the light-bringer, Headmaster of Evil School. Formerly a Seraphim named Samael, who represented God’s wrath unto men and angels. He did not rebel or fall, but was placed over the Fallen as an extension of his role. It seems that he was seduced by his new position, corrupted by his new power. However, there is another theory. Sending Lucifer was in God’s plan, and thus it is possible that Lucifer’s corruption was as well. It is even possible that Lucifer was acting on the plan when he became corrupt, doing God’s will until the end.
- Satan, the accuser and lord of the standardized test. Formerly a Cherubim (charged with the dissemination of universal knowledge), cast out for anger. His angelic name was Satanael.
- Moloch, who makes mothers cry. Formerly an Archangel.
- Beelzebub, Hell’s leading politician (and the first politruk of “Evil School”). Formerly a Seraphim.
- Lucifuge Rocofale, the infernal Prime Minister to Lucifer, and Evil School treasurer. Not terribly bright.
- Astaroth, professor of mathematical sciences, and Demon Prince of Sloth. Particularly tormented Blaise Pascal for some time.
- Asmodeus, Demon Prince of Lust and official school lecher; professor of seduction.
- Belfegor, a demon who helps people make discoveries, but also a demon of laziness. Demon Prince of the Get-Rich-Quick Scheme and SparkNotes. His sacrificial offering is (no joke) excrement, which, for lucky Evil School students, he would spin into Grade A b.s. Formerly a Principality.
- Belial, professor of Villainous Flair. Formerly a Prince of Virtues, cast out for arrogance and fashion display.
- Adramelech, President of the Senate of the demons, Chancellor of Hell, and supervisor of Lucifer’s wardrobe. Formerly an Archangel.
- Lilith, first woman, mother of demons. Professor of Evil Women’s Studies. Sometimes consort of Lucifer, and, unofficially, one of the most powerful entities at Evil School (where she still operates in The Origin as the mysterious Little Owl Woman).
- Naamah, also a mother of demons, and Lilith’s opposite number. Professor of Seduction. Also a sometimes-consort of Lucifer, and protective of her relationship with him. A former Houri (that is, angels in Islamic lore who are companions of men and jinn who go to Paradise – those “72 Virgins” you hear so much about are Houri)—which is actually why she joined Lucifer’s rebellion. Mother of Asmodeus.
Everything was going great, until the Management rebelled. It turned out they had only been helping out Lucifer because it advanced their own plans, and once Hell was established well enough to stand as a rival to the Pleroma, they made a power play. At first, Lucifer didn’t even fight them, locking himself away in the impregnable heart of Dis while his demons battled the Management’s outside. Eventually, however, he donned his war armor and flew out to face them. Why is a mystery (although I suspect Lilith might have convinced him, in order to prevent the Management from killing everyone), and the Management showed no interest in finding out – after a brief struggle, they killed him. Lucifer’s death at the hands of the Management marked the official end of Hell as it was originally known, and a great change for Evil overall. Beelzebub, Adramelech, and Belial were executed as high-ranking members of the government and political dissidents. Belfegor died due to a nasty infection caused by the improper reception of his preferred votive offering. Lucifuge died in true “Leeroy Jenkins” style, when, after the death of Lucifer, the dukes of Hell plotted to ambush and depose the Management. Moloch also died in some suitably embarrassing way. When the Management rebelled, Naamah joined with them, after receiving a promise that Asmodeus would be freed from the prisons of Paradise (he had been imprisoned by Raphael, during the events of the book of Tobit). She soon learned, however, that Asmodeus had willingly expired in Heaven, again becoming one with God. She tried to revoke her allegiance from the then-ruling Management, and was swiftly killed. Satan and Lilith were offered the opportunity to collaborate—an offer that galled Satan, but one that he took nonetheless. Lilith also took the offer, taking on the name Little Owl Woman, and maintaining her independence—she knows that the reason the Management hasn’t killed her isn’t because she’s cooperating; it’s because she is very, very well protected.
The Management largely has control of Hell, except for the inner circles of the city of Dis. This is particularly unfortunate for them, because there is great power to be found in here. But they can’t get to it because, before his death, Lucifer locked each of the levels with powerful magic, created four keys, and then flung them to the furthest reaches of creation. This ends up being an important plot point in the earlier sagas, so for more, scroll down to The Four Keys of Dis.
Iblis- Iblis is every motivational speaker you have ever seen. He is the career counselor at Evil School, but his job is much more like that of the Politruk—“political officer”—of Soviet gulags: to promote and evangelize the ideologies of the ruling class. Iblis is a jinn, and his origin goes like this: In the earliest days, before God created man, the world was inhabited by the jinn, a people that God created from smokeless fire. Most jinn populated the Earth, although three, over time, were summoned to Paradise to serve amongst the Host. The first was Taranushi, the first jinni, who was charged with overseeing the rest of his kin. Second was Iblis, and third was Azazel. Iblis was raised for his viciousness, and put in charge of representing God’s wrath unto the jinn (much like Samael’s position among the angels). Azazel assisted them, serving as a messenger. Iblis, a shallow and shrewd self-preservationist, served the Host faithfully; Azazel, however, found himself less-than-impressed with aethereal wonders, and hungered for the riches and pleasures of the physical world. So, when God ordered him to chastise Jan-ben-Jan, a suliman of the Earthbound jinn, Azazel instead overthrew the suliman and usurped his throne. Assembling an army of Earthbound jinn, known as the Ifrit or the Devs, Azazel joined together with Shemyaza, leader of the fallen Grigori/Watchers, and declared war on Heaven. At first it was simply unrest, but the first real act of war came when Azazel assassinated Taranushi, as an act of “jinn liberation.” And thus, the First War began, between the Angelic Host and Azazel and Shemyaza’s army of jinn, Grigori, and Nephilim. The Grigori/Nephilim, because of their angelic ancestry, were merely spanked, and sent to sit in the cosmic corner for a while. The jinn suffered a much more severe fate. A detatchment of the Host, led by Iblis himself, drove them to the furthest corners of the Earth, and many were destroyed, effectively exterminating the jinn race. The war officially ended when Iblis killed Azazel in single combat. Iblis was named first among the jinn, being unfallen, and given Taranushi’s old job. However, there was another problem—among the numerous shitty things they’d done, Azazel and Shemyaza had taught human beings how to make weapons and wage war, causing general chaos. Thus, the human population was dwindling. And so, to restart the species and to give them a good example, God created Adam and set him as first above all creation, even the angels and jinn. As the one unfallen jinni, Iblis took this as an insult, for Adam was made of mud, and Iblis made of fire. He bitterly left Paradise, promising to corrupt the souls of as many humans as possible. There’s definitely some psychological troubles over his part in the extermination (pretty much) of his race—especially now, since at this point there’s probably only one jinni left on Earth, that being Ahud’ruk (“Rick”), the jinni who gave Violet Princess her powers. Iblis is hardcore in support of the Management, but he switches sides depending on who he has the best chance with/who feeds his head the best. He was a devotee of Lucifer’s, for example, until the Management rose up. His self-preservationist instincts have developed over the millennia since his Fall, and he is a far cry from the fierce warrior he once was. He’s lost none of his viciousness, but he is not as eager to get his hands dirty, and prefers to fight in shrewder, more underhanded ways. Adept at kissing ass, and susceptible to having his own kissed. Iblis is the sort of guy who would give the Nazis lists of his Jewish neighbors, if it meant he would get a fruit basket in return. Iblis was eventually killed by Mr. Satan (his longtime rival) at the end of The Origin.
Asto Vidatu- The Management’s chief agent. His name means, approximately, “Disintegrator of Bones,” and he was originally the right hand man of Ahriman. His task was to consume the damned, and he was later worshipped as the god of death.
Nergal- Chief of the Secret Police. Captain of the N/X, a horrific, sly, ill-tempered demon with more eyes than even a hellspawn should rightly have. He occasionally pays visits to Evil School, to inspect the N/X garrison and receive special reports.
Zaebos- Another of the Management’s officers; a demon who controls other groups of demons.
Verdelet- A demon responsible for transporting witches to their sabbat. He may manage transportation affairs within Hell—the train, the Charontes, etc.
Phlegyas- Charon’s replacement, now running the ferry between the shores of Dis. In Greek mythology, he set fire to a temple of Apollo because the god had raped his daughter—his presence in The Divine Comedy is a warning against contempt for the gods. In Statius’ Thebaid, Megaera of the Eumenides harries him.
The Charontes- Formerly demons who guarded the entrances of graves and escorted spirits to the Underworld, the Charontes have now taken over as the primary ferrymen and women in Hell, replacing Charon (who absconded off to Everworld). They are humanoid, with long, hooked noses, pale, loose skin, pointed ears, and snakes for hair. Most of them wear gray-green robes, however, which disguise most of their appearance. They occasionally have wings, and are all in possession of at least one hammer. John meets a Charun named Tud (whose full name is Xenophenes Thanatosopoulos).
Succor-Beneth- Chief of eunuchs in Lucifer’s palace. Isn’t that special?
Aitvaras- Lithuanian household demons. An entrepreneurial endeavor by the Management to compete with the Church’s booming “indulgence” market, cacaodaimons were sold as “Aitvaras” or “luck-bringers” for the price of a soul. Mr. Satan’s personal attendant Alastor was sold when the demand outstripped the supply.
Räihäs- Minor demons who perform odd-jobs around Hell.
Who are the Management? The answer is a varied one. The Management are, to some extent, the remains of the Ogdoad, the eight frog-and-snake headed gods that embodied the darkness and chaos before Creation. They are, in a way, remnants of the dark soul and hatred of Ahriman, once the embodiment of all evil, now diminished and existing in Everworld as a mere underworld deity. They are the qliphoth, the manifestations of darkness and evil, the raw stuff of malevolence, the primeval forces of evil that existed before God’s light. It all comes back to the same thing: the Management are the collective, conscious manifestation of the darkness and chaos that existed before creation, the dark, sinister powers that once held the universe in their sway. And now, empowered again after millennia, they seek to take back what was theirs—through destruction, through subjugation, through death. They are the oldest evil, the first evil, the darkness that can never be touched by divine light. They have always been here, before the universe, before time and, in one form or another, they will be here long, long after we are all gone and the last god has faded into oblivion. But before that, they will wage war on Creation, they will attempt, one last time, to bring it fully under their control. This is not merely a war of territories or economics or politics; this is a war that will decide the fate of the universe. And the Management is far, far ahead of the game.
The Four Keys of Dis
“Not every key has a lock.”- Enoch, in conversation
The lower levels of Hell, specifically the lowest four circles, are contained within the sprawling, continent-sized walled city of Dis. Despite common belief, these circles are not merely fields of torment—the damned endure their suffering elsewhere, on the vasty plains of Hell—but circles of ancient secrets, and immense power, old power, and very, very dark power. Aside from being Lucifer’s stronghold for the last centuries of his life—the place where he remained hidden, aurally-fellated with infernal Hosannas, and where he could not be harmed—Dis holds the remnants of an even older power, a force from the chaos and darkness before the dawn of time; remnants from Ahriman’s glory days, before he became simply a god of death and strife, before there was a before. Lucifer did not fully comprehend the enormity of this power, but the Management does (they believe, in fact, that it used to be theirs, or is a part of them), and the Powers That Be certainly do. If the Management gains control of Dis’ heart, they will become powerful enough to defy the Pleroma, to defy their own constricting destiny, and will become, truly, undefeatable. There is only one thing stopping them.
Before Lucifer left the safety of Dis (for reasons unknown) to face the Management, and was destroyed, he used as much of his former angelic power (and, it is rumored, a little more, on loan from Heaven) to bind the power of each level of Dis into a “key”—a talisman that would, unless properly “unlocked,” block the Management from harnessing the city’s power. Ever since Lucifer’s death, the Management has been searching for these four keys, which were scattered to the far ends of Creation, so that they may unlock them and take Dis’ power for themselves.
They found the first two rather easily (all things considered), but found unlocking them rather difficult. The first eventually yielded to force, and the great outer walls of Dis were breached, although a good deal of the power within the first circle remained untapped. The second took even longer to open, but the Management managed to accomplish the task correctly, releasing its power in full. The third was exceedingly difficult to find and, they realized soon after locating it, quite impossible to open correctly… without a little help. This key was placed in the winding, labyrinthine catacombs beneath the EVIL Elementary building, located in its own Nexus, which could be accessed through a portal known as the Wayfarer’s Square. When John, the destiny child, came to EVIL Elementary, he eventually found the key and, unwittingly, unlocked it. In that moment he understood who the Management were and what they planned to do, and also revealed, in a way, more than the Management wanted known about their plans. This necessitated the destruction of EVIL Elementary and a complete memory-wipe for all involved in the debacle.
The final key, the key to Lucifer’s sanctum and the true core of Dis, the only truly important part of the city, was the most difficult to find (as would be expected). It wasn’t until several years after the EVIL Elementary debacle—four centuries after the discovery of the third key, and after an intensive search that lasted for millennia—that they finally located it, and moved it, quickly, to Evil School’s chapel, the one place where it would be safe (relatively) from the Powers.
The Powers want the keys as well. They could care less about unlocking them—that power is the antithesis to their being. They want to destroy them.
And so, the battle for the final key, and the heart of Dis, and the most ancient and unimaginable of dark powers, begins. And in the end, it will all come down to one boy who doesn’t understand what the hell he’s doing.
The First Key: Never figured this one out.
The Second Key: Never figured this one out.
The Third Key (Malebolge): The head of Acephalos, the headless demon of Egyptian and Greek legend. Placed in the Wayfarer’s Square beneath EVIL Elementary, unlocked by John during his time there.
The Fourth Key (Cocytus): Might be a single feather from Lucifer’s wings. This is the one that ends up at Evil School, and which John destroys at the end of The Origin.
Depending on where you’re standing, the forces of Good can often be just as hazardous for your health as the forces of Evil. Indeed, it would be difficult to classify the Powers That Be exclusively as good – it would be more accurate to say that they are the manifestations of cosmic order, the enforces of The Rules of the universe. Their realm, the Pleroma, is a region of pure light and reason, but it is not Heaven. The Powers didn’t create the universe, although they do play an important role in keeping it running. Obviously they take this role very seriously, which can make them just as humorless – and merciless – as their dark counterparts, the Management.
As noted above, the Powers usually exist in a single, corporate identity, but can occasionally separate into individual avatars for easier dealings with mortals. One such avatar is Sophia or “the Goddess,” whom John met in JohnWorld 3006 in the guise of Fi Phillips. She represents the cosmic wisdom of the Powers, and their more benevolent impulses. There’s also Demiurgos, who appears as a powerfully built, bearded man (very paternal) who crackles with cosmic energy. Demiurgos represents the Powers’ will and self-righteous sense of purpose as the ultimate voice of authority in the universe. As a separate entity, Demiurgos actually believes that he created the universe (although this is only a subconscious belief for the Powers as a corporate entity). Also, as noted above, there would have been several other avatars who I just never had the opportunity to make up.
In the hierarchy of the Pleroma there’s the Powers on top, followed immediately by Enoch, then the Archons (known collectively as the Host), and finally all spirits/celestial entities who have aligned themselves with the forces of Good. Then, way down on the totem pole, The Powers don’t allow much room for dissension, although they definitely don’t quash it as brutally as the Management would.
The Powers and Cinque
The Powers built Sadiss’ chains into the fabric of Cinque’s universe. If Sadiss is ever to be free, he needs to destroy that universe. So from time to time, he attempts to do that. And each time he does, the Powers choose a human guardian to oppose him. Cinque was one of those guardians, the fifth in fact. Sadiss and these guardians would clash and, in the end, the guardian would find a way to banish him from that universe, usually at the cost of their own life. It’s a stalemate, a cycle that’s been going on for millennia. The guardians are more tools than anything else, as Cinque partially learned to his dismay in JohnWorld 3006. If he’d been a shrewder, more suspicious person, he probably would have realized that throughout the Quest, Sadiss never had an actual evil plan that Cinque was supposed to be thwarting – the only thing he was supposed to thwart was Sadiss’ presence. The Powers can’t destroy Sadiss, so the most they can do is repeatedly deny him his freedom, keep him in check. However, while the Powers may not want to admit it, something different did happen on Cinque’s Quest – unlike his predecessors, he was able to banish Sadiss without dying. Of course, this might also mean that Sadiss isn’t totally banished from their universe either…
I occasionally think about Cinque and Sadiss having a final showdown, but I’m not sure how it would all play out, or how it would tie into the larger continuity of the 2013 RPG. I do like the idea that Cinque would find some way to compromise, to give Sadiss the freedom he desired while also preventing him from causing lots of death and destruction.
Enoch- The Blind Man. He was once a mortal – Enoch, son of Jared, and grandfather of Noah. Now he is the Metatron, an Archon, and the chief agent of the Pleroma. Sly, manipulative, and devoted to his mission to the point of being absolutely cold, he also has the potential to be very wise, honest, and noble (though, in many things, not honorable). Although it is not mentioned in any of the sacred writings, Enoch sacrificed both of his eyes for knowledge, which perhaps is why he among all mortals was chosen to enter the full, undiluted presence of the Powers That Be, and to speak their word. Enoch is one of the Archons who likes to get his hands dirty. He refers to the Fallen by their angelic names, as a taunt—for example, he refers to Mr. Satan as “Satanael,” and would have called Lucifer “Samael.” He’s essentially the Powers’ Secretary of Defense – he’s the chief commander of the Host, the final authority over all of the Archons. As the Metatron, he speaks with the Powers’ voice, and relays all of their commands (except in those rare cases where they give them themselves).
Seraphael- An Archon who is something of the Good Cop to Enoch’s Bad Cop. She is a recruiter and an administrator within the Pleroma. She is a bit of a softer touch than the other Archons (especially Enoch), but that’s largely because her job calls for it – when needed, she can be just as fierce and ruthless as her counterparts.
Philemon- A warrior Archon and a great general, Philemon is very wise. He spent some time as the spiritual guide of Carl Jung, to whom many of the great truths of Pleroma military doctrine were taught. Philemon is Enoch’s second-in-command in all matters of war, and certainly would have showed up in Destiny when the forces of Good are rallying against the Management.
Abraxas – The first Archon created, and still greatly revered by the Host (although he doesn’t rank as high as Enoch in the hierarchy).
Ithuriel- A member of the Host, this angel has a spear capable of exposing deceit. He is the Host’s primary interrogator and spy-hunter.
Morozko- A frost spirit who is bound to Enoch. He’s one of the many spirits that aligned themselves with the forces of Good (although it’s implied that Morozko was originally more of a free agent, and that Enoch hired him through the White Lodge, a kind of spiritual temp agency).
Gabe’s Angel – The angel from the So Weird episode “Angel,” he is another agent of the Powers. An actual angel, as opposed to an Archon, he (it?) is a spirit of benevolence and mercy. So Weird creator Jon Cooksey says that he would have eventually “shown Fi her destiny,” so he may have appeared in Destiny, and perhaps led Fi towards the more peaceful resolution to the Good/Evil conflict that she and John settle on together.
John’s destiny was locked in by a prophecy made by the legendary Sybil of Cumae. Here’s a little vignette I wrote about it back when I originally made these plans:
Once, a long time ago, the sibyl was wooed by the god Apollo. She promised to become his lover if he would, first, teach her the art of divination. Apollo fulfilled his half of the promise, but afterwards the Sibyl scorned him. Apollo, never one to take scorn lightly, thus cursed her to live as many years as there were sands on the shore (though some say he cursed her to simply live forever; and some say that there isn’t much of a difference between the two, anyway). And so she lived, growing old up to the point where her once-radiant beauty faded, and her head became bald and scabbed; but she never aged to the point where she couldn’t wander, or to the point where she couldn’t prophesize. She once helped a young boy named Aeneas enter the Underworld to speak with the shade of his father (but that is a tale better left to more capable hands), and reportedly brought several books of prophecy to the last Etruscan king of Rome, shortly before his downfall. For centuries she remained in her cave, where she wrote prophecies down on leaves, and then discarded them on the floor—prophecies, for the Sibyl, are a dime a dozen. She soon grew tired of hermitage, and began to wander the Earth (as her kind inevitably does). She told many prophecies, changed the course of many a battle and empire, and many a common life. In return she only asked one thing, which none were able to grant: death.
One day, several millennia ago, the Sibyl returned to her former home of Cumae, and came to Lake Avernus, a small, dead body of water that reeked of sulfur. With calm sense of purpose, and only the briefest of glances at her old cave on the shore, she waded into the lake and sank like a stone. She floated down to the very bottom of the lake, breathing easily, although no water entered her lungs. And when she arrived at the bottom, she found a tunnel, hazy in the fume-choked water. When she entered this tunnel she found herself, as she had expected, on dry land, and not even the least bit damp. She walked down the tunnel, which was dark and made of smooth, glassy stone, until she came to a vast cavern, its ceiling made of dripping stalactites and glowing a dim blue from the dark, thick river that ran through it. On the shore closest to her was a small, wooden dock, and moored there was a longboat, manned by a single, skeletal sailor.
“Oh,” said Charon, as she approached. “You again.”
“It certainly seems that way,” she answered. “I need conveyance.”
Once, in the past, Charon had argued with her, citing his oft-disobeyed directive to not bear the living into the land of the dead. He knew better this time.
“And where will the lady be going?” He asked.
Without a note of irony in his voice, Charon asked: “Which one?”
“The former Hell of Lucifer,” said the Sibyl. “Now, I am told, under new… management.”
Charon harrumphed. “Very well.”
And so the Sibyl boarded, and proceeded into the realm of death.
“Things have changed since last you visited,” Charon said. “I’m thinking of leaving this job, retiring to Everworld. If Lord Pluto will have me, of course.”
“Well, if that ends up being the case,” the Sibyl said, “say ‘Hi’ to Apollo for me. Let him know I’m still around. I’m sure that’ll brighten his day.”
Of what followed, few details are known. The Sibyl did arrive in Hell and she did, through one intermediary or another, have an audience with the Management. The asked her counsel on certain matters pertinent to their reign, and she answered, thoughtfully and truthfully. What they asked, and what she answered, are unknown, although the next day seven members of Hell’s Senate were seized and quickly executed without trial. But before giving her answer, the Sibyl had asked two questions of her own:
“Are capable of granting me death?”
“And if I give you what you want, will you grant it to me?”
When she had given her counsel, however, the Management refused to hold up their half of the bargain. It was not that they couldn’t, or so one would assume, simply that they knew how rare an accurate oracle was, and foresaw further use of her. The Sibyl, however, would not be scorned.
And so, it is said, that she made a prophecy: a prophecy about a chosen one, a Crusader, who would defeat the Management at the height of their power, and of how this would be achieved, through the revelation of the True Face of Evil. It was the prophecy that trapped the Management, that bound them to the track of destiny that they will ride until either they, or the forces that oppose them, are destroyed.
And as for the Sibyl, little else is known. Afterwards, she emerged from Lake Avernus, sopping wet and in a foul mood, and set off walking again, due north. For all I know, she is still walking, recovering the world with her wrinkled, blistered footsteps, detailing the future on tiny leaves, and dreaming of the day when, at last, she will walk no more.
Realizing that they were caught in a trap by this prophecy, the Management decided to play it to their advantage. They realized that it contained a rather large loop hole – the True Face of Evil had to be revealed and destroyed in order for Evil itself to be destroyed. If they simply made the True Face of Evil a separate, but related, entity, then the prophecy could be fulfilled without any risk to themselves. So they broke off a chunk of their dark soul and placed it in a mortal – John.
Now, something they missed is that the Sybil of Cumae reads destiny, she doesn’t create it. While it might appear that her making a prediction causes it to happen (and you could make a chicken-and-the-egg argument if you really wanted to), it’s more likely that when she made the prophecy, John’s destiny as it played out was already in place – meaning that the Management never really had a chance to change it.
What’s So Weird Have to Do With It?
Good question. Surprisingly enough, pretty much everything except the events of The Day of Reckoning and the way things actually play out in Destiny ARE canon. They all come from the original plans for So Weird’s third season, before Disney became too nervous about the show’s relative darkness and opted for a lighter, Annie-soaked season instead (plus, I remember hearing something about Cara DeLizia wanting to break out into other roles, which seems to be a bit premature, considering how So Weird was probably her biggest role). Fi’s destiny was always to be “the key to the battle between Good and Evil,” according to series co-creator and executive producer Jon Cooksey. Even terminology like “the True Face of Evil” and the Crusader came from his original plans.
Anyway, let’s get into the details. For So Weird neophytes, here’s the basic deal: Fiona “Fi” Phillips is a teenage girl with a near-obsessive interest in the paranormal who travels the country with her rock star mom investigating weird stuff. Her father, Rick, died when she was a baby. Over the course of the series, we learn that he was also interested in the paranormal and, indeed, was actually murdered by the forces of Evil (they yanked his soul from his body before it was his time). In response to a fan asking what it was that prompted Evil to kill Rick, Cooksey responded (in a So Weird FAQ that he made for nerdy fans like myself):
In "Nightmare", Rick takes the keys and leaves -- we hear later in the episode where the Wisp returns (“Destiny”) that Rick didn't die in the crash; his spirit was yanked from his body, and THEN the car crashed. So where was he going, and what would he have found there? I never came up with that, specifically, but it was something that would have revealed the true face of Evil in the universe, and that would have allowed Rick to tip the balance for Good. But it was all predestined; Molly – the latest in a long line of witches that included Fi (in a small way – usually just a sixth sense that we showed occasionally, as when she sensed Rebecca's appearance before looking around) -- was always destined to meet Rick, the crusader, and have Fi, the child who would be the key to the battle between Good and Evil.
Most of the other details come from these answers as well – the whole thing about Fi meeting an alien and getting Tad Raxall to turn her laptop into a Universal Gateway that uses the fourth dimension as a high-powered Internet, Jack being the reincarnation of a knight, Bricriu betraying Evil and helping Fi, and Fi descending into Hell and pulling her father’s soul back to the world of the living (where he would receive a new body from “the powers that be” – which is where I got that term for Cinque, by the way – since his old one was decomposed). The idea of the lyrics of “In the Darkness” being a premonition of what Fi would literally have to go through (ghosts and demons) on her journey through Hell was also part of the original plan. Slightly less connected, but still relevant, is the fact that the cover of PKB’s first album, “Destiny” (never seen on the show) featured Molly and Rick’s hands wearing their O’Shannon rings. This inspired the scene of Molly and Fi (who now wears Rick’s ring) joining hands to free Rick from Hell.
I really wish I could get into more detail about all of this, but that would be waaaaaaaaaay too much information. The final point I should make, I guess, is that John’s love of So Weird, and Fi, was all part of destiny as well – something that would make him care about her enough to never be able to really see her as an enemy, making the end of the story possible.
On the show – and in the J LoD sagas – destiny is a tricky thing. It’s not totally fixed, but it’s not easily changed either (was Rick’s destiny passed on to Fi after his murder, or was she always destined to be the real Crusader?). In the end, destiny is something of a mystery. It’s greater than the people involved, beyond their understanding, but also intimately tied up in their lives. Both the Management and the Powers That Be think that they have some control over it, but it transcends even their grasp. Just because John was destined to play a role in their story, it doesn’t mean his story ends once the prophecy is fulfilled. Destiny’s bigger than that. Destiny goes on.