Rachel in Infinity City: Part 23

Then Red Lightning took to the air, flying out to the street where Günther inspected the living and the dead.

Grandpa stood in the street, staring down at the asphalt.

I turned away from watching him, and back toward Ghostgirl. She’d been watching him too, but turned her head back toward me.

“That was weird,” I said.

She turned to look behind herself again, looking out of the alley and toward the street. When she turned back to look at me, she said, “Weirder than you think. We don’t exist in their universe. A supervillain attacked Mom, and she lost the baby.”

“Wow.” I thought about how that might have changed things. Grandpa would have felt guilty about not being there to protect her. Mom and Dad would have felt horrible. Nick might have been their first, possibly only, child.

Ghostgirl nodded. “And that’s still not all. Nick died, but from what I’ve heard them say, I don’t think he was our Nick—he was similar, but not exact.”

I almost said something, but she didn’t give me the chance.

“We’re still not up to the weird part. They’re different because Grandpa went through Infinity City, and discovered a reality where Red Lightning went nuts. So he came home, detoxed Red Lightning from power juice, and when he was completely clean, ran him through their version of the power impregnator. They call it ‘the energizer.’”

I thought about it. “That’s better, but only barely.”

Ghostgirl shrugged. “I know, but we’re still not to the really weird part.”

I sighed. “Get it over with.”

“Grandpa and Giles discovered the key to human immortality. That’s why they look so young. They’re growing younger.”

It was my turn to sneak a peek outside the alley. “That’s bizarre. A world where Red Lightning never went crazy means there’s no me or even a version of Nick. And by the way, human immortality? How do you know all this?”

She said, “I work with them sometimes. That’s all.” She nodded toward where Julie lay. “Like with her. That’s our Julie. She went wrong and escaped into Infinity City maybe a year ago.”

Julie didn’t move, and her eyes were still shut. Her suit coat had been left back at the building, and she still wore the shirt I’d ripped the sleeves off.

I looked up from where she lay, and said, “How did she get this bad? In my universe she was irritating, but, I talked to her a few times over the summer on movie nights, and she seemed close to human.”

Ghostgirl stared at me. “Movie nights? She’s been in HQ? She knows your real names?”

“There wasn’t much of a choice. After Nick blew up the old storefront, it was either bring them into HQ and let them help, or completely erase their memories and lock them up somewhere.”

Ghostgirl said, “We erased their memories and locked them up until after we fought the Cabal. You invited them into the League?”

“No,” I said, and even to my ears I sounded exasperated. “Not really, but we brought some of them in for movie nights during the summer. In our world, Julie ended up in Stapledon. Not yours?”

“No. They were too much of a risk. Are they all in Stapledon?”

I shrugged. “Except for the ones that were too young.”

She didn’t seem to know what to say. Then she sighed, and found something. “Maybe we should have brought them in. Maybe it would have been better. It’s too late now, but we could have.”

Neither of us said anything, and I took advantage of the silence to check on Travis, Tara, Rod, and Samita.

They were all still doing convincing statue impersonations.

I hoped they started moving soon. I wanted to leave. I needed to make sure Nick would call me if anything came up with regards to St. Louis—or if anything major came up at all. We’d diverged from Ghostgirl’s reality months ago. Whoever planned the attack might have adjusted it.

It was too much to hope they’d abandoned it entirely.

Ghostgirl floated closer to me, talking more quietly. “Did I get one of your calls? It was from Mom. About having Mary over for Christmas?”

I laughed. “No. Mary and I broke up ages ago.”

Ghostgirl smiled. “Good.”

Then she stopped smiling. “Did you ever tell Mom about…”

“Being bi? No. Have you?”

She shook her head, and that was a little disappointing because she was three years ahead of me. I would have hoped I’d have told Mom by then.

Maybe some of that showed on my face because she said, “It never seemed like a good time. You know she’ll freak out. I was about to say something, but then Nick died, and after that I didn’t feel like I could drop it on her.”

I was hardly in a position to judge. So I said, “I’m sure you’ll choose the right time.”

I paused for a second, and then said, “Anyway, do you know how to get us home?”

She didn’t answer at first. Maybe she wanted to talk more about handling Mom? I don’t know. She only said, “Sure, your League phone should be able to guide you back.”

I pulled it out of my pocket. “Show me how?”

Two hours later, we left the city. The fortune cookie had said, “You are your own best help.” Knowing a little bit of what might lie ahead of me, I wondered if that would be enough.

21 thoughts on “Rachel in Infinity City: Part 23”

  1. Something didn’t track here:

    “Grandpa stood in the street, staring down the street.”

    and ” I needed to make sure would call me if anything came up with regards to St. Louis” — who would call?

    Other than that, I’m sorry to see this arc wrapping up just as it was getting really really interesting (instead of just interesting). Alternate dimensions are always so intriguing.

  2. Typo Report:

    I looked up from {her?}, and said, “How did she get this bad? In my universe she was irritating, but, I talked to her a few times over the summer on movie nights, and she seemed close to human.”

    I hoped they started moving soon. I wanted to leave. I needed to make sure he {Nick?} would call me if anything came up with regards to St. Louis—or if anything major came up at all.

    Also, great chapter. WhatIfs are always so much fun. ^_^

  3. Luke/Gavin: Thanks for the typos.

    Luke/Rain/Gavin: Thanks. Alternate universe stuff is fun. I’d like to do more of it. If I do, it’ll probably be in a side story, but who knows? I can imagine situations where alternates could play a role in the main storyline.

    Everyone: Incidentally, the next story is an original League story–kind of. It’s really more of a Larry/The Rhino story, but the original League appears.

  4. All those dimensions. Makes me think of the Crossoverlord. Fun stuff. Might be neat if there was a literary version as long as no one trusted me with their characters.

  5. So, is it official that the combination of juice and the Power Impregnator caused Red Lightning’s insanity? I thought there was some doubt about that (or, that was the impression I got during my last archive trawl; now I can’t remember the specifics).

    1. An avid reader: No. Red Lightning started to become odd prior to going through the power impregnator. From research Lucas did (back during the arc with the Cabal and Justice Fist), it appeared that having power juice in your system while using the power impregnator would not be a good thing.

      PG: I haven’t read Crossoverlord, but it did look interesting.

    1. Larry (and C and Daniel’s grandfather) came into existence as a secondary character(s) in a superhero rpg I ran. I wanted to get more use out of him. I feel like I still haven’t done enough with him.

  6. So maybe it’s the long-term juicing that causes insanity (or primes it somehow, making the impregnator use that much worse)? Or is the alternate immortal Red Lightning’s case not applicable on how this stuff works in the reality we usually follow?
    Because, yeah, I remember being a little disappointed that the explanation seemed to be “Giles Hardwick was destined to go insane, sorry” and not “Oh the tragedy! The very thing Hardwick used to fight crime turned him into a crazed supervillain”.

    But more to the point, there’s a large number of juicers whose fabulous powers just became illegal to maintain and who are being recruited by a nefarious gang with an impregnator (ok, MED is much better)… this seems like a recipe for a bunch of insane new supervillains. Couldn’t the League maybe release a statement about how Juice and MEDs don’t mix?

  7. An avid reader: Honestly? Since this isn’t really something that will be a spoiler, and it’s something that is basically one of those little mysteries that I’d never really planned to explain… Well… Here’s the explanation (don’t tell anybody, okay?).

    In my mind, Red Lightning was particularly vulnerable to something about power juice (assuming long term use), and that was what changed him. The fact that he had power juice in his system when he went through the power impregnator made it worse than it might have been.

    Red Lightning probably isn’t alone in being vulnerable in one way or another to long term use, and there might be people vulnerable to short term use…

    With regards to the League making a PSA about that… Well, they’ve told Isaac Lim and the government, and Justice Fist (through Lucas)–the only groups they knew were using both power juice and power impregnators.

    If the issue comes up again (it might), I’m sure they’ll have to do something. Can’t say what right now though.

  8. Like how some domestic cats carry a parasite that can cause miscarriages in pregnant women and cause schizophrenia in predisposed women.

  9. PG: Right. If I were to put it as profs I had did in classes about research methods, “power juice is necessary to warp someone’s brain, but not sufficient.”

    In other words, power juice can really damage how you think in addition to giving you powers, but some sort of vulnerability needs to exist within you.

    A question worth asking: Are there people similarly affected by the power impregnator itself?

  10. Add to that the well known question about just how much power corrupts people in general just to muddy the waters.

    Studies do show a difference in behavior in people based on if they perceive themselves to have power over someone else or someone else having power or authority over them.

    There was also an interesting one lately where playing a VR simulation where you fly superman style and rescue someone makes you more likely to help people a short time afterwards compared to a VR simulation of riding in a chopper to sightsee through the city.

    It’s like with fetishes. You never know what you’re susceptible to sometimes until you wander across it.

  11. Cool. Thanks, Jim! I wasn’t trying to imply you were doing a bad job conveying the information; I actually enjoyed the ambiguity you had written in, and the characters trying to piece together what happened from various clues (alternate reality clues count, clearly!) I was trying to work through what such a major piece of evidence an actual cure/avoidance of Red Lightning’s insanity would mean, both to the readers, and to the characters who might not have all the facts…. I’m still processing this whole “getting answers directly from the author” thing.

  12. Jim, in this specific case I think that the answers were a good thing. Usually, though, I found the hard way that giving to many answers to readers is very bad.

    Now, changing the subject, imagine if in all this multiverse stuff some of your characters fall into the wormverse … no, better if they return home as soon as possible. Some universes are too dangerous to explore.

  13. That would be bad–though to be honest, I’ve sometimes thought a crossover with Worm would be fun. It would have to be brief though, and well-timed.

  14. Funny how the automatic assumption is that it’d be a tragic, bad thing if a character made the trip.

    Reminds me of a snippet of fanfiction I saw (A plot bunny? That is, a story idea that was never actually employed?) – the Justice League visiting the setting around the time the S9 were in town. The Joker meets up with J.S.

    I want to read that fanfic.

    1. I’m guessing people are making assumptions based on what happens to many of the characters that actually inhabit the Wormverse…

      As for the fanfic–that’s something I’d be curious to see too.

  15. I immediately thank you for restoring my squee! (It makes me wonder if their mom ever got hold of the right Rachel. o.o ) Also, nice double meaning in the fortune cookie there, though it does feel a wee bit strained in being brought back up only at the end. I do think you made the right call in the explanation here, by the way, seeing as you said it wasn’t something that was planned to be explained anyway.

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