Adventures in Revisionism, Uncategorized

Adventures in Revisionism: The Leap Home

As Sam regained consciousness, he was pleased to be greeted by silence. No one yelling at him with urgency, no plane in need of a pilot. He only felt comforting solid ground under his feet and a lack of urgency in his surroundings.

Then recognition abruptly overwhelmed his senses. Here and there was clutter with computer and laboratory equipment that appeared neglected and unused. Also he was surrounded by an intangible emptiness that seemed new to the place, but Sam realized he was finally back in Stallion’s Gate, New Mexico, back in the Waiting Room of Project Quantum Leap.

Instinctively Sam pumped a fist. “We did it, Al! We finally did it!”

No one replied. Only the echo of his own voice returned his exuberance.

Sam always imagined, the day he finally returned to 1999 in his own flesh, that someone would be there to welcome him. Preferably Donna, of course, but at least Al or Gooshie or Tina. Even the scent of Gooshie’s horrific olive-and-garlic scented breath would have been like a warm hug from his most cherished loved one.

“Al?” he called aloud. “Anyone?” The silence finally killed his joy. Then another thought came, unbidden, unwanted. Why was it so dark? There was a bluish-white light, but it was only minimal, as if the entire base was running on emergency back-up power.

Sam searched the control room until he found a working laptop, almost hidden under several disused hard drives. Did Project Quantum Leap lose its funding after all, he wondered, as he booted up the computer? The thought that the project he had worked so hard on would be discarded like some old state prison or hospital replaced his fear with welcome anger, but only for a moment.

The laptop was sleek like all equipment designed specifically for Project Quantum Leap, but it was so thin. Had he been gone so long that computer technology had already changed to allow for smaller computers? He had always assumed he would reappear one moment after he left in 1999, but perhaps time was not so relative after all. Perhaps now it was 2005 or 2006. He had long stopped trying to keep track of how much time had passed since his first leap.

Donna. Had she given up? Moved on?

Maybe she ended up with Gooshie, his mind suddenly suggested. Sam giggled aloud at that and mumbled, “Oh boy.”

As the laptop booted up, Sam cursed himself for his childish optimism. If it was even just a few months after he first leaped, the security protocols would have already been changed at least three times over. Still, he found himself unbarred by any kind of login screen or password prompt.

Instead of relief, he felt only a sinking trepidation. When he did finally see that the laptop’s internal clock read February 15, 2019, Sam screamed.

“Al?!” he shouted, picking up the laptop and rushing back into the heart of Waiting Room. “Ziggy?! Please! Someone has to be here!”

Suddenly, a bright light appeared in the central chamber. It did not glow blue, the energy signature of Ziggy, but a dark red. “I am here,” a voice with a grave English accent said, its voice nowhere yet everywhere. Sam realized it was speaking directly into his brain.

Sam almost stumbled where he stood “You…you’re the computer that sent Alia and Zoey.”

“You will not believe me for some time, if ever,” the voice continued, heedless of Sam’s words. “But I am genuinely sorry for your distress. However, I had calculated that it would be better if you had discovered the truth, or at least part of the truth, on your own.”

Gradually Sam realized a tall man with a craggy face and small dark eyes stood behind him. “Hello, Lothos,” he said with resignation.

“I am genuinely pleased to see you in the flesh, so to speak,” Lothos said, smiling like he was greeting a friend he had not seen in some time. “I’ve taken this form in order to present the impression of an authority figure, based on your cultural frame of reference and your presumed subconscious biases suggested by factors such as your educational background, race, and sexual and gender identities.” Suddenly Lothos paused, as if considering something. Then he continued. “I apologize. My creators had little time to properly…ah, socialize my interface. I’m sure you understand, given your own experiences as one of Ziggy’s creators.”

Sam found that he could not speak, much less formulate a plan for action. Nothing about this situation had been predictable. For one thing, he expected Zoey or someone else to come at him with a gun at any minute. But there was only more silence and Lothos standing at a safe distance, acting as if he was expecting Sam to say something specific.

Finally it was Lothos who broke the silence. “I strongly advise you to look at your reflection.”

Despite himself, Sam did as he was told, but he could barely make out his face in the laptop screen. “You have exchanged the places with Dr. Thames,” Lothos explained without any prompting. Sam did not recognize the face, but he knew that name. Thames was the holographic guide to Zoey, one of the leapers dedicated to undoing all of Sam’s benevolent work across the twentieth century.

It was then that Sam realized that in his excitement and confusion and terror he never noticed that he wasn’t wearing the experimental suit he wore for his first leap, but a lab coat. “So, what, since Zoey failed, did you bring me here to kill me?”

Perhaps it was his imagination, but Lothos seemed a little taken aback by the bitterness in Sam’s words, even offended. “Please forgive me for your unpleasant encounters with Zoey,” he said with an odd sincerity. “She was…zealous. But then, most volunteers from my present are.”

“Oh come on,” Sam said, recklessly slamming the laptop onto the nearest surface. “I’ve seen how your leapers operate. Your organization or…or whatever this all is…is…well, only the word evil fits!”

At that, Lothos laughed. It was a restrained, polite laughter, but Sam found it enraging nonetheless.

Sam swallowed down the urge to take a swing at the figure, even if he may have found comforting satisfaction in such a melodramatic gesture. Instead he was content with trying to stare down Lothos’ holographic eyes, which were weighing him cautiously. “At least tell me what you’ve done to Ziggy.”

“Done? Nothing. In the present time, Ziggy was deactivated and decommissioned by order of Executive Director Doctor Donna Eleese and Associate Director Rear Admiral Al Calavicci on November 4, 2008.”

“That doesn’t make sense. You’re Ziggy’s rival…”

“If I may correct you, I was never Ziggy’s rival, but its replacement.”

“Her.”

“Pardon?”

Her.

“If you insist. I myself prefer not to take a gendered identity, except when I find it necessary to project an interface, of course. The human custom of gendering what is by definition genderless has always…”

“Explain,” Sam interrupted. “Just…explain.” In his mind, Sam only went over the various motives for such a theatrical deception, but could find none that truly worked.

“Ziggy was unfortunately programmed with a very sentimental and – pardon me for saying so – very human understanding of morality. Your actions in the past admirably accomplished good, but often only in the short term, and on occasion the short-term good you achieved prevented greater long-term good, if not precipitated long-term harm, what you might term ‘evil’.”

Sam felt his heart threatening the sink, but he rallied against the sensation. “How is that?”

“For example, your third encounter with whom you and the holographic interface modeled after Rear Admiral Al Calavicci termed the ‘evil leapers.’ The prisoner Liz Tate had been falsely implicated in the murder of an inmate, that is true. It is also true that it would have taken another twelve years before new developments in forensics would have cleared her of…”

“And…?”

Lothos continued with a hint of annoyance at the interruption. “And her extended time and her additional experience of corruption and injustice in prison would have turned her into a tireless and decisive advocate for prison reform. So decisive, in fact, that she would have all but single-handedly prevented the spread of the state privatization of prisons and founded a new national crusade against heavily punitive policies leading to prison overcrowding. After your intervention, her political contributions extend no further than being a reliable and passionate voter in federal, state, and even local elections.”

Al, Al, where are you I need you I need you to tell me that he’s lying that this is all some evil plot, Sam pleaded in his mind.

“Perhaps another example would help,” Lothos continued, indifferent to Sam’s inner turmoil, if it was even capable of sensing or predicting it. “There is the marriage of Connie and Frank…in the timeline before your intervention, Connie would have married another man and their child would have become one of the greatest novelists and screenwriters in American history. Now that writer and his work never existed.”

Finally Sam could no longer stand it. He flung the laptop at Lothos, who did not even flinch as the metal passed through the hologram’s midsection. “You’re lying! Al told me you were…you were like the Devil!”

“The Devil?” the holographic man sounded genuinely amused at the suggestion. Sam wondered if that too was just an affectation for his benefit. “An odd thing to hear from the most brilliant scientist of the turn of the century. But perhaps I am, from a certain understandable point of view.”

Lothos smiled again, this time in an unsettling show of pride, not unlike Ziggy and her displays of ego. “However, after my creators realized the flaws with Ziggy and the initial Quantum Leap Project, they envisioned something quite different. The name they gave me was meant to invoke Logos. The divine Word that commands fate itself. My purpose would be to view time, cause and effect, not as a human would, but like…”

“…God.”

“Something to that effect, yes.”

Lothos paused for a long time, while Sam rested himself against a desk. Then Lothos asked with curious sincerity. “Do you bear me ill will?”

“I…I honestly don’t know anymore.”

“I did try to remove you from the timestream humanely first. It was our first encounter, although from your time-displaced perspective I suppose you had already encountered my volunteers. In one guise, I offered you a chance to return to 1999. That was within my power, if only for a limited period. But I honestly had calculated that it was highly unlikely that you would choose to remain in service of Ziggy.”

“Why…why couldn’t you just pluck me out of the timestream, if I was helping screw things up?” Now that he had vocalized the words, Sam felt nausea radiate from the core of his being.

“I’m sure you understand, I was still operating against my…predecessor, who was acting in another era that was only several years before my time but may as well have been a million years away,” Lothos explained. “I could only intervene as much as I did because your actions and those of the other leapers Ziggy had recruited had so radically altered the timeline you had known. Surely you had noticed that the limitations imposed on the Quantum Leap technology were eroding when you leaped long before your birth, during the American Civil War?”

Sam nodded. “I…I had wondered about that. But what did Ziggy…what did I do that had changed things so much?”

Lothos paused again. Was the machine experiencing reluctance, Sam wondered? Whatever the motive, the pause was brief. “There was a young man named Mike Hammond who in the unchanged timeline would have died in a car accident. His death and its circumstances would have triggered a chain of events within his own family that would have inspired his very young niece to enter politics. This niece’s participation in American politics would have been enough to prevent the political rise, much less the victory, of a presidential candidate in 2016, who has to date caused World War III to break out because the United States refused to prevent a Russian invasion of the Baltic, who has created a constitutional crisis that threatens to again tear the United States apart, who continues to…”

“Enough,” Sam said at a whisper, but it was enough to still Lothos.

Sam lowered his head. It felt as if thirty minutes had passed before Sam finally turned back to Lothos to ask what happened to the Quantum Leap Project.

“With the support of important officials within the military and the project itself, the entire staff and the directors decided in 2016 to hide the existence of Project Quantum Leap from the then oncoming President. Executive Director Doctor Donna Eleese fled the country…”

“And Al? What about Gooshie?”

“They chose to stay. Both terminated their lives rather than risk revealing the location of this facility and of me to the present government.”

Sam wanted to weep. However, his awareness of Lothos stilled him somehow. Deep inside, he still thought of Lothos as the enemy. “And the rest…?” Sam choked out, before changing his mind. “No. No, don’t tell me.”

“Just…” Sam wondered aloud. “What do I do now?” He realized he almost addressed that question to Al, and nearly burst into tears again.

There was no possible answer Lothos could have offered that would have been more disheartening. “I don’t know.”

“What can you tell me?” Sam choked out. Sensing Lothos’ reluctance, Sam shouted, “What is it?!”

After a heavy second, Lothos said, “According to Project Quantum Leap’s own records, Doctor Sam Beckett never returned home.”

(Inspired in part by the Quantum Leap-based musings of Allison Pregler.)

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Adventures in Revisionism

Adventures in Revisionism: The Wizard in the Woods

The wizard hadn’t always lived in the woods, just as he wasn’t always dressed in ancient clothes clumsily patched together and smelled of swamp water and pine needles. Once he had lived in the capital, where the use of his powers was well-paid for by courtiers and knights.  It is true that by the wizard’s time people said that even the wisest of scholars had forgotten much lore over the centuries, while others claimed that magic itself wasn’t as powerful as it had been in the old days. Yet the wizard could still fill the sky with lights, and create little humunculi who could perform basic chores for their masters, and brew potions that could make people fall in love or turn flesh into stone. Although in the wizard’s lifetime many were growing to dislike magic, seeing it as frivolous or dangerous or both, he was still in his time wealthy and respected and even loved.

The wizard was never handsome, even in the days when he had his pick of the finest robes and the most exotic colognes, but nonetheless the daughter of a nobleman fell in love with him. At first she had only liked him for his tricks, after he had made her wooden doll into one of porcelain, but he was kind to her, unlike the boys and girls who only teased her and her family who wished to shut her away in a nunnery because she was a little mad.  However the wizard was the first one to ever understand her—for all wizards, by necessity, are a little mad too—and the day came when he married her and took her to live in his chateau by the river and within view of the royal castle. Then one day he bought his wife a kitten, and from that day the two never knew such joy before or since. After years of happiness, the old king died, and his brother came to the throne as King Dupuis XI.  This new king had been raised around knights and merchants, and like many in the kingdom he disdained poets and scholars and magicians. The royal coffers would no longer be open to those the king called useless scribblers.  As for magicians, he decreed that they would be driven out of the capital and even the tiniest hamlets in the kingdom. Without recourse or appeal, the wizard and his wife and their cat no longer had a home, for the family of the wizard’s wife had disowned her the very day after they had wed.

The wizard, his wife, and their cat went into a clearing in the forest where the wizard used his magic to build a little hut, for that was the most he could do since he had lost all his tools and all of his books save one on the awful day the soldiers came to banish him. There in the forest his clients were no longer great warriors and nobles, but poor farmers and petty artisans seeking trinkets and charms. Still, he tried the most he could to make the days as good as they once were, but as the years of hard labor and freezing winters and endless wandering the forest for food and herbs wore down on them the wife became, little by little, more mad. One harsh winter morning, when the ice was thick on the ground and the wind chilled the entire hut, she brought the wizard a cake, and said it had been left for her on the windowsill by strange little blue men with bobbed tails. The wizard said little, but pondered his wife’s state of mind. From then on, every once in a while his wife would return with presents she said were given to her by the blue men: more cakes and other sweets, or a few silver coins, or small items of clothing like gloves and ribbons. The blue men made her happier than the wizard had seen her since before their banishment. Not only was she delighted by their apparent gifts, she told him, but they lived in a paradise. Everyone had their place, their function, even the dreamers and artists. No one was considered frivolous, none were driven out into the cold and the dark like they had been.

The wizard wondered if perhaps the blue men may have been real, for even in those more mundane days there were still many strange and unknown things in the wilderness, but he was afraid to inquire too deeply into the topic, for he did not wish to know the depths of his wife’s madness. Then one day, when she had left at dawn to try to find truffles to sell in the nearby village, she did not return by twilight. The wizard feared the worst. Not only could the blue men or some other creature in the wilderness have taken her, but the reign of King Dupuis XI had seen the few prosper while the multitude struggled, and thus the brigands and cruel mercenaries multiplied. The wizard searched all through the forest, even in the dark and untamed places that no human had traversed in living memory, but to no avail. Even the spells from his one grimoire had become useless in his quest, except that he found a few pages that claimed that beings not of mundane flesh like the blue men could serve as the living philosopher’s stone.

Less than a year after his wife had disappeared, he too began to see the blue men. At first it was only glimpses at the corner of his eye, or a flash of movement at the window, or his cat hissing under the door for no obvious cause. But then as he walked the forest he could hear them singing in the distance or see little bridges they had built over creeks. At first he feared he had only succumbed to his lost wife’s madness, but he began to ponder. If the blue men were real, then they had taken his wife, or at least knew where she was. And if they did not know, he could use the formulae in his tome to turn them into gold, and with his wealth he could perhaps have the means to rescue her from whoever had taken her. So began his search for the blue men, a quest that the wizard in the woods undertook all the rest of his days. If he ever wondered if he was only chasing after a delusion, perhaps he realized that for him the distinction no longer mattered.

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Adventures in Revisionism

Adventures in Revisionism: Full House of Horror

Danny laughed as Michelle snuggled herself into her three layers of blankets.  “But I don’t think Old Peppermill would mind living in our basement.”

“Well, that may be so, but I don’t think a horse can be comfortable down there,” Danny said as he turned off the light.  “But why don’t we go visiting at the stable after school Friday?”

“You got it, dude,” Michelle chirped.  With that, they said their good nights.

Once the door was closed, Danny sighed as he saw Jesse standing in the hallway, looking rather grim. “Can we talk?”

Danny nodded. “I think so.  D.J. is on a date with Steve and Stephanie is holed up in her room working on a paper.”

“Joey?” Jesse asked. “You always forget about Joey.”

“Somewhere,” Danny said with a disgust that was repressed but far from hidden.

Jesse walked with Danny to the kitchen, where on the table Jesse had left behind an inconspicuous, small, red notebook, its pages filled with quotes meticulously taken from Michelle and the twins. “Becky’s out with friends and I just put the twins to bed,” Jesse said.  With that, he began to absent-mindedly flip through the notebook. “The twins talk like Michelle did;  still does. They don’t sound like kids their age at all.  And Michelle hasn’t really…changed.”

Danny nodded. “It must be because Michelle and the twins were infants when…it happened.”

“It”,  Jesse laughed in spite of himself. “It always kills me when you just call it…well, it.”

Instinctively Danny looked toward the basement. “Yeah.  After all these years, I still can’t…can’t think of the words.”

After a cold silence, Jesse blurted out,  “Why did it bring back Joey but not Pam?”

“We’ve been over…”

“It even created a clone or something of…of that girl who bullied you in high school.” That always surprised Danny, that the thing had both the power and the will to bring Kimmy Gibler into his life, as a distorted reincarnation of her teenage self, completely unbidden. The girl had made his sophomore year of high school hell, and now she lived somewhere in Wyoming as a chiropractic’s secretary.  Yet here she was, only now it was she who was the butt of everyone’s jokes.  “But not Pam.”

“Jesse, don’t…”

“For God’s sake, you asked it to bring back the guy who was fucking your wife but not Pam!”

“You’re talking about your sister!”  Danny hissed.

Jesse shook his head. “You’re right.  I’m sorry.  I just can’t let it go…”

Danny put a brotherly hand on Jesse’s shoulder. “It’s okay.  I still understand why you have to keep asking.  I don’t understand why it didn’t bring back Pam either.”

Jesse reached out and hugged Danny. “Thanks, man.  I’m just…”  Jesse paused.  “Never mind.”

“No, what?”

“Sometimes I wonder…” Jesse said, each syllable coming despite his obvious reluctance.  Shaking his head,  Jesse left for his and Becky’s room.

While he entered the basement and moved the boxes blocking the door that he told his children just led to a disused closet, Danny reflected bitterly on how much he loved Jesse like a brother and as a result how much he despised having to lie to him.   No, it was necessary.  Their situation was bad enough.  It was better that the burden should be his alone, wasn’t it?

As always, as soon as the door began to creak open the noises began.  It was primal in a way that seemed to be out of tune anywhere outside the imagination, the way it tickled Danny’s lizard brain and clawed at his nerves.  “….ttttlkkkklllkkkk…”  it went, the noise becoming louder.

As always the dimensions of the room felt wrong, as if he had just stepped into the atmosphere of an alien planet even though the room was certainly in San Francisco, California, United States, North America, Earth and was as always small and empty, save for what at a glance appeared to be a cloud and some lights at the left side of the room.  “…ttttllllkkllllkklll…” it continued to hum.  Danny knew from the beginning that it was intelligent, but he suspected that when it tried to communicate with him it was like any human communicating with an ant.

Looking at it for more than a couple of minues gave Danny migraines, but when he could resist the overwhelming instinct to look away he saw a dark mass, looking like neither flesh nor a cloud, whose full height and width did not seem to stay constant from second to second. That day he pieced together a description of the Fifth Ceremony of Carcosa and conjured it into this room, he thought he had made a terrible mistake. Then they returned, as if that accident with the drunk driver and everyone in Joey’s van never happened.  Indeed, Danny looked, but he could find no newspaper articles or obituaries describing the accident as it originally happened, even though the memories of receiving that phone call from the police was still emblazoned on his memory.  For Jesse it took longer for Becky and the twins to come back, but it did happen.

Suddenly the noise stopped, and a voice coming from a human adult yet sounding in some sense to be the voice of a broken, lonely child rose from the cloud. “Danny? You’ve come back?”

The third week that it was there he found Pam inside of it, but she did not speak and only peered at Danny with empty eyes. Then eight months later, it spoke with at most two-syllable words. Now he could almost have conversations with Pam, just barely.

“Yes,” Danny said, as if he had just returned from a routine trip to the grocery store.  “How are you, Pam?”

“Danny?  I think there was an accident.  The noise…”

“Don’t think about it, hon.  It was only a nightmare.”

“Oh.  I think I can see it now,” she said. The voice was different too, more casual, more even.  He could almost believe that the worst day of his life by far never happened, that the idea of Pam being gone for good never had to even cross his mind.

Danny approached the cloud, even though something deep inside screamed for him not to take a single step, and took Pam’s hand in his own.  It was warm.  The first two years Pam’s body was cold and he couldn’t feel any blood pump through her.  The thought surfaced unwanted:  It’s learning.

“I just came to say good night,”  Danny said, jerking away from Pam’s touch with more violence than he intended.  “Are…are you comfortable?”

“I feel very good.  I just want to see you more often,”  she said gently.

Danny smiled.  “I know.  Good night, hon.”

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Adventures in Revisionism

The She-Wolf Returns: Ilsa vs. Captain America: Prologue

(Just an idea I had, which may or may not lead to anything…)  

When Michael had to leave his tiny Alabama town to join the Army in Europe, he dreaded many things. Looking up into the eyes of a coldly enraged Captain America was not one of them.

“Sir, I…”

“Where is she, soldier?”

“She’s dead, Captain!” Michael exclaimed with absolute certainty. “Captain Cheetham saw it himself. Somebody tied her to a bed and shot her.”

Captain America turned away from the young soldier before him and around the ruins of what had been Medical Camp 9, the subject of so many morbid legends whispered among the Allied leaders and the rank-and-file alike. Once Winston Churchill told him with solemn authority that the Führer refused to receive any reports about its experiments, and even a grade-A Doctor Frankenstein like Arnim Zola would not set one foot near the place. The stories about the camp’s mistress, Ilsa, were the stuff of whispers that would make even a Nazi squirm…

When he learned that he had been chosen to receive the super-soldier serum and before anyone had even thought of the alias ‘Captain America,’ Steve had told himself that he would not let the casual cruelty of war erode his principles. He would not laugh over the corpses of his enemies, as he had seen even good men do, or punish the defenseless for the sins of their leaders, no matter how staggering they might be. Since his time on the battlefields of Europe, he had encountered a handful of people – still far too many – who had tested his resolve. At the top of that list was that woman only known, even in Germany’s highest and most secret military communications, as ‘Ilsa.’

Once upon a time, he thought she could have been redeemed. It might as well have been ten thousand years ago, and since then he wondered if his compassion came from his heart or from his genitals. He still remembered how they first met at Strasbourg, the cold metal pressed against the back of her skull, her flat voice declaring that she would find the secrets of the super-soldier serum even if she had to cut him open. Yes, she looked like a Valkyrie incarnate, with breasts Mae West would envy, but buried not far under that cold and imperious look that never completely retreated from her face was a need to yield to a good man – or so it seemed. Then he saw her “experiments,” which had nothing to do with science or Nazi ideology but with craving the worst kind of power, and most disgusting of all by far was what she had done to Bucky, just to mock him…

“I have to see,” Captain America said, more to himself than to Michael. “Where is Cheetham?”

“This way,” Michael said. The young soldier escorted him through a maze of scorched buildings and twisted corpses. The ones that did not belong to German soldiers were nearly all the remains of very attractive young women and men, a sure sign of Ilsa’s “tastes.” Despite all his morals, for a nanosecond Captain America damned himself for not killing Ilsa when he had a chance.

Captain Peter Cheetham was in one of the doctors’ offices, examining the few remaining scraps of official documents that the Nazis had neglected to destroy. As soon as Captain America stepped through the threshold, Cheetham, without hesitation, turned and saluted him. “Captain America, again let me thank you for accompanying…”

With a polite but quick gesture, Captain America ended the formalities. “No need, Captain. Tell me what you’ve found so far.”

“All the doctors and staff here are fled or dead, killed by the prisoners or by the Nazis themselves,” Cheetham replied.

“How many prisoners…?”

“Only two. One of them claims Ilsa was incapacitated before we got here.”

In spite of himself, Captain America clenched his fists. He felt cheated, even angry, that he was denied one more confrontation with the so-called ‘She-Wolf of the SS.’

“Where’s her body?” Captain America asked, his voice almost a whisper.

“Captain?”

Please…

Cheetham nodded with sincere understanding.

Escorted by a soldier, he led him into Ilsa’s private quarters, which as expected was nearly as well-furnished as any Berlin luxury apartment. On one table were pictures of more than a dozen young male prisoners, their handsomeness hardly spoiled by the horrors of camp life, each one placed in a silver frame like the images of cherished loved ones. Knowing Ilsa, the Captain did not want to spend a second contemplating what this collection of faces meant. All he knew was that they were lucky if they were dead.

Tyree!” Cheetham yelled, shattering the Captain’s thoughts. In one corner, hidden in shadow, was a soldier, his uniform stained with blood at the chest. Cheetham felt his pulse. Captain America could see his eyes flutter and ordered the soldier accompanying them to get help.

“Thank God, he’s alive,” Cheetham said to no one in particular. “Who did this? Are there still Krauts around?”

“She wasn’t dead,” Tyree mumbled, sounding incredulous. “I was prepping the body for transport. They shot her…she wasn’t breathing…she wasn’t dead…”

Cheetham looked Captain America, as if Tyree was speaking Greek and he needed an interpreter.

“Tyree, don’t, save your strength,” Cheetham pleaded, but Captain America could not restrain himself. “It was Ilsa, wasn’t it?”

Tyree looked right at Captain America for the first time. “Captain America. She…she only said she was going west. She wanted you to know.”

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Adventures in Revisionism

Adventures in Revisionism: Revelations of Mega Man

(After moving and replacing my laptop, we should be going back on a normal posting schedule.  Thank you, dear readers, for your patience!)

“Your memory is glitching, Mega Man,” Dr. Light said, his voice unconcerned except for a hint of annoyance, like someone who found that his headphones were damaged and no longer working correctly.

“No,” Mega Man asserted.  “No.  No.  Things are wrong.”

Dr. Light chuckled.  “How existential.”  Even though Mega Man had skin of titanium, he flinched as Dr. Light caressed the part where his helmet had cracked through after the battle with Magnet Man where he was nearly destroyed, revealing a brain – human, 100% organic brain – encased in hard plastic.

“Things are wrong,” Mega Man said again, in the exact same tone and sound as before.

“On the contrary, things are right,” Dr. Light said.  “Business is booming and Dr. Wiley will be defeated again sooner or later.  It’s you that’s wrong.  This whole charade wouldn’t even be necessary if you weren’t so…hm, words fail me.  Old-fashioned?”

“Why…why…why?”  Mega Man stuttered.

“Steven Niles.  Does that name spark a memory, if only on some strange primal level?  That was your name, at some point…”

“Steve.  I liked to be called Steve…”

“Regardless,” Dr. Light said, as he investigated the damage to the helmet with a pocket light.  “I would have thought you’d still have a sense of gratitude, even though your old identity was erased.  Point one for cold, heartless science, no points for metaphysical sentimentality, I suppose.”

Satisfied with his investigation, Dr. Light sighed and in his pockets exchanged his light for a disc drive.

“I really do wonder sometimes why I don’t just have you kill Dr. Wiley.  I doubt either the authorities or the media would complain,” Dr. Light said as he plugged the drive into the outlet just under Mega Man’s left ear.  “But he was the one who found a way to keep the human brain sane and functional once it’s transplanted into a robotic body.  I just had the idea of claiming to the general public that your kind are just robots with really good AI and secretly selling the operation only to the wealthiest of the wealthy.  I certainly never expected he’d want to create a world where the transplants would be militarized and rule over the still organic.  No matter what I just can’t stand the idea of such wasted talent.”

“Organic…”  Mega Man whispered before going unconscious.

Dr. Light sighed again, but was thankful that he had developed a way to efficiently delete unwanted memories from even an organic brain.  It was just a shame that this was the third time he had to do it.  Perhaps it was a bad idea after all to offer an uneducated high school drop-out the opportunity to become a transplant, just because he was the only one to volunteer to fight Dr. Wiley, but still, despite everything, Mega Man was such a hard, reliable worker.

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Adventures in Revisionism

Die Matters, or Family Hard?

Die Hard and Family Matters take place in the same universe.  After all, Carl Winslow appears in both.

I know some of you naysayers will point out tiny details like “Family Matters takes place in Chicago, Die Hard takes place in Los Angeles” or “Reginald VelJohnson’s characters have completely different names; the only thing they have in common is that they’re cops, you idiot!”  All I have to say is that it’s because of skeptics and cynics like you we didn’t get that X-Files/Picket Fences crossover.  Shame on you.

What convinced me is a special revelation. When I watched Die Hard again but with my cultural analyst skills well honed and fully deployed, I realized that Hans Gruber was merely a pawn.  Yes, he represented the ultimate American villain – cold, calculating, elitist, and foreign –  but he represented it too well.  Does an obviously sophisticated man who brags about his classical education and is able to deliver devastating critiques about American culture, someone who could no doubt bluff his way into almost any well-paying job (especially in the United States), seem like one who’d stoop to associating with a bunch of violent thugs for nothing but money?  Hell, even Holly McClain realizes this when she points out that Hans Gruber for all his posturing is just “a common thief.”  He’s so obviously a caricature of a master criminal rather than an actual criminal it must be deliberate, and a clue toward some larger and far more sinister scheme.

Could he be a classical actor forced into a role that goes out of hand very quickly but he clings to it anyway because his family was being held hostage or something along those lines?  Or was something more bizarre happening?  Was Hans Gruber in actuality a poor Russian history professor or New York literary agent mind-controlled through some improbable technological means?  But, especially in a “realistic” universe like that of the Die Hard franchise, who would have the means?

My God…Steve Urkel!!!

He created his own alternate personality, his own clones, a teleportation device, and even a time machine.  Brainwashing someone into becoming a ruthless criminal would be the equivalent of a third grader’s volcano model.

Sadly, the Die Hard franchise never addresses what is done with the true mastermind behind the first film (and, perhaps, all the films?).  However, I would dare to venture a hypothetical.

Carl Winslow:  You damn kid!  I always knew it was you!  I took your skinny nerdy ass in and this is how you repay me?!

Urkel:  But Caaaaaaaarl…I thought I could finally get Laura to like me if I entered the world of international criminal intrigue!  

Carl:  Now you better pray that Laura likes Swiss cheese.

*BANG**BANG**BANG**BANG**BANG**

Incidentally, this is also the real conclusion to Family Matters.  

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Adventures in Revisionism

Adventures in Revisionism: The Secret Ending of “G.I. Joe”

In all the 16 times he had been to the White House in the past, Duke had been in full military regalia and with the honed persona of a devout patriot to match.  This time, he came stinking of alcohol, in worn khakis and a dirty camouflage t-shirt.

“Come on, man.  I gotta see him.  I already told you a bunch of times I’m not armed.” Duke was slurring his words to the Secret Service agent, who Duke knew should have sent him kissing the pavement of Pennsylvania Avenue at least five minutes ago.  Whether he was restrained by a combination of pity and reverence for a member of the celebrated G.I. Joe team or by terror justly inspired by Duke’s reputation, Duke did not know or care.

“Sargeant Hauser, I…”

“God dammit, it’s Duke.  That’s the name I…”

“Duke, sir, I respect everything you’ve done for this country but I can’t let you see the President when you’re…uh…”

“It’s okay, Sam,” a voice said from down the hallway.  It was Flint, dressed in a tuxedo that complimented his square jaw.  However, Duke never got used to seeing him in anything outside camouflage jeans and v-neck shirt.  In Flint’s current civilized state, it took Duke a full thirty seconds to match the voice to the strange, almost unrecognizable figure before it.

“Flint!  You’re still in the Secret Service, right?  You gotta help me.  They won’t…”

“I’ll take care of it,” Flint said through a forced smile.  Turning to Sam, he said in a soft voice that verged on a preemptive apology, “I promise to take full responsibility.”

With a sigh, Sam began to leave.  “Alright.”  He didn’t even look back at Duke.

With Flint positioned carefully right at Duke’s side, they began the walk to the Oval Office.  Duke laughed.  “I’m sorry.  I know I look like shit.”

“You look fine, Duke.  Right now you probably think I look like a joke in this monkey suit.  You know, that’s what made getting shot at with lasers all the time worth it;  getting to pick our own damn uniforms.”

“Amen, man.”  Duke sighed, and for a minute the floor seemed like it would drop out from under him.

“You okay?”  Flint asked, stopping and grabbing Duke’s arm.  Duke looked at him with eyes not unlike the expression of an injured pet.

“No. No, I’m not.  And I have to ask…did you know?  I mean, do you know why I’m here?”

Flint froze for a minute.  “I…I think I know.  I swear I didn’t know at all when I was with the Joes, but when I joined the Secret Service…”

“Yeah?”

“I got hammered too.”

Duke laughed, a little too long and hard.  Flint forced himself to laugh too.  For the first time in his career, Duke thought about abandoning a mission and letting Flint take him somewhere, anywhere.  But the things Zartan said in the interrogation room, and what Duke’s own contacts in the government finally told him after weeks of threatening and badgering about the real reason COBRA helped the Joes fight some drug lord that one time…

“We were so stupid,” Duke blurted out.

“I know,” Flint agreed.

“I mean it.  All the stupid bases in plain sight, their access to laser weaponry, those damn recreation centers in freakin’ Antarctica…we kept guessing that they were getting money from the Ayatollah and the Soviets and Kim il-Sung…”

“It wasn’t just guessing, Duke,” Flint said, although he barely sounded convinced himself.  “The paper trails…”

“Never led to their real big donor, the American taxpayer.  God, every time I think…”

“We’re here, Duke,” Flint interrupted, knocking on the door.  “Mr. President?”

Reagan sat at his desk, and beamed when he saw Duke.  He had always been an enthusiastic supporter of G.I. Joe, or was that also a lie?

“Mr. President, I…”  Before Flint could finish, Duke stumbled forward slightly, the words he had rehearsed being unleashed in a tone miraculously free from the influence of booze.

“All these years, we were fighting, risking our lives against what we thought was a terrorist organization being funded by every bad guy in the world.  But you were paying both of us!  And for what?  The War on Drugs?  Destabilize a foreign regime here and there?!  All the times we risked our lives, all the terrible things COBRA did to our allies, our own country…Jesus Christ, for what?!   Why’d you do it, Gipper?!”

Reagan shined serenity.  Then, after what seemed to be an eternity of silence and careful thought, he said uncertainly:  “Duke, I…I just do not recall.”

The mere words felled Duke more effectively than anything COBRA or Jack Daniels could muster.  He collapsed to the rug of the Oval Office, christening the fabric with the tears of a truly fallen soldier.

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