Filing Cabinet of the Damned

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Champions Project: Moondragon #3

Moondragon #3: “Slaves of the Laughing Death!”

Splash page: Moondragon, in her full science-fiction regalia, reclines on a ratty couch in a nondescript living room. Her feet are on a coffee table. Nearby is Alice Coughlin, leaning forward in her favorite easy chair, peppering Moondragon with questions.

"You were in the Avengers? Is Thor as hot as he looks on teevee? You grew up in outer space? What's it like to read minds? Does Hawkeye have the tightest butt, or is it the Falcon? Do you have a jet pack? What's being an Avenger pay?"

Accompanying the chatter is Moondragon's train of thoughts, shown in balloons around the page. "I could snap her neck. Or one quick blow to the temple. Burn out her brain with a psychic bolt, perhaps?" Yes, she's thinking of all the delightful ways to kill this annoying woman.

On the next page, we see a car driving along an Indiana road, with nothing but cornfields as far as the eye can see. The driver of the car is laughing. He sees another man on the side of the road. The man on the side of the road is also laughing. The driver pulls over and the man on the side of the road gets in the car. They drive away.

We hop back to Moondragon, who is stalking back towards her spaceship, the Sensia. Moondragon fumes that the only way Alice could be related to the end of the world is that she makes armageddon seem a good idea. Woodrow Wilson Jones was insane, fixated on the annoying Alice, and conflated her with the end of the world. Simple as that. Mystery solved.

Meanwhile, Alice trails behind her, still spouting questions. "Have you ever saved the world? Can you shoot laser beams out of your eyes? Why'd you come to Earth? To save me from the killer monkeys?"

At this, Moondragon wheels and points a finger at Alice. "NO! I DID NOT COME TO EARTH TO SAVE YOU FROM KILLER MONKEYS! BE SILENT!"

Alice looks indignant. "Then why did you come to Earth, Miss High and Mighty Superhero?"

Moondragon furrows her brow. "I came because..." Moondragon stops and taps her foot in impatience. "One last time," she thinks. She peers into Alice's mind, just a quick glance. We see it as a smear of images: a little girl's face, a house, a tree, a man's face, assorted bits of everyday life. "Hm," she thinks. "Follow me," she says. Moondragon enters the spaceship and motions for Alice to join her.

Inside the Sensia, Alice is flabbergasted by the alienness of the ship. Moondragon keeps a psychic "ear" open for Alice's reaction to learn how a normal human would react. She invites Alice to join her in a psychic union, where she could show Alice a vision of her homeworld.

Alice demurs. "Psychic? You mean, for real?"

"Yes. Not like you."

Alice fails to register the insult and accepts the offer. Annnnnd...zango! We see the two of them in ghostly forms on the rocky surface of Titan, standing in shallow pools of liquid methane. The atmosphere is a hazy orange. The giant face of Saturn covers most of the sky, its rings cutting giant arcs across the expanse.* "This is Titan," Moondragon states.

Then their ghostly forms sink through the surface and pass into the technological wonderland carved into the rock below. "This, Alice, is my true home." Alice lets out only a small "woooo!"

Meanwhile, we see a middle-aged woman ride along a suburban road on a bicycle. She is laughing hysterically as she passes a sign saying "Welcome to South Bend." In another part of town, a laughing middle-aged man gets off of a train.

Moondragon and Alice leave the Sensia. Alice's mind is blown. Moony is observing the results and thinks to herself, "Disoriented, as expected. Hm. An odd fold in her ninth subconscious refractor. Interesting. What about intra-human contact? Yes." She then opens her mouth. "Alice, may I drive your car?"

Alice tries to speak. "Whuh?"

"Your car. May I drive it? I...have never piloted such a vehicle before."

"Sure!" a woozy Alice responds.

We find that while Moondragon was not lying, she was able to cadge enough information from Alice's mind that "experience" was unnecessary. Instead, Moony takes advantage of Alice's confusion to drive her to the local MegaMart.

"You know, my daughter Shelley works here," Alice notes.

"Really?" Moondragon pretends to be surprised. "Perhaps you can say hello. I'd like to see how normal humans go about their lives and conduct their business."

The interior of the store stretches as far as the eye can see. Clothes, groceries, consumer goods of all types explode across the page in a riot of color. People stare at the tall bald-headed woman in the weird costume and cape as said woman strolls past cereal boxes, bicycles, and firearms.

Meanwhile, a cluster of seven laughing men and women, none younger than forty-five, enter the MegaMart.

"OH GOD, GET OUT OF HERE!" comes a cry from off-panel. Alice and Moondragon look to see a pregnant young woman behind the photo developing counter. She looks like a younger Alice, with smaller hair.

We see an ugly reunion between a clinging and aggravating mother and her estranged daughter. Moondragon stands aside, observing the family drama. Shelley's anger at her mother at first seems extreme, until Alice launches into a tirade of self-pity and accusations. Both Moondragon and Shelley wear disgust on their faces. Mankind, Moondragon decides, has very little of value to teach.

The laughing people take positions around the MegaMart, keeping their eyes on Moondragon and Alice. They're suppressing their laughter to light chuckles.

Alice's daughter yells at her mother to get out. "You're not getting near my son, and you're not going to screw up my life again!"

Before Alice could yell back, a kitchen knife flies past her face. Laughter echoes throughout the MegaMart. Moondragon grasps her head in surprise; psionic jammers are filling the area with "mental white noise," preventing her from using her psionic powers.

Nine men and women emerge from between the rows of goods. Several are armed. All are at least forty-five years old. All are now laughing at the top of their lungs.

A laughing woman charges at Alice, a fireplace poker in her hand. Moondragon recovers herself in time to grasp the assailant's wrist and throw her. Moondragon then leaps a few feet into the air and kicks an attacking laughing man in the head.

It does little good. Moondragon notes that the man's head reacted like it was made of metal. "Robots?" she thinks. Shelley ducks behind her counter.

Two laughing men stand side-by-side and point at Moondragon and Alice. Metal racks and cans fly at the two women. Grabbing Alice and leaping aside, Moondragon avoids the barrage. Shelley lets out a yelp as the debris slashes apart the far side of her counter.

For a few pages, we see Moondragon and Alice dodging and darting through the MegaMart, avoiding the dangers of the laughing killers and their strange powers. Some hurl fire, others use magnetism, others are just plain strong.

Moondragon and Alice reach the front of the store and find that the glass doors are shut and locked. Moondragon picks up a metal sign and hurls it through the glass.

The two burst into the open ground and run. They bolt into a grassy area.

We hear two sounds: "zzzzip! thup!"

Alice falls over.

Moondragon stops and looks down. Alice is face down in the tall grass, a long and wide metal rod projecting from her back. Dark maroon blood spreads out from the injury. If she's not dead yet, it won't be long.

The Dragon of the Moon thinks, "How rude."

To be concluded next Friday in Moondragon #4, “I and Thou”

NOTE: The index to "The Champions Project" can be found here.

*I'm pretty sure you can't see Saturn from Titan's surface, the atmosphere is too thick. But it'd make for a killer visual, so I'm saying you can.


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