2007-12-03: Fact, Meet Fiction


Lee_icon.gif Rochelle_icon.gif

Summary: Something is amiss in the Land of Normalcy. The last event of The Shape of Things continues the next afternoon; the result is mixed and somewhat unwelcome on all sides.

December 3rd, 2007

Fact, Meet Fiction

The Secret Lair

This is truly a fandom paradise. Open since 1983, The Secret Lair has kept up with the times and is maintained in quite spiffy shape, as befits a total labor of love. Genres are well-organized and well-represented. Collectibles. Models. Comic books. Graphic novels. Manga in English and Japanese. Subtitled and non-subtitled anime. Cult films. Video games. Role playing games. T-shirts representing all kinds of geekery. Costumes. Sci-Fi. Fantasy. It's all here in a multi-tiered amount of space that is surprising for the neighborhood. Special orders can even be placed on consignment.

Unlike most such establishments, it is not uncommon to find a lot of XX to go with the XY, largely because the store is very chick-friendly. That might have something to do with the shrine dedicated to Samus Aran of Metroid fame. Or with the cute, lovable, four-legged fuzzies wandering about. Namely, the large, shaggy, brown mutt known as Chewbacca, and the Russian blue cat named after the greatest Thundercat ever: Panthro. Best of all, the place smells really good.

Near the entrance is a bulletin board full of flyers and postcards advertising everything from NY Jedi to rpg campaigns to upcoming concerts in the Alphabet City/LES/Bowery area. Local 'zines are also laid-out for the taking.

Lee seems to get roped into covering at this place a lot, doesn't he? His sister on a quick trip back into town for Thanksgiving took a couple of extra days to hang out with her business partner and best pal Kory and this means Lee has to glumly cover the register and glare nastily at every purchase that is made. "Fifty bucks a month on X-Men but not one penny for dental hygeine." he mutters at one point.

"Uh, excuse me." says the customer snottily, pushing his thick glasses up the bridge of his nose. "Not all of these comics are X-Men. Some are X-Factor."

Lee gives the young man his comics and his change. "I hope you die." he says in such a cheerful tone that the young man doesn't notice exactly what Lee said, already absorbed in his purchases. The joke is on Lee, however, because the natural, not-paying-attention response is, of course, "You too." The bell jingles as the young man walks out.

It's been that same sloggy color outside the last day or so, with sheets of gray clouds and spontaneous wetness. It'll turn to snow within the week, but for now it is simply cold and slippery, and chunks of ice aren't too uncommon. Outside as the young man leaves and the bell jingles, there's an ungloved hand that sweeps out to meet the door before it shuts.

Rochelle is a familiar face in the midst of afternoon drudge filled with the usual geeks, but her expression is so out of tune with herself that it is painfully obvious that she's feeling flustered and confused. It's a new face for her, and it really does not fit. The woman slips in the door with some squeaks of her boots(yes, she does wipe her feet on the mat), and promptly makes her way over towards Lee. "Hi." Even that one word seems hesitant. Can't blame her.

Lee seems happy to see Rochelle. "Hey, Rochelle. How are things going? Great to see you." he enthuses. "It's nasty out there, huh?" He is still self-absorbed enough that he doesn't notice her hesitancy.

The air around her still seems to be chilled, at least for a few more moments. "Yeah. Tell me about it. I'm alright." A lie. Rochelle answers, but it's only to pass onto the next set of verbal thoughts. "I need to talk to ya. I don't know if it's important yet. It. Probably is." Even before he has a chance to answer, she's reaching into the lining of her coat, and the next time her hand rests on the counter it is on top of a comic book- which is possibly one of the least expected things to pull out of her coat pocket in this mode.

Lee looks at the comic book with the dismayed expression of someone who has just heard the waiter say 'would you like extra excrement on that?' and is thinking about the meaning of the word 'extra' in that question. "What?" he says somewhat flatly.

Rochelle gives Lee a look that might be something of offense- she hasn't said anything else yet! Instead of opening her mouth, she grits her teeth shut and turns the book over- 9th Wonders, of course, with that strangely familiar cover. When she opens it, it is purposefully opened to those pages with both Cam and Lee on them, caught even saying the other's name. Two illustrated pages, taken straight from the actual day where there was a raid on the labs. Rochelle still doesn't say anything, she just pushes it over the counter at the man on the other side.

Lee glances at it briefly. "I don't know if I made it exactly clear to you, but I really do not like comic books. At all. In the slightest." he says, as he looks from panel to panel. At the end of the two pages, he shakes his head. "Awful." he declares. "At least with Dogme 95 you're supposed to be bored. And look at that explosion. It's colored all wrong. And that guy's hand doesn't even look like a hand, how could you get your arm like that? Awful." he summarizes, then looks back to Rochelle. "What about it?" A pause. "Oh, the fact that it came out before all that crap happened? Yeah. Weird, huh."

Rochelle looks at Lee as if he just started talking in tongues. "What about it? You can't seriously- you're in it, Lee. And Cam. And these other people-" She flips the pages through with a similarly red-cheeked, frustrated look to pretty much the last twenty-four hours. "-and me." She ends with that and opens it up to her first page, jabbing a finger towards it as if it might leap off the counter and sink its teeth into her arm. "That- that's exactly where I was sitting yesterday morning. We were waiting for the demo team to finish setting up." The next page turns under her fingertips, where it's still sitting facing Lee. "That's exactly what I did when I was reading it, and I even checked, and there's me checking that I checked. I looked up, and the sky was this color, and then that page there is white, and it only looks wet- and then it did get wet 'cause it started raining again." Summary: What the Fsck, Lee?

Lee says, "That's supposed to be you? You look taller in real life. And…oh man, look, you're just sitting there reading and looking at the sky, and then a white page? That is the worst possible ending that could ever be imagined." He is into it now. "I mean, this guy is supposed to be me but looks more like that guy from that weird Superman movie…and these pages set up this incredibly dumb situation but does it resolve? Seriously, does it? No, it doesn't. Christ, this is really the worst comic anyone has ever made…that isn't in my family." he quickly amends. "It's really terrible. You can't just have little vignettes that don't go anywhere, like the montage at the end of a TV show, you have to have some connection to some bigger story, or else people just go around in circles talking to each other and the plot never goes anywhere." He pauses. "On TOP of that, whoever made this is a complete waste of time. 'Oh hey, I found out what is going to happen through a dream or vision or something, what should I do about it? Well for damn sure I'm not going to try to make things better, I am going to waste my time and the world's time making a shitty comic book that goes nowhere and sell it to mouth-breathing jerkoffs for three-fifty apiece.' Present company excepted, that's the target audience for comic books." He shakes his head, closes the comic, offers it back to her. "It would be sadder if it wasn't so horrifically apathetic and uncaring. I mean, a guy got shot there on page 12. He couldn't have called and warned him to wear his vest or duck or something."

Rochelle watches Lee rabble on with a look of cock-eyed confusion. It is mostly squinting, and lips pulled into a strained frown. She's not sure what to follow up with, even as he finishes the tirade. So instead, the brunette ends up just staring at him from across the counter. Rochelle literally has No Words.

Lee seems sympathetic to her silence, now that he's done stem-winding about how terrible comic books and superpowers are. "Look, I know it's a really big, really disappointing thing to discover, that someone out there has the ability to see the future." he says sympathetically. "I was pissed off too when I found out certain people could do things like that. But it could be worse. You could /be/ that guy, you could /be/ that worthless and pathetic. It really doesn't turn out to mean anything in any area or to anyone worth thinking about." See? Lee can be comforting. "All right? You, uh, going to be okay?"

Some more staring at first, but then when Rochelle does open her mouth, it is about equal to a few more seconds of staring. "What?" You lost her somewhere. "So, what, that stuff actually happened? The other stuff?" Not her stuff. The Lab shenanigans. And the explosions. And rolling grenades, and so forth. "…you got attacked by terrorists?" This makes no sense, does it?

Lee says, "Yeah, you might have seen something about it on the news. Some dinks tried to rip off this hospital I was visiting a student at. They weren't even on the right floor to get any drugs, so people figured they were somehow after material connected with that virus outbreak. Because that makes so much more sense." He shakes his head disgustedly. "Anyway, hope they catch the bastard." He tactfully omits the stuff about the grenade, unsure as to how much the comic showed of his involvement with that.

Rochelle is obviously and naturally skeptical of these progressions. It seems too fanciful- but once she realizes the fantasy, she goes back to the fact she was reading about herself reading, and that was not fantasy. Trippy. "…So you…rolled back a bomb without touching it." Oh, it may have showed some of it. Or all of it. Bad luck, that.

Lee says, "Kinda. I guess. I don't really know. It happened really fast." He's lying, but it helps that he's the undisputed king of denial. "It doesn't really matter. The point is that yes, it happened, yes it happened more or less as this hack depicted it happening, which is one reason it's a crap story."

"Well, he's been dead, so there's probably not much else to it." At least Rochelle knows that. Does Lee really hate things that much to say his life is a crappy story? "This doesn't make any damn sense." That, they can agree on. At least in essence. Right? "If what you're saying is true, then why the hell was I in the end? It could have been anyone else, but it was me." She doesn't want strange people telling her future, please, thank you.

Lee says, "Exactly, why /was/ it you? Why you? A good story isn't just a collection of events, you have to be able to see something develop, a plot, or a character, it has to be from some point of view, whether it be a message or just excitement about the material. The guy is clearly a crap writer. It's like lacing together paragraphs from ten different news stories and saying 'well, now you know what's going on.' What idiot wrote that thing anyway?" he asks, more to have a more specific target than out of any interest.

"Isaac Mendez. 9th Wonders. It's usually got specific characters in it, but it seems like the last parts were disjointed." Rochelle tentatively shuts the book and turns it facing up, with the hazard-strewn cover and title. "It used to have an actual plot. Somewhere." She stares down at it for a moment longer. "But now it's just- creepy. I don't know if I really understand." She misses reading about Hiro and Ando. Unspecial Ando. But wait- "…if this is based on people, what about the old issues? Did those…" Confusion turns into skepticism, skepticism to wariness, wariness into denial. "This can't be serious."

Lee says, "It's comics, of course it's not serious. Whether any part of it is real or fictional, it's certainly not serious." Lee seems bound and determined that this will not affect his life.

"But you're not saying if it's real or not. You said this one is, but there were dozens before this one." Is she high? Is she dreaming all of this? Where's the camera? Rochelle even looks over her shoulder as if a crew might jump out and yell 'You're on candid camera!'.

Lee replies, "I don't know if it's real. Look, if I'd picked up and read this comic instead of you, I would only know that the part involving me was real. I would look at the Rochelle bits and go 'what the hell is this, why is Rochelle even here'. You and I are in the same boat with respect to the rest of whoever is unlucky enough to be depicted here. We have no idea who they are so they might be real or they might be made up."

"So there may or may not actually be a superpowered serial killer. Or time-hopping Japanese. Or exploding people. Fantastic." Rochelle tries a hand at sarcasm. It's overdone and exasperated, and she's not making much sense at all. Should she go back issues and try to find those people, or would that be too weird? It is vaguely like being told you're not actually real, and just a character in a comic book being read by God. Or something to that effect. Maybe. There are a lot of Maybes today, aren't there?

Lee says, "Who knows?" He shrugs in a way that suggests the follow up is 'who cares?' "Anyway, yeah. Like I say, I was pissed off too."

"I just think you're crazy. I'm crazy too, so we're all crazy. I didn't go through the looking glass, I had it smashed over my head." Rochelle isn't really saying much on whether she should actually believe anything. Maybe she'll go home and wake up. There's still time for dream-naps, right? "I got my future told in a comic book. Mmm. So where should I be meeting the aliens, do you think?" Rhetorical question. Somewhat.

Lee chuckles mordantly, "Don't even joke about it. I'm the cliche'd bad twin around these parts, and you know what happens to them in the end." he snickers

Rochelle looks at Lee with a considerably unnerved face again. It's probably strange to see her actually disturbed by something. Usually she takes it all in stride. "I think I need to…go home and lie down." Is that a good idea? Maybe.

Lee nods. "It can't hurt. Look, it doesn't change anything. It really doesn't. Call me if you have any problems because of this. I'm sure you're not the only one that reads that comic, I'm sure there's at least four or five others."

That makes her feel so much better, yeah. "It might change nothing to do with me, but that doesn't change the fact someone put me in a comic book reading said comic book." She rubs a hand along her face and shakes her head. "I'll talk to you later, I guess. With less nonsense involved." Her hand lifts to take back that issue from the counter and tuck it back into her coat while she turns to go back out into the rain. "For the record, I'm hoping to wake up in a few hours. If I don't, maybe being crazy won't be so bad." It's the first time that she smiles, but it's forced and unnerved again, even as she escapes the Lair. There's a part of her brain that is, in fact, running away from this.

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