Limp-Asparagus Lad #8 Footnoting Fever Written by Saxon Brenton ------------------------------------------------------------ Cover shows Fourth Wall Lass, Kid Not Appearing In Any Retcon Hour Story, Library Lady, Retcon Lad and Limp-Asparagus Lad all held prisoner in clear vacuum tube-like whassits. All but the latter showing shocked expression on their faces as a menacing shadow from someone off panel in the foreground advances toward them. ------------------------------------------------------------ Retcon Lad came to, and found himself imprisoned in a glass-like tube. The other members of the Legion of Net.Heroes were already conscious, and seemed to be in various stages of contemplation or frustration. He turned his attention back to his prison. Surely glass wouldn't hold KidNAIARHS. He knocked on it. Hmm, not glass. Probably some type of transparent plexi-strongstuffium. He glanced about the room they were imprisoned in. .oO(Decorated in early to mid Imposing Evil Madman's Throne Room. Rather ostentatious) he thought. Although there was no actual throne per se, it was the same style: all heavy cyclopean blocks, decorated with rich tapestries and ornamental ironwork. Spotted here and there were a few lonely-looking but still impressive slabs of bulky, whiz-bang technology. It looked like the sort of place Fu-Manchu would be at home in. He turned to the occupant of the tube next to him. It was Librarian Lady. He asked, "So, what's going down?" "Nothing, as yet. Kid Not Appearing In Any Retcon Hour Story has tried several means of escape, and one of those did include trying to tip his prison over, but as yet everything's still upright." Retcon Lad considered this answer. It hadn't been quite what he had been expecting. "I mean, has anything happened? Besides escape attempts. Like, has the villain come in to gloat yet?" "Oh." She shook her head. "We expect him soon. Now that you are conscious, and the others have tried and failed to escape, there seems to be nothing left but for a villainous appearance." Then, almost on cue, some curtains parted and a figure stepped through. RLad looked him over critically. The man before them was outfitted in an appropriately menacing suit of armour - black, of course - with vicious looking razor edges along the forearms, and a full mask that completely concealed the occupant's identity as well as producing nifty Darth Vader-like ominous breathing noises. As villain apparel went RLad had to admit that it was pretty good in the style and intimidation stakes, but it lost marks for lack of originality.  the figure sneered. Retcon Lad shook his head as if trying to clear it. "Uhm, guys. Somehow I understood that, but I don't know how. I didn't get the words, but the meaning was pretty clear, if you know what I mean." "That's because the text is down there, in a footnote," said Fourth Wall Lass, pointing down towards the bottom of the story. The others craned, and sure enough, below them, just above the character credits and the lettercol., was the footnoted dialogue of the Footnote Fiend. "Oh, that's going to make this an absolutely wonderful story to read," RLad grinned. "Not!" "I suppose it would have been too much to hope that he would use Harvard style citation rather than footnoting," observed Limp- Asparagus Lad dispassionately. He was watching the Fiend with an analytical air. "He is the villain, after all." "It's going to make it awfully difficult for those readers who can only page forward on their newsreaders," predicted FWLass. "What have you done with the girl Petina, Fiend!?" KidNAIARHS demanded.  the Footnote Fiend replied. "If you have harmed her..." Librarian Lady warned.  the Fiend returned acidly.  "Gosh! It's another insane plan to take over the world," RLad observed with facetious enthusiasm.  corrected the Fiend.  The Fiend flipped a few switches (huge things, like something out of a Boris Karloff film) on an adjacent board covered with flashing lights, and dials, and unidentifiable widgets that looked like they had been scavenged from a vacuum tube-era radio set. The heroes disappeared in a crackle of ozone. The Footnote Fiend looked to the tubes, and then, satisfied that they had been disposed of, went on about his nefarious business. Fourth Wall Lass and Retcon Lad materialised, and fell over onto hard gravel. Up ahead, a train was rushing towards them. "Gaah!" FWLass exclaimed, and tried to take them across the fourth wall. Nothing happened. Panicked, RLad reached out with his mind and _twisted_. Then he picked himself up off the grass where the Footnote Fiend's transporter had dropped them, the second time around. He wiped his hands on his costume, hardly noticing the gravel marks on his palms left from the first version of events because of the Bootstrap Effect. "That was close," he gasped. Fourth Wall Lass nodded. "You handled it well, though." "Bullsh*t. I freaked." She shrugged. "Okay, so it was hardly a calm rescue. But you didn't freeze up, which is why we're still alive. Come on. Let's get our bearings while we wait for whatever it was that Footnote Fiend used to block my powers to wear off," she said, making away from the railway line towards a populated area. "Hopefully it won't take long. We've got some villain butt to kick." Around the place were a number of a.f.p.ers, nattily dressed in their 'alt.fan.pratchett' or 'The Turtle Moves' T-shirts; some were even wearing their fashionably tasteless Unseen University scarves. There was also a range of activities taking place. Many were just standing around talking, while others were drinking (especially banananana dakris), or carefully investigating bread products. There was one of the perennial brawls between Cambridge and Oxford students over... something or other. A smaller number were engaged in more esoteric activities, such as the group scribbling away on a blackboard trying to calculate the exact number of roundabouts that would need to be laid side by side in order to encircle the Earth; or the couple strapping slices of buttered toast to the back of a cat and then letting it drop to see if the dichotomy between the need for the cat to land on its feet and the toast to land buttered side down would produce anti-gravity, or just an angry, messy cat. The presence of the net.heroes did not go unnoticed. "Hey," one young man called to Fourth Wall Lass, "You're new here, aren't you?" "Uh, yeah." "Great!" He dropped to one knee. "Will you marry me?" "Ah, sorry. I'm taken," she hastily replied, threddling her arm with Retcon Lad's. "Darn," said the would-be suitor, snapping his fingers. "Oh well, better luck next time," and walked off. It was hot as Kid Not Appearing In Any Retcon Hour Story materialised, and he instantly recognised the noisome stench of sulphur and the roar of geysers of molten rock. He leapt to shield his compatriots, though it was only Librarian Lady that accompanied him. She was already on the verge of passing out from the heat, and would have had nasty burns had they been any further down inside the crater of the volcano. Wrapping her in his nigh invulnerable cape, he flew her away as quickly as possible while still allowing her to breath, and all the time dodging the rocks being spat up from the lava below. As he cleared the lip of the crater and sped away, he noted the presence of a group of grass skirt-clad natives on a platform at the edge, apparently engaged in some type of religious ceremony, but he paid them little heed. As he waited for the combination of time and fresh air to revive LLady, KidNAIARHS made a cursory examination of the landscape below. He would have to stop Footnote Fiend, and soon. Of course, for that he would need to find Fourth Wall Lass - his own sensory abilities hardly seemed suited to the task of tracking down the villain. Fortunately, she wouldn't be too hard to contact. Meanwhile, Fourth Wall Lass and Retcon Lad continued on. And RLad was in a state of mild frustration. He had discovered that the words didn't seem to want to come out right. The thing about being a superhero, well, _one_ of the things about being a superhero, was being able to enunciate long and often complex slabs of dialogue and not get tongue tied. Especially in the middle of fight scenes. And now almost no sentence that any of them uttered could pass without being mispronounced, misheard, or just plain misunderstood. Blasted homonyms. He felt an irrational stab of envy for Librarian Lady, who, as a librarian, was _supposed_ to be able to make herself understood quickly and efficiently, as opposed to superheroes, for whom it was merely a convenience so that they could put more plot into each 24 page issue every month. He knew what was happening, of course. He'd read his Pratchett. Pratchett's characters were rarely allowed to exposit proper dialogue. Well, when he said 'proper' dialogue, he meant as superheroes knew it, and... Arrgh! He was doing it again! It was, of course, the Pratchettian influence of the newsgroup. It was generally the case that when in another reality, one became influenced by, if not totally governed by, the nature and genre of the world one was visiting. And Pratchett's works, and the newsgroup that emulated them, tended to be antithetical to the 'As you know, your father, the King..." Plots'R'Us school of narrative dialogue. He hoped KidNAIARHS wasn't taking it too hard. To take his mind off his peevishness, and to give himself a rest from trying to fathom how the Footnote Fiend intended to take over the newsgroup, RLad listened to the topics that he heard in snatches as he passed by: "...probably has a Mohorovicic Discontinuity, but it'd be a different shape from Earth's." "...there are an infinite number of alternative pasts. Just take your pick." "...maybe we should add the headers *B* for bread products and *D* for drinking to *R* and *I* for relevant and irrelevant." "...No. Mort is what Death is sometimes called, but it's not one of Death's names. Besides, everyone knows Death only has one name. It's her brother Dream who had all the names." "...arrgh! You said the 'M' word!" "...James Earl Jones." "A lot of weird stuff, huh FaWL?" RLad observed. There was no reply. "FaWL? Hey! Fourth Wall Lass!" he called, spotting her back aways, talking to some a.f.p.ers about the content of one of the footnotes that had been popping up with increasing frequency. The two net.heroes had treated the warily, but the inhabitants of the newsgroup had exhibited a tendency to be fascinated by them. "Of _course_ alien comic book writers taught ancient cultures how to sneak over the fourth wall!" FWLass ranted. "Haven't you ever read _Captain Mayan_ #fish-eagle-dot-dot!?" Retcon Lad grabbed her. "Get a hold of yourself! Don't get distracted by the footnotes!" "Wha? Oh! Oh, thanks RL. Geez, it almost got me that time!" " 'Almost?' " he asked archly. "You know what I mean." "Yeah, well, just be careful." "I'll try and ignore them by watching something else," she answered. Her eyes took on a distant quality, and RLad figured she was focusing her attention on something on the other side of the fourth wall. He glanced around, noting the increasingly animated discussion taking place. Then realisation hit him. "So that's how the Footnote Fiend is planning on taking over alt.fan.pratchett!" he exclaimed in the appropriately dramatic manner (Hey, if the star of the series can't do it, then the supporting cast have to pick up the slack, okay?). "He plans to cover the entire newsgroup with contentious footnotes, provoking the natural tendency of the inhabitants of a.f.p. to wrangle any topic to death into overdrive! They'll be so distracted by all the footnotes and the discussions they create, they won't even notice he's taken control until it's too late! Maybe not even then!" He felt rather pleased with himself. Not only had he worked out the Fiend's plot, but he'd managed to summarise it in an expository monologue without tripping up. "I doubt if he'll be able to get that far," said Fourth Wall Lass in a worried voice. "What, you know of something that would stop him? Besides us, I mean." "Well, nobody except us to stop him from trying. But the point is, it feels like he'll destroy the newsgroup by the very process he's using to try to take it over." "What!?" "He's flooding the newsgroup with too many footnotes, and they'll destroy it if he keeps it up," she explained shortly, a distracted look on her face. "I think you'd better explain how you came to that conclusion," Retcon Lad suggested. "I don't think the readers would've followed the leap of logic behind it; I know I certainly didn't." "My abilities of crossing the fourth wall give me minor powers of sensing the strength or weakness of the local fabric of space-time," she explained. "The warp and woof of the woven worlds," RLad agreed absently, remembering something Rintrah had used to say. She looked at him, confused. "Worf and woof? This is no time for sounding like Lxwanna Troi." "Skip it. You were saying?" "Usually I just use this so that I can sense if I can cross over the threshold at a particular place or not. In this case I can feel the fabric of alt.fan.pratchett is very thin. Heck, I can actually _feel_ it weakening if I concentrate hard enough! At first I thought that it was the rest of the newsgroup mirroring the attributes of Pratchett's most popular series. Ridcully was right when he said that that universe has more holes than Quirm cheese." "Mmm, yeah. Probably why the wizards have to spend so much time darning the Fabric of Reality(tm). And probably Darning it as they're darning it," he added as an afterthought. "Are you going to take this seriously, or what?" she demanded. "Sorry. I think it's the newsgroup." She humphed. "If I didn't know better, I'd say you were slipping back into being a fanboy." "That'd just get Fan.Boy angry at me for muscling in on his schtick," he pointed out. "Whatever. Anyway, I now realise that this 'thinning' business is actually growing worse." "So what makes you think it's the Footnote Fiend who's responsible?" "Apart from the fact that it started growing worse as all these extra footnotes turned up? Logic, actually. You know how L-Space is generated?" "Uh, yeah. It's an idea used pretty extensively in the Discworld books. Words have weight. They deform the shape of space into the extradimensional, polyfractal L-Space, because Knowledge equals Power equals Matter equals Mass equals Gravity... Oh sh*t," RLad trailed off as he realised what she was getting at. "The extra footnotes are deforming the shape of space-time so much that the fabric of this reality is tearing, right?" "You got it. The entirety of a.f.p. will be torn to shreds as bits and pieces of it are shoved or dragged into L-Space. We've got to warn Kid Not Appearing In Any Retcon Hour Story so that he can start reweaving space back together while we go back and put a stop to the Footnote Fiend." "How you plan to warn Kid? Our comm.thingees haven't been able to reach him, so he's probably in a different dimension within the newsgroup." "Easy. He's my alt.version, remember? We share a mental link." What? Fourth Wall Lass turned to the writer. "We share a mental link," she explained patiently "You now, like Rebel Yell did with List Lad and Plot King in _501 Blues: Rattler Hide Special_ #3 (part 10 of the _Electrocutioner's Song_)? And it was pointed out in _The Bellerophon Gambit_ #1 that Acton Lord had to actively shield his thoughts from Sig.Lad because of the same phenomenon. Let me guess, you forgot, didn't you?" Uh. Well... "Well, don't think you're going to wriggle your way out of letting me use it." She lifted her head to concentrate, as if at the sky. =(Kid? Can you hear me?)= =(Clearly, Fourth Wall Lass)= he replied. =(I was just about to call you.)= =(Listen, we've figured out what the Footnote Fiend is planning, but also that he'll destroy the newsgroup if he keeps it up)= she said, and then summarised the conclusions that she and RLad had come to. And what, the concerned reader may ask, has happened to Limp- Asparagus Lad? He hasn't made an appearance since the first quarter of the post. Heck, he's only had one line of dialogue so far, when even Dr. Crusher got seven lines in Star Trek: Generations. Limp-Asparagus Lad found himself falling, and instinctively took stock to identify something with which to arrest his descent. He was plunging into a pit, very wide and very deep. Around the edge ran galleries with railings, and occasionally a thin beam crossed the pit itself. He twisted in space to position himself and grabbed ahold of one of these. The beam protested, and snapped at one end, carrying L-ALad in an arc that slammed him into the rough-hewn rock of the wall of the pit. It was a good thing he had loosened up his body to the consistency of limp asparagus to absorb the impact, otherwise he would have been paste. Or at least too stunned to hold onto the beam. He glanced down. The next gallery was some way below. On the other hand, upwards there was a gallery only two meters or so away. Had L-ALad allowed himself emotions, especially one so crass as disgruntlement, he would have been somewhat ticked off at the prospect of being stuck with yet another cliffhanger. Footnotes:  Struggle all you want, heroes. It will do you no good. You are completely in my power. The power of... the Footnote Fiend!  That is for me to know, and you never to find out!  The girl is safe. She is far too valuable to my schemes for me to allow her come to any harm.  Not that it shall do you any good. Know, foolish heroes, that I intend to rule this newsgroup, and I shall let nothing stand in my way! Already, my plans are near fruition. In less than an hour, there will be nought that you, or anyone else, can do to reverse my takeover! Soon, my footnotes will flood alt.fan.pratchett, bringing it permanently under my domination. Mwahahahahaha!  Newsgroup, actually.  And now, you will all be... disposed of. Terminally.  Obligatory redundant footnote. Character Credits: Kid Not Appearing In Any Retcon Hour Story created by Badger (Matt Rossi) Limp-Asparagus Lad owned by Saxon Brenton, created by Mystic Mongoose (Robert Armstrong) and wReam (Ray Bingham) Fourth Wall Lass, Librarian Lady, and Retcon Lad created by Saxon Brenton All characters copyright and tm their owners and/or creators --------------------------------------------------------------------- Adventures on the Letters Page #1 Letters Page Man stared aghast at the horrific creature advancing towards him. Only minutes before had his minions, Hoot and Snob, had brought him warning that this monster, with its pulsing semi-liquid form, was rampaging across the letters page dimension (aka the Writing), covering everything it encountered with a fast hardening white goo! Now, Letters Page Man stood in the path of the monstrosity, ready to engage it in mortal combat. He struck a dramatic pose, resplendent in his white bodysuit spangled with black lettering, with his black cape (speckled with white lettering) fluttering out behind him. "Halt, creature of evil!" he commanded. The entity looked affronted, which was pretty amazing considering it didn't have a face and its body language was totally non-human. An orifice that was probably a mouth opened and it boomed, "Who dares address thusly Gla'hartru, the Blob-Of-Liquid-Paper-That-Walks-Like- An-Early-Pre-Superhero-Marvel-Universe-Monster?" "I, Letters Page Man, champion and protector of the letters page!" The creature laughed a burbling laugh that sounded like it was gargling jelly. "Foolish little human! How can you possibly hope to stop me? Am I not Gla'hartru, the destroyer of the millennia-old empire of the Textwalkers; the unmaker of the Poem of Perfection; the ravager of words and predator of thesauruses? Gla'hartru, the ancient nemesis of the Universal Dictionary?" "I don't care about your pedigree! I will oppose you, if necessary with my dying breath!" Gla'hartru again laughed its liquid magma laugh. "Then you will die! Nothing will stop me from wiping clean the ink from this world, leaving it pristine and blank!" "Ink?" Letters Page Man puzzled. "We don't use ink. This dimension is a computer network email letter page. There's nothing printed here; its all just bytes of information. If you use liquid paper, you'll just leave mess on the screen. It's far easier to just use the delete key." "It is?" responded Gla'hartru. "Oh. Oh dear, wrong dimension. Sorry about that." And it left. His task completed, Letters Page Man returned his attention to monitoring the flow and flux of the letters page dimension. He activated his TV wrist newsreader, and this is what he read: Mail on Limp-Asparagus Lad #7 [from Jamas Enright] Hello fellow Antipodean! - There does seem to be a lot of southern hemispherians about these days, doesn't there? How are the invasion plans coming from your side of the Tasman? :-) Well, this is the first time I've actually seen a L-AL issue (outside of the brief section in the Dvandom Force Annual 1), and I have to say that I liked it. - Thank you. One thing I have to comment on is the over use of the fourthwall- ness. Using such things as "the fact that the end of the issue had been reached necessitated a cliff hanger ending" seem to show a need for forced plot-device as opposed to letting things come easily. - Really? Well, I know I wanted a cliff hanger there, but I thought that was simply a normal attempt at pacing, though I admit drawing attention to the fact might have been a bit heavy- handed and slowed the thing down a bit. If I wanted to try and justify it, I could claim that it's an effect of Fourth Wall Lass's presence, since she acts as a catalyst for that sort of thing (I've got a vague idea for a story arc where she goes away for a while, for whatever reason, and the fourth wall references dry up. Then when she returns they do too). Of course, in this case I just added that line in as an afterthought because it Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time. I'll try and keep an eye on it. Other than that, it is quite a good restart to the series. :) - This is really doing my ego wonders :-) [from Dave Van Domelen] Quick grammar nitpick...you wanted "imminent" not "immanent". Immanent means heavenly or insubstantial. }-> - The really embarrassing thing about this letter is that I know I have problems with spelling, homonyms, and the like (a long- term problem of mine), so I usually mark dubious words on the penultimate draft for checking with a dictionary, yet mistakes still manage to get through. :-( - Also, a big thank you to Rene Garcia Villareal, who didn't even wait for issue #7 to be posted before welcoming me back.Back to the Index.