Limp-Asparagus Lad #9 Getting From A to B Written by Saxon Brenton --------------------------------------------------------------------- Cover is beautifully painted by Kirby. No, not _that_ Kirby! J. Kirby. Oh, they both have that initial, don't they? Okay, okay, Josh Kirby. Anyway, in the foreground Limp-Asparagus Lad is standing in a wary pose as pandemonium occurs around him. Screaming wizards dressed in red robes hurl fireballs. A.f.p.ers flee from 'orrible Things with tentacles. The three bicyclists (and one pedestrian) of the Apocralypse ride across the M25 motorway, which is burning as the dread sigil Odega. Looming over the horizon can be seen the First Sirian Bank. Dragons! Gnomes! Morris dancing robots! Chattering nuns! A small, scruffy dog! A thousand elephants! And along the bottom is the blurb: "Containing scenes nothing at all like this!" --------------------------------------------------------------------- Limp-Asparagus Lad continued to cling onto the thin beam that was all that was currently keeping him from plunging to his death far below in the distant depths of the pit over which he was hanging. He began working his way up the beam towards the gallery just above him. He didn't have much time. The impact upon the beam that he had made as he had grabbed it while falling had broken it off at one end, and the slender thing was now groaning, clearly intending to snap off at the other end as well. This was to be expected. Drama tended to work like that. It was perfectly predictable that just as he made within reach of the gallery the beam would give way, and he would have to grab for the lip of the cliff in order to escape falling. Of course, with his drama dampening field he could forestall that eventuality, but in all likelihood that would only make things worse for him. At least while the Drama of the situation was operative he had sufficient chance to survive, providing he acted quickly and with a modicum of daring-do. If the Drama were suppressed then the universe would go back to not giving a damn whether he was a hero or not, the weakened beam would give way, and he would fall to his death with no chance of a lucky escape. Limp-Asparagus Lad had no particular fondness for Drama, and avoided it where possible. But he was not so foolish that he would avoid using it consciously, as a tool, when it was convenient to him. As he made his way upward, hand over hand, L-ALad's body tensed to make the final necessary jump when the beam finally gave way, as it inevitably did. He leapt and grabbed the edge with a white-knuckled grip, then inched his way up onto the balcony. Standing up and looking around, he discovered nobody was about. First he would have to identify his location, and then assess his chances of either finding the other net.heroes or making his way back to the Footnote Fiend. Kid Not Appearing In Any Retcon Hour Story was just finishing outlining to Librarian Lady the Peril(tm) to alt.fan.pratchett that Fourth Wall Lass had relayed to him. "... and that is the current situation. Now that I am alerted to the danger, I can see for myself that Fourth Wall Lass is correct. A most severe strain is indeed being put upon the fabric of alt.fan.pratchett by the miscreant Footnote Fiend's excessive number of footnotes. Fortunately it is within mine power to alleviate some of the damage whilst Fourth Wall Lass and Retcon Lad undertake to stop the villain of the piece." Librarian Lady nodded. "Will you drop me off with the others? I think that I will want to have words with the Footnote Fiend once he has been dealt with." Her voice was very chilly as she made this pronouncement, indicating that the Fiend would greatly regret his actions in kidnapping her sister. The hero looked doubtful. "It may take time to transport you to them that this newsgroup can ill-afford." "I can assure you that it will take almost no time do so," she told him crisply. "All that is required is to take a shortcut by tracing a crosspost through alt.fan.pratchett.announce." "Ah. That sounds like the method that many denizens of rec.arts.comics.creative use for travelling rapidly from one apart of r.a.c.c to another by using the far smaller alt.comics.lnh as a form of hyperspace." She nodded. "A.f.p.a was formed last year to carry administrative announcements and the like so that they would not become lost among the high noise to signal ration that is common on alt.fan.pratchett. It tends to act like a sidereal dimension to the main newsgroup. Some of the more creative posters have found that they can travel rapidly from one point to another within a.f.p. by detouring through the smaller a.f.p.a. to emerge at a congruent point in the main newsgroup. All you need is two crossposted articles to make the link. Moreover, it is a moderated group, and far smaller - proportionately - than a.f.p than even a.c.lnh is to r.a.c.c, so transit should be very quick indeed. Simply ask Fourth Wall Lass where they are, and what the nearest administrative crosspost is." He nodded and sent a mental query to his alt.version via alt.telepathy. That done, he flew off, cradling LLady in his arms. "Your determination to rescue your sister is quite admirable," KidNAIARHS observed. "Thank you," LLady replied. "Has she spent long in alt.fan.pratchett?" Librarian Lady nodded. "All her life. This is the home newsgroup of us both. After the deaths of our parents, I was forced to send her to a public school to board while I worked at gaining employment that would allow me to support both of us, and establishing my career required a lot of moving about on my part. I hoped that by at least letting her stay in a familiar world she wouldn't feel too alienated. Now that I have secured a permanent position with the Legion, I hope that I can at least provide her with a stable home environment by bringing her with me." This brought a look of surprise to KidNAIARHS' face. "I would hardly have thought that the LNHHQ could be described as a normal setting for family life." "I didn't say 'normal'," she countered with prim pedanticism. "I said 'stable'. There is a difference. In any case, I expect she will like the taste of adventure the LNH offers. Heaven alone knows she gets involved in enough of them in school. At least this way I'll be able to keep an eye on her and mitigate any disasters if things get out of hand." "Is she looking forward to returning with you, then?" Librarian Lady frowned. "She hasn't said anything, one way or the other. To be honest, I think she's set her mind against it, just to be contrary. She always has been somewhat wilful." "I am sure the change of scenery will do her good," said KidNAIARHS diplomatically. Retcon Lad threw an inquiring look at Fourth Wall Lass. "Well?" "He concurs," she said. "Okay then. So, that means, what, he'll try and hold things together while we go and righteously pummel the villain?" "That's about the size of it." "Fine then. Let's find out where we are so we can get a fix on the trail back to the Fiend." RLad glanced around. The number of people wearing Pratchett memorabilia seemed to indicate that they were somewhere in the general discussion area, but beyond that it was impossible to tell. "Excuse me," he asked one young man with short black hair and glasses and wearing a black 'The Turtle Moves' T-shirt, "can you tell us exactly where we are?" "Sure. You're just outside the main archive site at ftp.cp.tn.tudelft.nl," the a.f.p.er replied, pointing over his shoulder. "Hey, neat costumes. But why're you dressed like that?" "Uh, they're uniforms. We're just passing through." "Aw, cool! Are you real superheroes? Hey, that's neat! Too bad I don't have my autograph book on me." "Ah, thank you," RLad managed. Then, FWLass, who had seemed to be listening to something, asked, "What's the nearest crossposted article from alt.fan.pratchett.announce?" "Oh, that'd be the Cambridge pub crawl announcement, over there." "Why do you need to know that?" RLad asked. "Kid needs directions," she answered. "Who?" asked the young man. "Kid Not Appearing In Any Retcon Hour Story. You'll probably get to meet him shortly," RLad answered in an attempt to overwhelm him into shutting up. It didn't work. "Neat! Hey, are you here to fight villains or something? There hasn't really been a good fight around here since the big battle by the Red Army in _Interesting Times_..." Meanwhile, back in the Looniverse in alt.comics.lnh: Subplot Lad drew to a stop as he realised that he was actually appearing in a story, but his pleasure did not last long as he quickly remembered that it would only be in a subplot. The young Latino sighed and continued on to see what the setup for future stories would be. Standing waiting at the front desk was a man in his early twenties. The receptionist did not seem to be around at the moment, so Subplot Lad walked over. "Hi," he said. "Can I help you?" "Ah. Yes. I'm Chris." They shook hands. "I'm here to see if I can get some lowdown on where Exclamation!Master! would be since he broke out of jail." "Well, we do have some reports on his old headquarters and M.O.s that might be useful, but he's a pretty dangerous customer. What with his attempts to prove himself a master villain and everything, he's capable of doing anything. Is there a particular reason why you'd want to risk trying to find him?" Chris hesitated. "Yeah. He's... my father." After leaving Librarian Lady with the others, KidNAIARHS flew off in a more or less upwards direction. Then, once he had attained the height and free space he needed, he stopped and began searching. With senses tuned into the fundamental forces that shaped a reality he looked out across the general discussion area, the heart of a.f.p. He ignored the esoteric stuff, like the greeny-orangy-purple flow of magic, or the patterns of faith that linked gods and their worshippers. He even passed over most of the forces of standard physics, like the electromagnetic, and nuclear weak and strong forces, and even the usual agents of energy degradation that resulted from the second law of thermodynamics. All of his attention went towards plain old gravity and its effects on the shape of space-time. What he was looking for became immediately obvious, and it disturbed him that the damage to the fabric of the newsgroup had advanced, cancer-like, to this point. Reaching out his arms, he began to shape the repairs. It was, to put it mildly, very difficult. It had been a long time since he'd had to do something like this; nowadays he mainly used this particular power for repairing purely material things of necessarily small mass. But even when he had first gained it there had been no intention for it to be used over such a large area. Maxwell had given him these powers of preservation - in exchange for his original ability to disintegrate an object into entropically inert ylem - so that he could assist the wizards in alt.fan.diane.duane in what was now referred to as the Io Intervention. Yet in that instance all that had been needed had been to hold closed only a few hundred square kilometres of dangerously warped space. Gritting his teeth, Kid Not Appearing In Any Retcon Hour Story set about to hold the newsgroup together - dealing with the symptom while the others dealt with the cause. Limp-Asparagus Lad quietly made his way into the chamber where the Footnote Fiend was currently working. The hero had been mildly surprised to discover that he had merely been teleported to another part of the Fiend's base; it seemed incongruously fortuitous. If he were back in the Looniverse it would have simply indicated that the climax of the villain's scheme was imminent, and the Drama of the situation had arranged for someone to be present to stop said villain at the last possible, nail-biting minute. Drama could be extremely childish at times. Nevertheless, it came close to being an everyday occurrence in superhero (and superhero parody) universes, so there was little point in worrying about it. The incongruity arose from the fact that alt.fan.pratchett was not a superhero universe. The presence of the supervillain's fortress was moderately easy to explain: the tendency of this newsgroup to discuss almost anything could have brought it into existence - a piece of flotsam left stranded when the tide of random thread topics had receded. And, of course, such a base didn't need to be used by a _super_villain. Any old villain would have sufficed, especially in light of the fact that most of the place was not decorated in high tech. Inscrutable Oriental masterminds, medieval tyrants with a preference from impalings, Nazi sadists who were into beatings and black leather... Any of these would have been perfectly acceptable. On the other hand, the Footnote Fiend could not so easily be explained away. L-ALad doubted that even the Pratchettian tendency of million to one chances popping up nine times out of ten could account for the continued presence of such an out of genre person, or the out of genre coincidence that had kept L-ALad within the villain's base. That, along with other evidence, led him to believe that something more than just a kidnapping and world conquest attempt were afoot. In any case, he had a villain to stop. He assessed the strategic placement of the room's layout. He suspected that the Footnote Fiend would be only moderately difficult to handle, but that the lumbering footnote creatures would be more difficult, if only because of their sheer numbers. He would have to be quick to keep ahead of them. The net.hero began his attack. He rushed at the Footnote Fiend across the unfortunately wide expanse of open space between the two of them, causing the villain to whirl around at the noise. Footnote creatures immediately moved to intercept, but their description as 'lumbering' was apt, and they were too slow and clumsy to be particularly effective. Panicked, the Fiend raised a gauntleted hand and fired a hail of pellet-sized footnotes at L-ALad, hoping to rip him to shreds with the machine gun-like firing of shrapnel. This, of course, caused no more than minor bruising in He Who Is Limp In Both Personality And Form. He took down the Fiend with a flying tackle and rolled, both so that the villain took the brunt of the fall and so that he would have the Fiend's body between himself and the still advancing footnote creatures. Everything seemed to be proceeding according to plan. As anticipated, the Fiend's armour lacked the agility to dodge and wrestle. Apparently it was some sort of power armour though, since what it lacked in manoeuvrability it made up for in strength. Tenaciously holding a grip on his opponent's back and absorbing the blows that the Fiend tried to land backwards upon him with his elbows, L-ALad made a quick study of the villain's helmet, with emphasis on how it was attached. It was a bulky dome-like affair, affixed to the top of the armour rather than fitting about the head. Then he steeled himself for leverage and wrenched it off. The Fiend stopped struggling, and the footnote creatures stopped advancing. Good. Those were a few of the things he hadn't been entirely sure of. He had gambled that the creatures would be directed by conscious will, but had been prepared to beat a hasty retreat to lure them away if the situation was otherwise. Limp-Asparagus Lad lifted the helmet and examined it. There was an electronic voice modular inside the front, and a number of sockets for wires that were clearly for electrodes to be attached to the head; some of them still had such wires dangling from them. There was also a word embossed on the inside: DARWC(tm). "Dork?" he mused. He couldn't understand what that could mean. The helmet confirmed a number of things, as did the now aimless wanderings of the footnote creatures. The Footnote Fiend was almost certainly not the ultimate author of this madness. He glanced at the unconscious Fiend's form, and recognised her face from the photos that Librarian Lady had shown them. Her head was shaved and her skull covered by what he guessed were some type of mind-controlling telemprodes, but it was recognisably Petina Witherington-Brown. --------------------------------------------------------------------- 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) Chris, Fourth Wall Lass, Librarian Lady, Petina, Retcon Lad, and Subplot Lad created by Saxon Brenton All characters copyright and tm their owners and/or creatorsBack to the Index.