Limp-Asparagus Lad #14 Run! Flee! From the Fearsome Force of... Mutant Angst! Written by Saxon Brenton --------------------------------------------------------------------- Cover shows Retcon Lad backed up against a wall with a horrified expression on his face. Along the bottom of the cover, in dribbly letters meant to give the impression of slimy ickiness, is the blurb: 'Mutant Angst!'. --------------------------------------------------------------------- [Continuity Note: This story arc occurs almost immediately after _Dvandom Force Annual_ #1 - Footnote Girl] Terri let herself into the apartment that Joe and Joshua shared. Before Joe had joined the Legion of Net.Heroes as Retcon Lad, she had once asked Joshua why he didn't take a room at the LNHQ, which he was certainly entitled to. He had demurred, saying that he simply wasn't a social enough person to stay in what was, effectively, a dorm. And besides, he had no particular desire to take up residence in any of the 'mutant guest quarters' that Self-Righteous Preacher had arranged for in the basement. She found Joe sitting at the table, staring out the window. Various bits and pieces of paper with information on Dave Thomas Deluxe University - where he would be starting his Freshman year come September - lay scattered about. He looked morose. "What's wrong with you," she asked. "Oh, I dunno. I'm still feeling pretty bummed out from Sig.Lad's funeral yesterday." She looked at him with more than a bit of exasperation. "Joe, we had a guest appearance in _Dvandom Force Annual_ #1, and you got to express your concerns and get a bit of character development in. Now you should put it behind you." Then a horrible thought occurred to her. "You're not suffering from... Mutant Angst, are you?" "Geez, I hope not! But..." That 'but' was a big one, since if anybody in the Legion was likely to fall prey to Mutant Angst it was he. The fact that Joe was Joshua's cousin, and that Joshua - as Limp-Asparagus Lad, the Man of Dull - was immune to Angst, caused people to assume that Joe was similarly immune. All too often they overlooked that fact that, as Retcon Lad, he had originally retconned himself into the Looniverse from rec.arts.comics.xbooks as a result of a chronic bout of Angst, and that like almost all inhabitants of the X-titles he probably still had Nicieza's Sledgehammer of Angst(tm) hanging over him like some blunt version of the Sword of Damocles. The thought that he might be doomed to forever brood about the great power of his retconning abilities (which demanded to be used with great responsibility lest their absolute power corrupt absolutely), and all for the benefit of a world that feared and hated him... Well, let's just say it wasn't a very pleasant prospect. "Oh God I hope not," Joe moaned again. "I mean, for all I know it's bloody contagious. I'm pretty sure Josh'd be immune, but what about the rest of you? I mean, can you imagine Kid Not Appearing on a full blown Mutant Angst downer? I've been there once before; trust me Terri, you don't want this." "Well, just calm down. I think the Writer's got different ideas for Kid's origin, if you know what I mean," replied Terri, "so any Angst he get's'll be the non-Mutant kind and only come in standard size doses. And as for me, actually, I have no idea whether I'm a mutant or not." She turned to the Writer. "Hey! Have you gotten around to figuring out what my origin is yet?" "I thought you already had an origin," said Joe. "As Kid Not Appearing In Any Retcon Hour Story's alt.version." "No, no, no. That's a meta-continuity origin," explained Terri. "That'll work fine for describing how characters relate to each other outside of the framework of the Looniverse's continuity. But you'd need something different if you're working the fictional framework. Like, there are still a number of people who can't fourth wall..." "Such as?" "Well, lessee. Mongoose still hasn't loosened up much on what U-Force are allowed to know, and I think Stirge is still keeping Errand Boy in the dark about being fictional." [_U-Force_ #5 and _Legion Files_ #2; _Errand Boy_ #7 - Footnote Girl] "Anyway, I need my own origin." She turned back to the Writer. "Or are you going to keep that a secret for dramatic tension purposes?" Uh, no. I just haven't figured out the full details yet. I do know that you're not a mutant. I think you got your powers from being bitten by a radioactive x-books fan. Joe started to snigger, his funk dispelled for the moment. Terri stared in what could have been shock, outrage, or just plain bamboozlement. The she made the observation, "You've been reading too much _Guitar Man_, haven't you?" "You can never read too much _Guitar Man_!," called Guitar Man from whatever storyline he was currently involved in. "Yeah, right, whatever, GM," she called back. "And stop giggling, you!" she told Joe severely. "Next best thing to being a mutant..." he managed to say before she hit him. "I think maybe you should save that particular origin for the return of X-Men Danglers Lass," she suggested across the fourth wall. Have you got better idea? "As a matter of fact, I do. Get back to me later; we'll talk." "Later?" Joe asked, rubbing his ribs. She threw him a decisive look. "Yeah, later. My origin can wait. I'm getting _you_ to LNHQ for a checkup." Joe cringed. That could only mean one thing. Well, possibly more than one, but he had a sinking feeling which one it would be. "Will this really be necessary?" "Yes." "You're sure we couldn't, you know, just get Kid Kirby or someone to whip up some technical-looking doohickie to take care of it?" "No." His face fell. "It's just that Special Bonding Boy's just so... nice. Saccharine even. Uhg! I don't think I could cope with being psychoanalysed by him." "That's the Angst talking," she countered. "The tendency to keep your problems to yourself and brood over them, letting them fester." "I guess so..." "So stop trying to think of excuses and come on." "Bet you want to lock me in the Peril Room an' have Self-Righteous Preacher torture me with cheesecake deprivation too," he muttered. "And stop making references to _LNH Triple Play_ #5. I love you for yourself, not for how much of a beefcake you are. Which is lucky for you 'cause unlike Contraption Man you don't look so hot in your underwear." "Ow." Legion of Net.Heroes HQ: "Sit down and make yourself comfortable," Special Bonding Boy said pleasantly. "Would you like something to drink? Orange juice, perhaps?" "Um, well. Coffee if you have it, thanks," RLad replied. The other nodded, got up and put the kettle on. Retcon Lad shifted his weight uncomfortably, then ventured, "You know, I was kind of expecting you to put me on the couch, or something." Special Bonding Boy nodded. "Yes. Most people do. And if it would make you feel more comfortable, then you can use it. But really, helping people is usually easiest if they're relaxed and at ease. And sometimes having them lie down on a couch makes people feel a little too much like they're in a cliche; they start to feel silly and tense up. I can sense that you're a bit dubious about seeing me, so I thought perhaps it would be best if we just had an informal chat." Then he smiled with a touch of whimsy. "Actually, that's also what the drinks are for." Retcon Lad noticed that SBBoy was only making one cup. "You're not having any?" His host smiled. "Just O.J. for me. I never drink coffee, and only keep the stuff to be social. That's why it's instant," he explained apologetically. "Oh. Right, well. I suppose it'd be too much to hope that you could just read what the problem is so we could get this over with?" "I'm afraid not," SBBoy replied, handing RLad a steaming cup. "I'm an empath, not a full telepath." "And the Legion doesn't have any proper telepaths," RLad acknowledged ruefully. "I almost wish I had Limp-Asparagus Lad's immunity to Angst." Special Bonding Boy smiled. "If wishes were horses. Really though, you shouldn't be hoping to be anyone other than yourself. Anyway, there are rarely any quick solutions these days. Not for personal problems, at any rate. The growing 'realism' in comic books may let the world suffer all sorts of bizarre menaces - fights between superbeings, alien invasions, supernatural apocalypses - that can all be resolved within a single story arc, or at most during a summer crossover Event, and afterwards it's as though nothing had ever happened. But since the start of the Marvel Age there's been an increasingly fashionable trend for personal problems to be drawn out over longer periods; supposedly it's character building. "Then again, there's been a more recent reaction against that sort of introspection, and as a result these days there's also the growing popularity of butt kicking characters who solve their problems by shooting them. Related to the genre of Vietnam revisionism, I suspect," he sighed sadly. "You sound like you don't approve," RLad observed. "Approval or disapproval isn't germane to the question. I don't like to see anyone in pain, and not simply because I can feel it myself. I will grudgingly concede the validity of angst as a character building tool. However, the so-called butt kickers are merely the most extreme example - those who superficially seem to be beyond angst and emotional pain, but who in fact are driven by it - even defined by it. They keep their pain bottled up inside and refuse to acknowledge or deal with it, letting it build up until it explodes. Then it becomes their driving force, then their motivation, and finally their whole raison d'etre - eating them like a cancer as it goes. By that time they have nothing but their pain and rage; it's all that's left of them. Take away their hate and need to inflict pain onto others for revenge, and there's nothing there, just hollow shells of people who were once happy and vibrant and alive..." He trailed off sadly. Then he gave Retcon Lad a grave look. "I hope that I can keep you from starting down that path." Retcon Lad suppressed a shudder, and said a fervent, "Me too." Special Bonding Boy smiled again. "So, what's bothering you?" Retcon Lad opened his mouth to speak, then gave an embarrassed smirk as he realised how neatly he'd been manoeuvred. He slumped back into a relaxed position. "I've been worrying about if my powers could've - could still be - used to bring back Sig.Lad," he began. "Not unnaturally, I suppose." "Yeah, well. It's just that it all seems so stupid, that's all. I've got the reasons clear in my head why I shouldn't go around meddling with things. Have had for some time. But, I just can't help but feel... you know, that I'm missing something vital, and there really is an overwhelming reason to get involved. And that one day I'll find it, and realise I could have - should have - helped, but did nothing, and let all sorts of suffering happen needlessly." "So you think it's a matter of your judgement?" "I guess so. I keep wondering how Retcon Man deals with it. Heck, even Retcon Boy for that matter." [This story is set before _R.E.J.E.C.T.S._ #1, and hence no reference is made to Retcon Roy - Footnote Girl] "A little introspection helps keep you on your toes," SBBoy agreed. "However, like everything it should be tempered with moderation. You shouldn't let self-examination grow into self-doubt." He paused. "There is, however, something else..." "Is there something I'm overlooking?" Special Bonding Boy shook his head. "It's not that. I sense... some other factor involved. It's tied up with your emotions, but it stands slightly apart." "What, external? Mind control? Something like that?" "I don't know. Let's go own to the labs to see whoever's on shift there." Bemused, RLad followed SBBoy down to the LNHQ's labs. Dr. Stomper was on duty, and after an explanation rigged RLad up to an improbably complicated piece of headgear - all wires and doo-dads. The Doctor plugged it into the computer and turned it on. Lights flashed, screens gave readouts, and the machine that went 'ping' did so. The results were astonishingly quick in coming. "Hmm. There _is_ something here. An energy matrix of extradimensional nature residing in the cortex." "There's an ED energy link?" "No, I said an energy matrix. There's a difference, albeit subtly so. There's no link, and it's not draining energy from elsewhere. It's inherent within you. Wait a moment while I try to confirm a match," the Explainer Supreme said, throwing a few switches. Retcon Lad glanced over at Special Bonding Boy, who merely sat as serene as ever. "Ah yes," said Dr. Stomper at last. "Angst." "We _knew_ that," complained RLad. "No, we suspected it," he corrected, then continued, "Artefact class, Marvel derived... Niciezan." "What?" "The matrix matches the pattern of Angst energy put out by Nicieza's Sledgehammer of Angst(tm). Curious." "But how can I retain Angst energy from the Hammer of Angst(tm)? I'm not a native of the Marvel Universe anymore - even the fanfiction one I originally came from," RLad protested. [_Limp-Asparagus Lad_ #5 - Footnote Girl] "That's what's curious," the Doctor acknowledged. "Let me think." His brow furrowed, and for a moment the only sound in the lab was an occasional sporadic 'ping', although RLad could have sworn he heard a faint chord of Think Music. "It's most likely a leftover of some type," the Doctor said at last. "We know that your retconning powers cause the most recent addition to history to take precedence. I would hypothesise, however, that a previous history is not necessarily fully erased unless there is a specific piece of new history to replace it." "You're saying that because I'm a mutant in both histories, I still retain a residue of Niciezan Angst." "Yes, although it may be a little more involved than that. Since you're a mutant in both histories, _and_ there was no reason for you not to retain a matrix of Angst energy normally found only in X-titles, you retain it. I suspect that circumstances are helped by the Looniverse being a parody of other comic book universes. That means that Niciezan Angst energy isn't specifically excluded from this continuity." "Oh great. So, is there some way it can be blocked, or anything?" "Possibly, but that may not be wise. As I said, it isn't an energy link, but rather a residue energy matrix. It's a part of you; part of your personality parameters. Trying to block it would be more or less equivalent to having a lobotomy." "Ick." "I warned you that there were rarely easy solutions," Special Bonding boy reminded him mildly. "Yeah, yeah. I remember." "At least we know what forms your angsting may take," SBBoy said optimistically. "Actually dealing with it will still be your task though." "That's a big task." "But not impossible. After all, not all of the X-titles characters have a heavy Angst quota. Nightcrawler comes to mind as a fairly obvious example." "All you have to do is remember to stick to the High Density Angst and avoid the Low Density Angst," said Dr. Stomper. "Say what?" "Avoid Low Density Angst. That's the light, frothy stuff that comes across as pointless brooding. It takes up a lot of on-panel time, and produces huge expositionary word and thought balloons as characters try to articulate their feelings, but it never gets resolved and eventually turns readers off as they start to recognise it for what it is: incessant whining. High Density Angst, on the other hand, is usually - but not always - more concise and actually leads to greater character development. Here," he added, getting up and taking a slim monograph off one of the bookshelves. "Read this. It'll explain the differences between HDA and LDA, and should help you work with Special Bonding Boy to reduce your Angst levels." Retcon Lad inspected the volume. On the cover was emblazoned: 'ANGST: An Amazing Medical Discovery'. Inside on the title page he read, 'ANGST: IT'S NOT SO BAD AFTER ALL', and 'copyright 1995 by Dave Van Domelen'. He skimmed through the introduction, noting in passing that it had been funded by the DvandOmega-Hardy Foundation. "Okay, thanks," he said, closing it for future reading. [The full text of the Angst Guide is available in the archives - Footnote Girl] Later, Joe went for a jog around the park. He felt he needed to get away from the paperwork at home. Special Bonding Boy seemed to have the right idea. The problem was how to differentiate between healthy introspection and debilitating self-doubt. He made the mental equivalent of a sigh. Probably it came with experience. That was the problem with life in general: it didn't come with an owner's manual that gave instructions. And even if it did, it probably wouldn't have been clear-cut and easy to understand. More likely it'd read like a VCR programming manual. Written in Japanese. As he circled the park, there came the distant sound of a fight. Glancing around, he spotted what seemed to be a running battle between costumed heroes and some supervillain or other. They were a few blocks away, so it was hard to tell exactly who was involved, but the general pyrotechnics and property damage made it clear what was going on in general terms. Then a generic force blast hit the building above him, and a huge piece of facade fell off. Joe went " eep " and leapt for safety. Unfortunately it was a very large piece of facade, and the last thing that he remembered - briefly - before he lost consciousness was the pain of impact. --------------------------------------------------------------------- Characters Credits: Special Bonding Boy created by wReam (Ray Bingham), and also thanks for feedback on SBBoy's characterisation Dr. Stomper is Public Domain Joe (Retcon Lad) and Terri (Fourth Wall Lass) created by Saxon Brenton. All characters copyright and tm their owners and/or creators --------------------------------------------------------------------- Add Notes: While Retcon Roy should be familiar to LNH readers (he's one of the R.E.J.E.C.T.S.), Retcon Man and Retcon Boy may (or may not) be more obscure. Retcon Man is listed as an NWC of Mike Roe in the Roster, although I'm not sure if he's had an actual appearance yet. Retcon Boy is not actually a Looniverse native, but rather is one of the Rio Grande Avengers in the Storm Saga on rec.arts.comics.creative.Back to the Index.