Limp-Asparagus Lad #19 The Plots Thicken Part 1 of Leftovers Written by and copyright 1996 Saxon Brenton Art still by Fr*d H*mback :-) --------------------------------------------------------------------- Cover is split in two halves. On the left half Limp-Asparagus Lad stands facing forwards and a young woman who is standing back to the audience, arms akimbo. In the right half Artemis and Redemption and fighting humanoid shadows, while Contraption Man races towards them from the background. In the top left hand corner underneath the LNH banner is the 'Leftovers Part 1' logo, which catches the eye as it is far more interesting than the 'Limp-Asparagus Lad' logo across the top of the cover. --------------------------------------------------------------------- [Continuity Note: The events of Leftovers take place almost immediately in the wake of The Flame Wars 3, and over a week or so in mid October 1995 - Footnote Girl] Date: Wednesday 11th October. Opening scene: Two figures were standing on a rooftop somewhere in the wharf district of Net.ropolis. One of them, a woman, was standing looking out at the Net.ropolis skyline towards the Emperor Norton Bridge. The other, a man, was fiddling with a small pyramid-shaped skeleton of metal containing various technical looking bits and pieces. Artemis turned back to Redemption and asked, "So how exactly is this supposed to work?" 'Demp looked up. "Uh, well, the null-elipticator here," he pointed, "scans the ether for tachyon emissions that would indicate a weakness in the fabric of space/time. Then..." "No. Not the device. I mean the whole plan. The Scientists Supreme of the 24th century thought this could be pulled off, and after you'd read that diskette of details that I gave you for them you said you agreed. But I, for one, am still confused. As I understand it, any time you try to change history, all that results is the divergence of an alt.ernate timeline." Redemption paused, gathering his thoughts, then said, "No. Not quite. That's what _usually_ happens. But you have to keep this in mind: this universe is not only fictional, but it's a shared Writer continuity too. There _always_ has to be enough leeway built into the system for exceptions if some Writer or other wants to do something different for plot purposes. And the fact that the Looniverse is a parody superhero universe only reinforces this. "So, normally when changing history you just diverge an alt. timeline. But sometimes there's a point in history that's so crucial that by interfering with it the timeline can be changed _without_ generating divergences. These are the fabled Cosmically Important Points, or C.I.P.s for short." "And that's what you're planning to use?" Redemption grimaced with a so-so look "Yes, but even that's an oversimplification. This plan calls for the use of something even more bizarre and inexplicable." Artemis tried to imagine something more bizarre than being able to resculpt history at will and with no messy side-effects from divergences. She came up blank. "What?" "A causally disconnected C.I.P.," answered 'Demp with a touch of awe in his voice. She looked at him. "Okay. I'll bite. What's a causally disconnected C.I.P.?" "Something I hadn't even imagined could exit," 'Demp admitted. "Although that was probably short-sighted of me. In the Looniverse, all things are supposed to be possible." He attached another wire, then stood up, wiping his hands. "Imagine you have to go back in time to assassinate someone who will one day become a ruthless, murdering tyrant. And because you had the use of a C.I.P. the assassination wouldn't result in any divergent histories." He looked at Artemis. "What would doing that require?" She considered. "Having the resources to time travel. Identifying the C.I.P. in question. Travelling back. Overcoming any defences that may be in place, including any other time travellers trying to interfere with your own mission. Then destroying the proto-tyrant." 'Demp nodded. "And the key point in this case is travelling to the point of historical divergence and interfering with it: actually being there to add an additional factor that wasn't there before and so change the outcome. If the event is a C.I.P. then history reconfigures itself. Otherwise: divergence. "In the case of causally disconnected C.I.P.s, that isn't necessary. It isn't the historical event that is the Cosmically Important Point, so you don't need to travel to its presence to manipulate it. The C.I.P. in the case is a locus anomaly that can be used to manipulate the space- time continuum. It isn't attached to any one historical event; it could be used to influence practically anything." He gave her a grave look. "That was what the Scientists Supreme managed to get imprecise and indirect evidence of. And from the looks of things, it seems to be absolutely huge. If you wanted, you could do almost anything with it. Anywhere or anywhen." At the LNHQ, Contraption Man was working away on the chronometers and other time-shift indicator-type doohickeys. This was because neither he nor Doctor Stomper were 100% convinced that all the time travellers nonsense was over now that Flashback situation had been dealt with. He paused and sighed, for a moment overwhelmed with regret. The Flashback situation. It had been resolved well enough, he supposed. But only at the cost of Good Kid's life [_Insanity Unlimited_ #2, part 6 of The Flame Wars III - Footnote Girl]. He still found himself wondering if he could have done more... He drew himself together. He had to stop this. God, the way he was continually angsting these days, you'd think he was a WC character with his own series or something! Anyway. Time travellers. Yes. There had been a lot of them during The Flame Wars III. Perhaps too many, but that was more the Writers' fault than anything. The FW3 had been a 'theme' crossover. Which, in many ways, was the problem... He'd already gone over the reports of Multi-Tasking Man, Limp-Asparagus Lad and Footnote Girl, Fan.Boy, Writers Block Woman (and Mouse), and the Misfits. The nameless time traveller found murdered in the abandoned warehouse district, PJack and PJill, Serendipity Jones, and Weirdness Girl's Great Uncle Brown were all accounted for, one way or another. That, of course, still left that Dreck person that Fan.Boy had said had been under the control of PJack and PJill. Fan.Boy's assessment had been that he would be harmless now that he was free of the others' mental control, but Fan.Boy wasn't necessarily the most reliable of judges. More puzzling had been the report of those from second part of the crossover. L-ALad and FGirl hadn't reported encountering any time travellers, except for the obligatory fight scene with Flashback himself. Contraption Man was more than mildly surprised that the Writer of that issue had been able to restrain himself. The signs were clear: somewhere out there, there was at least one other time traveller still on the loose. [This is what passes for logic in comic book universes folks :-) - Footnote Girl] The funny thing was, all those time travellers had seemed to have had a cascading effect. More and more of them had turned up, almost as if they had been drawn to this point in time. Dr Stomper had postulated that something called the 'Crisis-Benchmark Effect' was in operation. Moreover, afterwards, the temporal signatures had lingered. Not, it should be noted, the temporal signatures of those particular time travellers. Just... the signature of a temporal anomaly in general. And it had grown to more just a localised effect: it seemed to cover the whole of Net.ropolis. Nowhere near as endemic as during Retcon Hour, when the entire Looniverse had been covered. But still, it indicated a disturbing trend... The Gadgeteering Guru frowned at the chronometer he had just finished modifying. He'd boosted its sensitivity by a factor of more than fifteen. Hopefully now the Legion could get some more precise readings to work with. He tapped his comm.thingee and said, "Dr Stomper, I've finished the modifications you suggested, and I'm going to start taking readings." "Roger, Contraption Man," came the reply. "I'll be down presently. Out." Contraption Man nodded to himself, set the machines to work, and patiently watched as the first readings began to accumulate. A few minutes later when the Explainer Supreme arrived from the Med-Lab, CM looked up and asked, "What do you make of this?" Doctor Stomper looked at the chronometer. "Intriguing," he observed. Contraption Man rolled his eyes. "Yes, but can you make any sense of it?" "Oh, yes," replied Dr S, dragging himself from his distracted state. "More time distortion, but not of the localised type that can be pinpointed to any one individual." The other nodded. That's what he'd thought, although he'd been hoping that he'd been wrong. "Tell me if I'm wrong, but that looks almost exactly like the readings you took during Retcon Hour." The Doctor hesitated, then nodded grimly. "Yes, I'm afraid so. Almost identical, slight variance in base pattern. Scale is different of cour... Hello..." He reached forward to adjust a calibrator. "What?" CM asked, taking a look at the readings. "I'm picking individual specific readings again. In the wharf district." "I'll go and check it out," CM decided - perhaps somewhat impulsively - turning and picking up a portable scan.thingee. Doctor Stomper raised an eyebrow. Delicately he asked, "Is that necessarily wise?" Contraption Man gave him a wan smile. "Doc, ultimately there are few people who _aren't_ susceptible to retcons. But I'll be careful." Doctor Stomper acquiesced, a touch embarrassed at the need to have brought the issue up. "Just make sure you call for backup if you need it. No unnecessary or foolish heroics." Contraption Man grinned. "Sure." Then he headed for the transmat chamber. He arrived to find Procrastination Lad on duty. In fact, he was still on duty from yesterday, when he'd been late anyway. CM didn't even bother to ask if the other could enter the co-ordinates for him. He simply said, "Just making a run down to the docks, PL," as he punched them himself and set up the transmat with a delay. "Okay," replied the Master of Delayed Response, barely bothering to look up from his comic book. It was a two month old copy of _Superman_ because he hadn't gotten around to going and picking up the latest releases yet. Contraption Man vanished. Not in the usual whine and sparkles of the transmat, but with a -BLiP-. Contractual obligations donchaknow. Procrastination Lad continued to read his comic. Then, a few minutes later it -BLiPped- again. "Excuse me," said a female voice. PLad looked up to find a young woman dressed in plain spandex standing before him. "Can you tell me if Limp-Asparagus Lad is in today?" "Oh, sure. I think so," PLad replied. "His turn to make lunch, I think." "Thanks." Procrastination Lad returned back to his comic book as she left. It occurred to him that maybe he should call Limpy and tell him he had a visitor looking for him, especially since she had not identified herself and probably constituted a Mysterious Unknown Character. But he decided to do it later. Back at the docks, Redemption stood up and announced, "Okay, I'm ready to start scanning." "How long should this take?" "Twenty minutes, maybe half an hour," he replied, punching some buttons on what looked like home-designed remote control. Artemis nodded, and then asked. "Then how long to set up for the manipulations, and how long to actually carry them out?" 'Demp paused, doing calculations in his head. "Depends on the nature of the C.I.P., I suppose. An hour or so, minimum, for the set up. Could be lots longer though, maybe up to a few days. Same again for the manipulations. It all depends if there are complications to account for. Then a bit more time to tidy up. I'd say it'll be at least tomorrow afternoon before we're done." He finished off programming the scanner, and activated it. The pyramid started to hum. Satisfied, 'Demp stretched to work the kinks out of his back. "Well, at least we'll have the time to do it without interruptions," Artemis observed, standing near the edge of the roof of the abandoned warehouse they had set themselves up in. Beside her was one of the four upright poles that the two of them had set up to cloak their presence from detection. Alarmed, 'Demp exclaimed, "Don't say things like that!" She threw him a look of bemused irritation. "You're paranoid, you know that? Last time was only because someone was looking for time travellers, and we hadn't set up any protection yet." Six shadowy humanoid figures erupted from all points around the roof. "Told you!" Redemption called, leaping for armaments. After their encounter with that nut-case last issue, 'Demp had taken a bit of time out to cobble together some weaponry for himself. He berated himself for not having had it on him. It was a simple stun-gun working on neurological disruption principles. Armoured foes may be able to withstand mere physical projectiles, but it would require something considerably more devious to baulk a weapon of this type, primitive and piecemeal though its construction may be. He hefted the stunner, which was an unwieldy looking collection of bits and pieces, looking neither like a gun nor a Star Trek phaser. Then, taking aim, he blasted at one of the silhouettes, noting as it approached the way it seemed to glide around obstacles. Non-corporeal? Hmm. Then he was _very_ surprised at the way the creature flashed as a negative image of itself and discorporated when hit. Redemption stood, staring for a second, before a cry from Artemis brought his attention back to earth. It seemed she had been taking swipes at them with her staff, but had been frustrated by their apparent non- physical nature. Two had lunged at her, and she had avoided both with a backwards somersault. Now she had cried out, warning him... He spun around, just in time to be grabbed on the shoulder be one of the creatures. It burned. The pain was excruciating. Panicked, he swung the stunner around in a wild arc, and fortunately the beam managed to clip his attacker and dispatch it. Hyperventilating, he looked around to take stock of the situation. There were more of the silhouette things closing in one him. Feeling somewhat cowardly at the possibility of leaving Artemis exposed as the single available target while he manoeuvred for room, he nevertheless did the only thing he could to grab himself some time: he held up the stunner and hid behind it. The silhouettes milled about confused. But only for a second. That, however, was more than enough time for 'Demp to start putting distance between himself and them. Artemis, meanwhile, used her staff's energy blast on one of them in that tight-packed little group. The result was impressive. The shadow thing didn't just discorporated. It actively blew up, taking a fair sized chunk of the roof with it - including the scanner that had taken so long to build. 'Demp was rather disappointed about its loss, but was fervently glad that he'd decided to get out away from them. Then his heart sank as the remaining two creatures glided out from the area of the blast, seemingly unharmed. He had hoped that they would be destroyed in the explosion as well. This was going to be a long fight scene. Now on Artemis' side of the roof, 'Demp stopped hiding and backed up towards her. "Persistent, aren't they?" he said, trying his hand at net.hero banter. He took another shot at one of them, but it dodged. "Very," she agreed. He was nonplussed. How could you dodge something moving at the speed of light, when the instant you sensed its presence it had already hit you? Probably Star Trek physics. Another silhouette did the same for Artemis' energy shots. The situation now seemed to be more or less at an impasse. Both groups stood on either side of the roof (and the gaping hole in the middle of it) momentarily at a loss on how to attack the other. But only momentarily. Two of the creatures leapt forward and down, passing through the roof. "Stay alert!" Artemis ordered. 'Demp nodded, as he had been planning on doing that anyway. Then one of those silhouettes came up from over the edge of the roof, behind them, while the one that had remained visible above ground leapt across the intervening space. They dodged the shots of the two spandexed humans as they came. Then, a second later, the third came up from below. The very touch of the creatures felt like his skin was being flayed away, but a clinical bit of awareness at the back of 'Demp's mind noted that the 'wounded' areas on both himself and Artemis didn't show any signs of damage. Distracted and unable to get clear shots in at such short range (especially in 'Demp's case, since he was not a good marksman) the two of them were quickly on a desperate defensive. Things probably would have begun to look pretty bad for the pair of them, if at that point a fluorescent orange ray beam hadn't struck one of the silhouettes. It stiffened and then fell over flat onto the roof, where it lay like a cardboard cutout - totally two dimensional. "Neat special effects," Artemis murmured. From the door down into the building Contraption Man took another shot. He was a bit put out when the creature he had been aiming for dodged. "We'll have to herd them," Artemis called. "I'll take right, you go left. 'Demp, take center." Conty nodded. Artemis dived and rolled away, while 'Demp began backing up, waving his arms and crooning "Cooome and geeet meee." Only one took the bait. 'Demp shrugged and aimed at it. It dodged, running smack into the ray beam from Conty, while the shot from Artemis simply scorched the roof. The final silhouette leapt over the edge of the roof, and vanished. "Thanks for the assist Contraption Man," Artemis acknowledged. "Whoa! Artemis!" he said, recognising her. "Hey, haven't seen you in ages." "Yes. And it's been even longer for me," she stated blandly. "I didn't want to comment on the age difference," he replied straight faced. "It's not considered polite to comment on a girl's age." "Age doesn't worry me anymore Conty. I've come a long way since I changed my identity from Limp-Asparagus Lass during the first and only adventure of the LNH Brats." Contraption Man nodded. Then, "You want to make introductions?" he asked. "Sure. Contraption Man, this is my partner for this mission, Redemption. Redemption, this is Contraption Man, an old acquaintance of mine." The two men shook hands, with Redemption working hard not to show his discomfiture. An LNHer! He shouldn't be worried - Contraption Man had never encountered him as Sufferyng during ESong, and in any case people _never_ recognised superbeings when they had their masks on; it was one of the fundamental rules of the genre. Yet 'Demp's hands were sweating, and it was all he could do to look Contraption Man in the eye and smile as he made his acquaintance. "So, what is your mission?" "We're here to save the world." She shrugged. "What else?" Subplot Lad and Limp-Asparagus Lad were in the foyer of the LNHQ, talking. "So, Chris Melwizcht has refused to see you at all?" the Man of Dull asked. SLad nodded, both resigned and somewhat guilty. "Yeah. About five times I've tried to get in touch with him. I got brush off every time." "I suspect he may not be upset with you in particular," L-ALad postulated. "When Lipid-Artery Lad and myself rescued him, he seemed to be feeling antagonistic to superheroes and supervillains in general." [_Limp-Asparagus Lad_ #13 - Footnote Girl] "Mmf. Maybe. That doesn't mean I didn't contribute. Or that I can't help now." He blinked, and looked up. "We're on panel," he observed matter-of-factly. L-ALad cast a calm gaze around the room. "One wonders what my Writer is planning this time. I understand Contraption Man and Doctor Stomper are concerned that he tried to slip an extraneous time traveller through from the last crossover." Subplot Lad grimaced theatrically. "Not that again. Doesn't he know how dangerous those time travel stories are?" "Perhaps. However, Writers do have a reputation for being careless with dangerous plotlines," his companion noted in a didactic monotone. SLad gave him a wry look at having completely missed the point again. Then his attention was attracted by the young Mysterious Unknown Character who was walking towards them. "Helllloooo nurse," he breathed. "Hello, I'm looking for Limp-Asparagus Lad" she said. "I am Limp-Asparagus Lad," said Limp-Asparagus Lad. She frowned. "But you don't look anything..." Then recognition kindled in her eyes. "Uncle Limpy?" He nodded. "Yes. My apologies for not being more recognisable," he said, referring to his currently enhanced musculature. "What brings you here, Limp-Asparagus Lass?" In a high tech looking command center at an indeterminate location, a person whose face was obscured by a gas mask was leaning forward on a table, watching a screen. He straightened. As he did so, it could be seen that although his face is covered, there was a hint that his skin has a scaly, reptilian cast about it. "It begins," he said with a voice like gravel. "You cannot begin to know how long I have been working at this project. But soon... soon, these worlds will be mine." He gazed across at a clear plastic tube which seems to be traditional for villains to hold their captured foes in. "And you will have a front row seat of FourtyTwo Hungry Gator's triumph over your universe..." he strode forward to stand in front of the tube, where his captive - an adolescent boy in spandex and a dark lue coat - looked very frustrated indeed, "... my dear Cool Kid." --------------------------------------------------------------------- Character Credits: Artemis, FortyTwo Hungry Gators, and Subplot Lad created by Saxon Brenton. Contraption Man, Doctor Stomper, and Procrastination Lad are Public Domain. Cool Kid created by Dilip Shah (Used without permission). Limp-Asparagus Lad owned by Saxon Brenton, created by Mystic Mongoose (Robert Armstrong) and wReam (Ray Bingham (Chaos and Entropy incarnate)). Redemption (Sufferyng) is Public Domain. Reserved by Saxon Brenton. All characters copyright and tm 1996 their owners and/or creators. --------------------------------------------------------------------- Add Notes: [Waggles finger accusingly] If you'd been paying attention to _Kid Mysticism_ in its high teens then you may know who Limp-Asparagus Lass is. If you haven't, tough. You'll have to wait for next issue. Whatever year that comes out in :-PBack to the Index.