Limp-Asparagus Lad #40 A Legion of Net.Heroes title "T'was The Attempt To Take Over The World Before Christmas" Written by Saxon Brenton Art by Dr. Se*ss --------------------------------------------------------------------- Cover shows Anal-Retentive Archive Kid, Curious Lass, Fourth Wall Lass, Psionic Lad, and Retcon Lad in the middle ground, looking on in shock or amazement (or in Curious Lass's case, leaning forward in intense curiosity) at the figure before them. This figure is a whited out silhouette standing in the foreground, back to the readers, with arms out and fists clenched in melodramatic manner. --------------------------------------------------------------------- Fourth Wall Lass was running a bit late when she entered the LNHQ cafeteria and looked around. There weren't many people present, which perhaps was not surprising for Christmas Eve. Limp-Asparagus Lad and Shake-N-Bake Lass were rostered on for the kitchen, and only a small number of Legionnaires were about. The exact identities of who were present will be left blank, just in case there are any other Christmas stories using the cafeteria at this time. Fourth Wall Lass spotted Retcon Lad and Anal-Retentive Archive Kid sitting at a table near the kitchen. "Hey guys," she said, walking over to them. The boys looked up. "Well, hullo dere," said Retcon Lad, standing and giving her a kiss. "Sorry I'm late," she said. "I lost track of time." "Don't worry about it, it's cool," said ARAK. He was thin young man with brown hair in a ponytail and glasses who was working as the library assistant to Librarian Lady. "Take a seat," he offered, gesturing. Just then, Curious Lass and Psionic Lad wandered in. "Hi people," Curi said. Hellos were exchanged all round. "So, what are you two up to?" Fourth Wall Lass asked. "Well, we're off to find ourselves a Christmas story," answered Psionic Lad. Retcon Lad puzzled over the phrasing of that remark. " 'Find'? " "Yeah, well, you know. Our Writer promised us a Christmas story ages ago," said Curious Lass, with a hint of disapproval. "Several times in fact. One of them was even under threat of violence when we had her pegged at the RACCCafe." [In 'RACCCafe: Writer Abuse' - Footnote Girl] "Anyway," Psionic Lad continued, "she hasn't come through yet. So this time we've decided to go off and find our own Christmas story without her." "Bummer," commiserated ARAK. Curious Lass nodded. "It looks like the Mystery Villain may have been right about her not coming through." [In 'RACCCafe: Sustained Writer Abuse' - Footnote Girl] "I am not sure it's wise to make such exacting references to the RACCCafe," Limp-Asparagus Lad interjected from the bench to the kitchen. "Mentioning its existence is probably safe, but explaining its stories is risky. It has even looser continuity than the Looniverse does, and we might be drawn into a low pressure continuity vacuum, or something similar." "Well, that's true as far as it goes," agreed Psionic Lad. "But it's not as though it's actually had much story happening there lately. At the moment its mainly full of Omega characters spruiking for votes for the RACCies." He gave Curious Lass an arch look. Curious Lass had to struggle to keep from cracking up into laughter. "What?" asked Retcon Lad, suspecting there was a joke going on here. "Curious Lass became tired of all the Omega characters in the RACCCafe soliciting votes for Archer Sloane as best supporting character," explained Limp-Asparagus Lad, deadpan. "So when the most recent offender came around she pulled the front of his trousers open and poured a beer into his underwear." And that caused them all to crack up with laughter. Anal-Retentive Archive Kid grinned, "I guess he was lucky it wasn't a froppuccino, otherwise it would have..." "*Don't* go there, all right?" warned RLad, still grinning but managing to look stern. "This isn't an Acrophobe title." "Uh, yeah," agreed ARAK, only slightly abashed. Changing the subject, RLad said to Curi and Psi, "Hey, would you like to come with us? We're going off to Dave Thomas Deluxe for a Christmas story ourselves." " 'Christmas story'? " repeated Anal-Retentive Archive Kid, sounding both amused and playfully pedantic. "Okay okay," countered RLad with good-humoured weariness. "It's an 'end-of-year-festive-season' story." "Hmm, is Politically Correct Person around here, I wonder?" asked Curious Lass. They all chuckled. Then Curi said, "Look, thanks for the offer. We'd love to come. That would be wonderful." Outside, it was a warm and clear night. There was no snow. This was because during the current financial year the city of Net.ropolis had been assigned to be in the state of Flori.dir, and the evening of 24th December was a mild 15 degrees C (about 59 F). They chatted as they walked, eventually arriving at Dave Thomas Deluxe University. "Okay, so, now what?" asked Psionic Lad, looking around. "Do we wait for some bad guy to turn up, or what?" "Probably," said Anal-Retentive Archive Kid as he scanned the area. "It's what normally happens in these sort of circumstances." And then, right on cue, the five of them were attacked by a ravening horde of newts. "Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!" "Polly want a cracker!" "I am the very model of a modern genus Triturus!" "Arggh!" said ARAK, "I've been slimed!" "Get out of my hair!" snarled FaWL. "Newts? We're being attacked by newts?" said RLad incredulously as he swatted a handful aside. "We're supposed to take this seriously?" "We are when they attack in large numbers," replied Curious Lass nervously. She was looking upwards. "Wha...?" RLad managed, before what seemed like a hundred zillion of the slimy little critters dropped down on top of the net.heroes from the second floor of an adjacent building, pinning the five of them down under the collective mass. Retcon Lad felt like saying, 'All right, I concede that they could be a greater danger than I thought', but he didn't want to open his mouth in case he sucked a lizard into his lungs. "Get... *off*... of... *US*!" gritted Psionic Lad, heaving the weight of newts aside with a telekinetic force bubble. "O-kay," said ARAK, managing to get to his feet, then peering out at the newts beyond Psi's forcefield (who continued to gibber "Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!"). "Uhh, ARAK," said FaWL. "Would now be a good time to use that cosmic thingee of yours?" Anal-Retentive Archive Kid gave a brief look of confusion. "You mean the Cosmic Cataloguing Tool?" "That's the one." "No." "Oh. Okay. Why not?" "There isn't much that it can do against anti-social newts." "What about all that cool KirbyKrackle that it lets off?" "It won't do much good unless they're intimidated by lighting effects. That's just a side-effect of how it catalogues things. That's all it does; it just catalogues." "So, it can't emit searing beams of coruscating energy?" "No, it just catalogues. Sorry." "Okay then." "Maybe through the fourth wall?" suggested Curious Lass into their discussion. "I mean, make a temporary strategic withdrawal and then regroup," she added, being loathe to actually admit defeat. "Sounds like a plan to me," agreed FaWL. "Let's trace them back to where they came from." They jumped through the portal that Fourth Wall Lass opened up in the fourth wall, then traced the movements of the newts back through the last half hour or so. They discovered that little devils had all originated from the genetics engineering building - or the Frankenstein Place, as it was more commonly known about campus. The gene-engineers who worked there were more than a little strange, which by Dave Thomas Deluxe standards was saying something, but the nicknames didn't matter much to the Frankies or in any way put a crimp in their social lives because they made friends easily. "Well well," said Curious Lass, observing that its labs seemed to be in use. "There's a light, over at the Frankenstein Place." "Yeah," agreed Retcon Lad. "A light, burning in the fireplace." The others chorused, "A light... a light. In the darkness... of everybody's life." Then they paused. With great embarrassment Curious Lass asked, "Why did we just sing that?" "I could make a guess that the Writer is being exceptionally silly as a counter to the depressing Christmas story he did last year... I mean, last issue," Retcon Lad hypothesised. He shrugged apologetically. "Just keep reminding yourselves that you wanted to do a Christmas story, and it might make things seem less painful." Curious Lass muttered something under her breath. "Pardon?" said FaWL. "I said, 'You realise of course that if I vow that I will never complain about Carolyn being late with her stories ever again, then she'll only use that as an excuse to dump on us even worse, don't you?' " There wasn't much that could be said in response to that. Instead, FaWL said, "Come on." And so, keeping an eye out for any more of those pesky newts, they made their way to genetics labs. Once inside, they crossed back over and made the final leg of the journey, heading towards the newts' source. Along the way, they passed various exhibits. Anal-Retentive Archive Kid kept glancing around, looking at all the neat stuff that he'd read up on over the years. Like, there was the three meter tall plaster mould of the footprint of the giant armadillo that had terrorised Net.ropolis after the Frankies had accidentally released it. Or a jar of the radioactive acidic drool form The Vampiric Carrot That Ate Phila.delete-file.ia. And there, stuffed and mounted, was the Ewock of Professor Tom 'Three Fingers' Flanagan. There was a story behind the presence of the small furry carcass that stood, barring its fangs in the glass case. But then, there were always stories about at Dave Thomas Deluxe... ...It had begun with one of Flanagan's spelunking expeditions. As one of the senior members of the Geology Department, he often indulged his passion for caving by taking classes down into the tunnels and caves below Net.ropolis. Properly armed, of course. During one such expedition they had been attacked by a dozen Ewocks. These hideously cute little abominations that look like a cross between Care Bears and the Star Wars Ewoks had been left behind in the wake of Manga Khan's failed attempt to take over the world [ _Tales of the LNH_ #333-335 - Footnote Girl], although the spelunkers hadn't known that. They had taken casualties from the critters, but had managed a retreat while inflicting losses by using their atomic bazookas on the fuzzy little monsters. But during the withdrawal a final, thirteenth Ewock had latched onto Flanagan. The Professor had throttled the creature with his bare hands and then dragged its foetid hide back to the university for taxonomic keeping - but not before it had bitten off the pinkie and ring finger of his right hand, as well as claw scars onto his arms and face. Shortly thereafter the nickname 'Three Fingers' had begun to circulate among the students. Flanagan had adopted it with good humour, since it, along with the scars, added to his reputation for daring-do... "Hey, ARAK. You coming, or what?" called out Psionic Lad. Anal-Retentive Archive Kid looked up. "Sorry. Got lost in thought." "That's a good way to get turned into newt-meat. You know that, don't you?" It soon became apparent that their destination was underneath the main building, rather than in the well lit labs above ground. And this region seemed to be a high security area from the complexity of locks on the doors and all the warning signs. "Looks like we shouldn't have dropped back through the fourth wall yet," said FaWL, and opened a portal to skirt the five of them around the obstacles. Once inside, they found a spacious yet still quite crowded laboratory full of various apparatus including numerous upright tubes. The tubes seemed to all be busted, with some remains of a greenish liquid having spilled out over the floor. And there were human corpses inside. "Oh, gross," commented Curious Lass, poking her tongue out - though this didn't stop her from making a closer examination of the carnage. "Hmm. Hey guys, these tubes have nameplates on them." "What, code names for genetic experiments and stuff like that?" guessed ARAK. "That too. But they've also got names of politicians from the House of Representatives and the Senate." "Bwah?" "Hey, she's right. Look at these. 'GephardtMan', 'LivingstonMan'... What is this?" "It was part of a conspiracy to clone Usenetted States federal government leaders," came a disembodied voice that echoed around the lab. The Legionnaires looked about, trying to place the source of the voice, which continued: "Then, they would be used to replace the real articles and by doing so *take over the world*!" "The country," Fourth Wall Lass corrected, absently. "What?" "If they were only replacing Usenetted States government members, then they'd take over the country, not the world." There was a snort of disgust from the shadows. "Just what I'd expect from a feeble-minded un-Amer.rec.an bitch. Amer.rec.a is the greatest country that God ever put on the face of this planet. The men who worked here knew full well that if they took control of the Usenetted States government then they would have control of the world. All it needed was for their clones to not act like gutless wimps and invoke the nation's Manifest Destiny." The Legionnaires bridled at the arrogance and insults. Curious Lass, however, probed. "So what happened to all the clones?" "I destroyed them! They were they were a threat to *my* plans." "Uh..." said Curious Lass, who had a sudden startling vision of where this was heading. "I will remake Ame.rec.an civilisation - in *my* image." A figure stepped out of the shadows and into a splashpage. It was human, more or less: a white male in his sixties but with hair an icky shade of green. A gaggle of newts leered and gibbered from behind him. "I, the Gingrinch Who Stole Christmas!" .oO(Ah-ha,) thought Curious Lass. (So that explains the strange choice of guest artist.) Out loud she said, "No, you're not taking over any country." The Gingrinch gave her a look that one would reserve for the contents of a toilet bowl, then opened his mouth and projectile spat what seemed like another hundred zillion newts at her. The impact send her flying across the lab, impacting heavily against the wall. "Curi!" yelled Psi Lad, alarmed. "Defensive positions!" yelled Retcon Lad. The LNHers scrambled, suddenly finding themselves under attack by the innumerable hordes of newts. "Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!" "You bubble-headed booby!" "Oh I am your dentist... and I enjoy the pain I inflict!" Psionic Lad lashed out telepathically, seeking to overwhelm the Gingrinch's mind and hopefully removing the leadership of the insane assault of the newts. Instead, Psi clutched at his head and screamed in pain, then fell to his knees. "Psi!" Fourth Wall Lass cried. She grabbed him and dragged him to cover, taking gleeful delight in jumping on a few of the newts on the way. "Ow," said Psi. "What was that all about?" "He's powerful and paranoid and arrogant, and he's got also got willpower like an iron bar. He's utterly convinced that he's right in everything, and he relishes confrontations because that gives him the opportunity to squash everybody else and reinforce his own worldview. Oh man, that smarts." Then he looked up as he thought of something, peering around urgently. =( Curi? )= he sent telepathically. =( I'm here. I was just winded, that's all. )= Psi Lad felt a wave of relief. Which vanished when they heard ARAK scream in pain. Fourth Wall Lass split her attention between fending off the pack- like assaults of the newts and poking her head around the corner to see what had happened. Apparently ARAK had tried to use his martial arts training against the Gingrinch, who had in turn welcomed the attack since it had given him the opportunity to demonstrate not only how physically invulnerable he was, but also that he was agile enough to intercept ARAK's assault and strong enough to break the young man's arm like a twig. The Gingrinch roared with derisive laughter. "You two bit punks. You disgusting little liberal wimps. You welfare-cheating homosexual drug- using pro-choice goat sodomisers." The Legionnaires fell back to regroup; the Gingrinch did not follow, although the newts continued to harass them. "Pieces of eight! Pieces of eight!" "Shut UP!" snarled Retcon Lad, stomping on two newts. Then, more calmly, "Anybody got any ideas?" before turning most of his attention to ARAK's arm. Fourth Wall Lass had her hands full holding off the newts while RLad splinted ARAK's arm, so she wasn't able to *literally* count off some of the more obvious options and superheroic conventions on her fingers, but she enumerated them anyway. "Overwhelm him with a full frontal attack. Call the LNHQ for reinforcements. Discover his inevitable secret weakness and use it against him. Have Retcon Lad make it so that he was released from his cloning tank prematurely and will soon weaken and collapse..." "It might have been a while since he escaped from his tank," RLad warned. "So it might not be safe to pull off a retcon like that." "Are we sure he's a clone anyway?" Curious Lass asked rhetorically. "He's certainly obnoxious enough to be the original." "The green hair's a dead giveaway," Psi Lad pointed out. "He could have dyed it," she countered. "Christmas..." said ARAK. "Huh?" said the others, their trains of thought suddenly derailed by his non-sequitur. "Why does he call himself 'the Gingrinch Who *Stole* Christmas'?" ARAK continued. "Maybe he has his tenses mixed up?" suggested FaWL "Boy, I bet Grammar Lad would get worked up over that..." .oO( He doesn't like Christmas, ) ARAK realised. ( And he wants to get rid of it so badly that he sees his ambition as a fate accompli. Owww! ) A shot of pain made him wince, making him regret his foolishness in attacking the villain directly by himself. ( Courage may be one of the Nine Noble Virtues, but there's also such a thing as common sense, ) he thought ruefully. It was an embarrassing weakness that ARAK knew he had. Like Retcon Lad, ARAK had what would in all honesty be best described as a weedy physique. He took self-defence classes to counter that, and he was moderately accomplished at it - but in his darkest moments he suspected that it was his vanity trying to compensate for not being built like a jock. And then there were times like this when he was reminded - hard - that his best asset was and always had been his mind. "I think I can swing something," he announced. "You're not swinging anything," Retcon Lad said, "Not physically, in any case." He was still considering ways to minimise ARAK's injury. Given the limitations on his own powers, he was hardly able to retcon the injury away as 'never having happened'. "I think the best I can do is make the injury look worse than it actually is," he hazarded, then made it thus. "You'll still need to keep it in a splint, but it'll heal properly *providing you don't do anything physical*." Anal-Retentive Archive Kid grinned to keep the pain under control. "If this works, none of us'll have to do anything physical. I suggest we stay over here, and one at a time tell stories at the Gingrinch while the others provide cover." The others stared at him. "What?" said Curious Lass, succinctly summing up their reaction. "Just trust me. I've got a plan," ARAK said. He stood up and faced the Gingrinch, who laughed at them - an obnoxious, arrogant laugh. The other LNHers continued to swat off the pesky newts that were still harrying them. Anal-Retentive Archive Kid focused past the pain in his arm, then gave the Gingrinch a firm look, drew a breath, and began: First story: "In winter, the time of white death, we give thanks to the Gods of our troth for their help in making a peaceful and prosperous year. For the Gods are our kin, and we accept their help gratefully and without servitude as a loving family should. "At year's end the doors between worlds stand open, and the utangardhs of cold stalk the land. At this time Odin rides the sky at the head of wutendas Heer - the raging rout - seeking and dragging away evil wights; and Berchta, the Goddess of the hearth, checks each household during the twelve days of Yule, giving blessing to those who have worked hard and always looking out to protect the children. And each winter the folk and the Gods are reminded that although our worlds are precarious, still they are good worlds, and we remember the victories of the past that have brought us to our current contented state: "One day Freyr, lord of prosperity and fertility, sat upon Odin's High Seat and looked out on the nine worlds. From the throne he saw a maiden so beautiful that she took his breath away. Her name was Gerd, and she was the daughter of Gymir, one of the ice giants. And in that moment Freyr was consumed with love for her, but he could not think of a way to win her, and was overcome with melancholy. "Freyr's mother Skadi saw her son pinning and set out to see what was wrong with him, and so sent Freyr's friend and servant Skirnir to discover the cause of her son's unhappiness. This took little effort, and when he knew Freyr's trouble Skirnir offered to go the Gerd on Freyr's behalf and take a message of adoration to her, but he insisted that he must be given a mare who feared no fire. "Skirnir travelled to Jottunheim, the land of the giants, and approached the castle of Gymir. Fierce guard dogs were chained by the door, and a guard was placed on watch, and a moat of fire surrounded the castle, but Skirnir would not allow himself be dissuaded. The dogs barked and foamed at him, and the guard gave warning and called for Skirnir to halt, but Skirnir gave them no heed and urged his horse through the curtain of fire that rose up from the moat to bar him entry. And so Skirnir came to Gerd and told her of Freyr's protestations of love. "He offered her three gifts in Freyr's name: Freyr's sword which could fly and wield itself in battle, eleven of the golden apples of Idun, and the ring Draupnir that had belonged to Odin. But Gerd was reluctant, and protested that she was a daughter of the ice giants and could not marry a God of the Vanir. To this Skirnir responded that Freyr's own mother, the wise Skadi and wife of Njord, was a jottun too; and then with guile, he pointed out that if she stayed with the ice giants she would remain cold forever, trapped away from loving company. Gerd relented then, and agreed to meet Freyr in nine nights time at a sacred grove. "The nine nights were an agony for Freyr, but at the appointed time Freyr met her, and wooed her, and took her as his bride. By doing so the God of summer growth and plenty won the heart of the daughter of cold. His love for her brings warmth to both her heart and to the land, ensuring the regular passage of seasons and continued hope for the world." Anal-Retentive Archive Kid finished speaking. The Gingrinch was standing there, a confused look on his face. The newts were milling around, unsure of what to do. It was a good start, thought ARAK, especially considering that the Gingrinch probably didn't understand the significance of the story, or what they were planning on doing to him. Then ARAK threw a glance at Retcon Lad, who was standing beside him. "Your turn for a story." Retcon Lad blinked and rummaged in his head for something to say. Considering who he was facing off against he was half inclined to tell an indignant story of the time that a bunch of hatred-obsessed high schoolers whose anti-mutant bigotries had been stirred up by religious fundamentalism had chased a superpowered boy into a churchyard on Christmas eve and beaten him to death. But he suspected that the scheme ARAK was trying to pull off needed heart-warming stories. And besides, Retcon Lad knew that if he told that tale, then Fourth Wall Lass would again tell him to stop flagellating himself over the incident. Under the circumstances it would probably be best to stick to the basics... Second story: "During the time that Augustus was Caesar in Rome it was decided that there would be a census. Each man was to return to his home city and be counted, and as a result of this Joseph of Nazareth returned to Bethlehem, because he belonged to the house of David. With Joseph came his wife, Mary, who was pregnant and close to the time when she would give birth. "When Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem they found the town full to close to bursting, and there was no room left in any of the inns. At last, in desperation, they managed to arrange to sleep in the stable of one of the inns with the animals. And while they were there, Mary's boy child, Jesus, was born, and wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. "That night there were shepherds in the fields, tending after their flocks. They were startled by the appearance of an angel, who said to them to be not afraid, for great and joyful news had come: in the city of David the son of God, Christ the Saviour, was born. The shepherds marvelled at this, and they went to Bethlehem and there they found the manager that the Christ child rested in. The shepherds gave worship to him, as did three wise kings - Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar - who had come to Bethlehem following a star from the east. Then the shepherds returned to their fields, giving praise to God that the Messiah had come at last and that the hope of the world was at hand." By this time the Gingrinch was looking more than just confused, he was actively on edge. Yet he was not attacking, just standing back and mouthing insults at them. The newts, Retcon Lad noticed, had fled. The next person around the ring was Fourth Wall Lass. She cleared her throat. Third story: "There came a time when Syria and Egypt went to war, and the Syrian king Antiochus IV took it into his head that he should extend his kingdom to include Judea, which lay between the two. Antiochus proclaimed himself Epiphanes, meaning 'god made manifest', and raided Jerusalem, setting up a citadel there. Then the tyrant began a campaign to unify his empire - including by removing all evidence of the people's true faith and re-dedicating the Temple to his own god. "Matthias Maccabee and his sons came forward to lead the people in their, and for three years they struggled against Antiochus. "On the anniversary of the Temple's desecration the Maccabees retook the Temple, and set about reconsecrating it. For this pure olive oil had to be burned for eight days, but when the supplies were checked only one days worth of oil that had not been defiled was available. But God chose to show his support for their cause by making that one day's worth of fuel burn for all eight days. "And so in the month of Kislev we remember the miracle of the Lights and give thanks to God for honouring the Covenant and continuing to provide hope for the world." Fourth Wall Lass finished. The Gingrinch was on his knees and swearing at them with crude threats. Unsurprisingly however, the Legionnaires no longer felt much threat from him. FaWL turned to Curious Lass, who nodded and began her recitation. Fourth story: "At the time of Yule at the winter solstice the Goddess gives birth to her son, the God. His arrival marks the handing over of the year from the Old Father to the deity of the new year, and as the sun grows in strength so to does the son. By the time of Ostara both he and the renewed maiden Goddess are adolescents, and their waxing strength lends vigour to the spring planting. "By Beltain the planting is fully under way, and the Goddess and God lie together, ensuring that there will be abundance at the harvest. At the same time the Goddess is impregnated, ensuring the continuation of life. "By mid summer the powers of fertility of both Goddess and God are at their peak, but as the year stretches forward into autumn more and more of that strength will be invested in the fertility of the land. By autumn the harvests are being returned and thanks are given for the fruits of the year. "At Samhain the weakening God gives up his life to the land, and begins his wait for rebirth. Then, when Yule returns he is born again. "The wheel turns; life continues. By their actions do our deities ensure the continuation of nature and the people who live from it, year in and year out, for the continued hope of the world." Finally, it came to Psionic Lad. He'd been thinking hard about what he should say when his turn came, because although he was nominally a Christian he really wasn't what you could call particularly religious. He had always known that Curi was a pretty devout Celtic Wiccan, and listening to the others he'd been impressed by the depths of their feelings about their faiths as well. This was the advantage of his position: he was a telepath, and he could tell that the others really meant what they had said, and that they weren't just mouthing rote stories. And he... well, he really didn't have anything in the way of strong beliefs to use against the Gingrinch. He felt a little bit left out by that, to tell the truth. Not as though he felt a sudden overwhelming need to get religion, but more then feeling that he'd turned up at Castle Dracula only to discover that he had an allergy to garlic and that it might cost the rest of the group. But there was another possibility that Psi could think of; one that didn't require strong faith. He threw a mental question to Anal-Retentive Archive Kid, who raised an eyebrow in genuine surprise. =( That's right, )= ARAK replied. =( You don't need to throw your soul into this if you don't want to, you heart will be more than enough. )= Psionic Lad nodded. He'd been hoping that was the case. It certainly made sense that way, otherwise Retcon Lad's recitation would have empowered the Gingrinch rather than weaken him. Okay then, that made it a lot easier. Fifth story: "One year, during the annual Manhattan Christmas Day Parade, Doris Walker found that the Santa Claus that she'd employed to ride on the Macy's store float was so drunk that he couldn't sit up straight. Fortunately for her, a bearded old man was there to express his disappointment at the behaviour of the store Santa. "Doris was desperate to replace the float's Santa, and so she asked this other fellow what his name was. He replied 'Kris Kringle'. Non- plussed, Doris nevertheless asked him if he would take the part of Santa Claus on the Macy's float, to which he agreed. The parade was a success, and Kris proved such a crowd pleaser that he was employed as the store's resident Santa during the holiday rush. "During the weeks that followed Kris proved to be an inspiring but unorthodox Santa, pleasantly surprising many Macy's customers by telling them where they could buy items that Macy's either didn't stock or which could be bought more cheaply elsewhere, which earnt the store a lot of credibility with the public. Children took a liking to Kris, including Doris' jaded daughter Susan who had long since given up in believing in Santa Claus. "But not everyone was impressed with Kris; and Macy's amateur psychologist contended that Kris' continued insistence that he was the real Santa Claus indicated that he was mentally ill. Kris was brought to trial, and the focus of the case became the question of whether there was or was not a real Santa Claus. "Things looked bad for Kris, especially as his claims to being the real Santa made parents doubt his sanity as well. Only when it was revealed that tens of thousands of children had believed in Kris, and wrote him letters, did the tide turn. The court released Kris, having been forced to admit that a figure like Santa Claus is more truly identified by what people believe in. Some fundamental truths lie in the heart, and as long as people believe in them, then there is hope for the future of the world." In the end the Gingrinch was pressed down with his back flat onto the floor and with his legs still in a kneeling position. Teeth were gritted in obvious effort, but the only things he seemed capable of moving were his clenched fists - and even they were only trembling faintly. "Well, that was a neat trick," observed Curious Lass. "As a matter of interest, what did we just do to him?" she asked. "We bound him with storylines," said ARAK, obviously pleased. He walked about the malefactor, nursing his splinted arm but grinning broadly. "It's an idea I got from reading Pratchett. Stories exist independently of the people they happen to; but if you know that you're fictional, then you can use them as tools. "What we had here was the standard net.hero versus net.villain fight, which quite frankly could have gone either way," he continued. "So we had to use the proper tools to make sure that we got the upper hand. But which tools? Well, this is a Christmas story after all, so the 'cold hearted villain who suffers pangs of regret after hearing heart- warming Christmas stories' had to be the obvious choice to use." "I dunno," said Fourth Wall Lass. "He doesn't look like he's had his heart warmed to me." Which was true enough; although seemingly unable to move, the Gingrinch nevertheless was snarling at them with obvious and feral hatred. "That doesn't matter," replied ARAK a trifle smugly. "Don't you see? We didn't have to make him feel all schmaltzy and touchy-feeley in order to stop him. All we had to do is trap him with a plotline where that was what was *expected* happen. Then the power of the story would stop him, regardless of how he actually felt." "I think I see what he means," said Retcon Lad. "The idea is that the stories have happened so many times before that they have weight, or perhaps an inertia, of their own. The more he tried to buck the way the story worked, that flatter the story steamrolled him." "Exactly," said ARAK. "All we had to do was bind him in the appropriate storyline and then tell stories at him. And it worked. He is bound under the Weight of the Words of the World." "Well, if he has to be bound under a world's weight, I suppose there are few places better to do it in," mused Curious Lass. "The Looniverse knows it's a fictional universe, and out of all the net.fiction dimensions only SuperGuy Altiverses have more back-history text archived than we do." "Yeah," said RLad, who was calling back to the LNHQ for a clean-up squad to come and pick up the Gingrinch in a flight.thingee, "Years of entertaining drivel on tap in the archives." He punched a fist into the air in triumph. "Long live the Legion." --------------------------------------------------------------------- Character Credits: Anal-Retentive Archive Kid, Footnote Girl, Fourth Wall Lass, and Retcon Lad created by Saxon Brenton. Curious Lass and Psionic Lad created by Carolyn Vaughan. Used with permission. Limp-Asparagus Lad created by Mystic Mongoose (Robert Armstrong) and wReam (Ray Bingham). Owned by Saxon Brenton. Shake-N-Bake Lass created by Arsenal (Ted Brock). --------------------------------------------------------------------- Add Notes: Okay then. First up, thanks to Carolyn for the use of her characters, and for giving tips on care and feeding. Anal-Retentive Archive Kid has made one previous in-continuity appearance before (among others non-continuity ones) in _Saviours of the Net_ #5. Whether that fits before or after this story (or neither, considering all those pesky retcons that have been flying about) is something I don't wanna think about just at the moment. Next, for you conspiracy theorists out there, you will be intrigued to know that this story was subject to a concerted attempt to keep it from being published: Halfway through the first month of me writing this issue, Newt Gingrich announced his retirement from the Speakership of the U.S. Senate in a transparent attempt to get this story junked through redundancy, hence the need for the stuff about conspiracies to create clones of various Usenetted States political leaders in the gene-labs at Dave Thomas Deluxe. All that stuff was an afterthought shovelled in to ensure that the plot made at least some sense - although it actually fitted quite well considering I already wanted a story set at DTD, and in some ways possibly even made the plot coherent in places. Fourthly, as noted the idea that stories have inertia which is accumulated through being continually re-enacted is taken from Terry Pratchett. It's an important plot element in _Witches Abroad_ and is also discussed in parts of the _GURPs Discworld_ book. Next, its probably apparent that the length of the stories retold above are dramatically shortened, part of which is my fault and part of which is the character's. For my part I could not afford to retell each story exactingly without affecting both the length and pacing of the issue. For the characters' parts they were unlikely to be able to remember, off the tops of their heads, a fully detailed story. Of the five of them, only Anal-Retentive Archive Kid, with his obsessive memory, could have managed that - and because of circumstances he was already bowdlerising his recitation for a short and pithy sweetness and light summary. For the record, the stories were: Anal-Retentive Archive Kid, 'The Wooing Of Gerd'; Retcon Lad, 'The Nativity'; Fourth Wall Lass, 'The Feast Of Lights'; Psionic Lad, 'Miracle On 34th Street'. Curious Lass was the odd one out; I couldn't find any stories that I felt fitted, so I used some credal elements in what I thought would be an appropriate mythopaeic form. Finally, observations on character creation. Among some of the writers on rec.arts.comics.creative its common (at least among those people who talk about it) to find that their characters wander into their heads fully realised. I'm particularly reminded of Jaelle's description of the way Writer's Block Woman pesters her with details of shopping, Mouse makes sarcastic wisecracks, and Firewall blows cigarette smoke in her face. The same is much the same for me. Thus, I can with complete honesty tell Dvandom that I did *not* make Anal-Retentive Archive Kid Asatru simply to make the 'ARAK, son of thunder' reference work. I knew what his religion was months before he ever appeared in a post on r.a.c.c., and weeks before the 'son of thunder' moniker even occurred to me :-P On the other hand, although the details of a character's life may already be there, sometimes they're hard to ferret out. So for instance, there was a time several years ago when for more than six months I could not for the life of me figure out what religion Fourth Wall Lass belonged to. I knew instinctively that Limp-Asparagus Lad was a secular humanist, while Retcon Lad was a Baptist, and Kid Not Appearing In Any Retcon Hour Story had been raised Jewish but had returned to the faith of Rayon of his home planet Vathlo, and so on and so on for nearly all my characters. But FaWL stumped me. About this time Jamas was visiting Australia on holidays and we spent the evening together, listening to Residents CDs and talking LNH stuff and eating home made pizza, and I explained my problem to him. As soon as I had outlined the situation he looked at me and immediately said, "She's Yiddish." And I slapped my palm to my forehead and said, "Yes, of course she is. Why didn't I see that?" Sometimes writing stories is like that.Back to the Index.