[LNH/APE] Limp-Asparagus Lad #57 Limp-Asparagus Lad #57 A Legion of Net.Heroes title 'Decimation' part 2 Written by and copyright 2006 Saxon Brenton Art by Fred H*mback --------------------------------------------------------------------- The cover shows various unconscious Legionnaires strewn about on rubble, while around them devolutionaries and creationists war against each other in vicious hand-to-hand combat. Meanwhile, despite the vast differences in publication date the cover is still bearing the Apes Month promotional indica. --------------------------------------------------------------------- As you remember from our last episode: Another lightning bolt exploded nearby, and Swordmaster's captive took the instant's worth of surprise this caused to wrench free from the net.hero's grasp. "Patriarch Sweeney! Out of the way!" called one of several newcomers who had arrived to reinforce the creationist team and launched a second lightning bolt. Others rushed in to confront Pulls-Paper-Out-Of-Hats Lad and Limp-Asparagus Lad. Patriarch Sweeney drew himself up and crowed in triumph. "You cannot hope to beat us, for we have God on our side. We *will* be victorious!" Now read on: The creationists pushed forward with their surprise counter-assault, but their advance was just as suddenly blocked by several blast rays that rained down from above. Almost everybody looked up to find Irony Man hovering there, his hands extended forward and palms smouldering with Kirby krackle as he readied another barrage of his repulsor beams. "Stand down now, and you won't get hurt," he ordered the fanatics. Their reply consisted of return fire using more lightning bolts. "No! We cannot be defeated like this!" ranted Sweeney. "Yes, you can," said an ape man clad in a very familiar trenchcoat. There was more than a touch of irritation in the ape's voice. He was accompanied by a woman with tied back brown hair who the Legionnaires did not at first recognise; she was armed with a handgun that was at the ready. Some of Sweeney's minions whirled about. With the arrival of these newcomers it seemed that they were being surrounded. Still, they were confident of their abilities, and were ready for a tough fight. "Take them!" yelled Sweeney. The fanatical underlings leapt forward to fight, while Sweeney himself prepared to start lobbing another round of lightning bolts. There was the briefest moment of scuffling which was almost immediately cut short as the ape gestured with his hands and said, "The Sands of the Somnambulist will take care of you troublemakers." A fine mist of strangely coloured sand puffed out from the australopithecine's hands, forming a smoke ring that gently but relentlessly washed over everyone who was present. And where it encountered the creationists, those cultists quickly began to stagger and fall unconscious. "Whoa," said Pulls-Paper-Out-Of-Hats Lad. "Who...?" "Occultism Kid," said Irony Man as he landed. "I met up with him and Fuzzy among all the rioting," he added, nodding at the woman. (So that was what Fuzzy really looked like.) Limp-Asparagus Lad said to Occultism Kid, "Could you use that spell to bring the rioting under control?" "I doubt it," said Occultism Kid as he knuckled over, giving the sleeping fanatics a barely cursory glance. "There's no way I could extend it across the whole city. Apply it to a particularly bad area of rioting and I could maybe cover a hundred yards or so, but I couldn't keep that sort of casting up for very long." "How did you keep your mind human?" asked Pulls-Paper-Out-Of-Hats Lad curiously. "Side effect of mystic training," said Occultism Kid. "The skill of projecting my astral body goes a long way to keeping a distinction between the mind and the brain. And of course, working most types of magic needs a strong willpower anyway, so at bottom it's just a matter of staying focused." "I think a more important question is who these jokers are," said Fuzzy as she surveyed the area. "They're creationist extremists of some sort," said Swordmaster. "They seem to be reacting to the devolutionists, although they sounded like they were also taking advantage of the confusion for their own advantage." "So basically we're trying stuck between the devos and the creatos?" asked Pulls-Paper-Out-Of-Hats Lad, trying to ease some tension by making fun of their opponents. "We're stuck between two groups of extremists," amended Swordmaster testily. "Two groups who don't care how much damage they cause as long as they get their own way." Then he added, "That said, the... creatos... seem to be more organised and coherent than the devos. If it weren't for the fact that the devos had these pretty sophisticated ray guns, I'd guess that they were just a bunch of mooks and the creatos were the more dangerous group of the two." "I'd agree with that," said Irony Man. "Still, when I took the opportunity to trounce a few of both types and confiscate their weapons for Dr Stomper to examine, I covertly placed some tracking devices on them to see where the returned to." "Have you got any results yet?" asked Limp-Asparagus Lad. "Not yet. They seem to be staying in the city." He sounded a bit disgruntled by this. "It's still a workable plan," said Fuzzy. "It probably just needs time to see if it bears fruit. Swordmaster smirked mirthlessly, and cocked a thumb to where the unconscious bodies lay. "For the devos, maybe. But Occultism Kid's captured us some creatos. While we're waiting for Dr Stomper to find a cure, how about we try interrogating the prisoners?" Nearby, barely ten metres to the east of where the net.heroes were making plans, a lurking member of the Cult of Devolutionaries tensed in surprise and outrage as he eavesdropped on this last bit of exposition. Grutor The-Only-Mildly-Hairy trembled in anger at the thought that these meddling LNHers somehow finding a way to reverse the holy devolutionary ray beams. They couldn't be allowed to do that! Grutor slipped away to spread the word and get some guys together to put a stop to this Dr Stomper person. Nearby, barely ten metres to the west of where the net.heroes were making plans, a lurking member of the Cult of Creationists tensed in surprise and outrage as he eavesdropped on this last bit of exposition. Brother Smite-The-Heathen-With-Sharp-Pointy-Things trembled in anger at the thought that these meddling LNHers somehow finding a way to reverse this God-given opportunity to seize control. They couldn't be allowed to do that! Brother Smite slipped away to contact his leaders and arrange to put a stop to this Dr Stomper person. And thus the big showdown at the Legion of Net.Heroes Headquarters was primed. Doctor Stomper was surprised. He stared, fascinated, at the de-evolutionary ray guns that lay on his work bench. Or rather, their deconstructed remains. He wouldn't have expected people professing such a primitive worldview to be using such a subtle principle for their tools. Well, actually, by rights he also wouldn't have expected them to use technology like ray guns either, so perhaps that wasn't such a stretch. Maybe they rationalised it in some way, or perhaps they simply ignored it as an inconvenient dichotomy. Whatever the case, the ray guns that he'd been examining weren't very complex mechanisms at all. Which was strange, in a way. An antenna doesn't need to be, not when most of the complexity is taken care of at the broadcast station, but to extend the metaphor, a booster unit like a television does. The sudden whoop of a red alert disturbed his thoughts. "Legion alert! Legion alert! We have invaders in the LNH-HQ!" came the voice of Multi-Tasking Man over the speakers. .oO( 'Invaders'? ) thought Dr Stomper. A stronger turn of phrase than merely 'intruders'. He turned on one of the monitor screens in his lab and flipped through the images being broadcast from the various security cameras around the building. He was somewhat disturbed at the number of them that were off line. He was even more disturbed at the sight of the open warfare going on in front of the building, and the number of combatants who had somehow managed to overwhelm the automated defences, such as the stunner beams and mechanical grapplo-tentacles, to get inside the building. "Ha!" came an unfamiliar voice from behind. Dr Stomper spun about to behold two of the fur-clad invaders at the door to the lab and pointing their ray guns at him. "Now, heathen, you will face the wrath of devolution! Ook!" The net.heroes on the street hadn't gotten particularly far with their attempted interrogation before the Legion alert had come through over their communicators. Patriarch Sweeney had laughed maliciously, chortling at the thought of the LNH-HQ being overrun by his righteous forces. Fuzzy had gagged the man before Irony Man and Limp-Asparagus Lad had combined their efforts to fly the group back to Legion headquarters. "Good God," exclaimed Irony Man as they arrived. There was a full scale riot between the devos and the creatos taking place on Rackham Avenue in front of the building and spilling over into adjacent streets. They landed atop the LNH-HQ (dumping Patriarch Sweeny unceremoniously on the roof beside them in the process) and gazed out over the mess. Their view was a full page-turned-on-its-side panel, with Fred H*mback's artwork doing an astonishing pastiche of Carmine Infanito's depiction of Central City in the _Flash_. And *that* meant that the streets were almost impossibly wide, with the buildings on the other side of the street just being visible out on the horizon. Nevertheless Rackham Avenue was full of battling cultists plus the occasional citizen transformed into a banana wielding ape just for good measure. "There must be hundreds of them!" said Pulls-Paper-Out-Of-Hats Lad. "Thousands, maybe. How do we stop them all?" "With guts'n'glory," replied Fuzzy, checking to make sure her gun was loaded. "We do not have to fight them at all," disagreed Limp-Asparagus Lad. The other net.heroes all stared at him. The Man of Dull looked up from the edge of the parapet where he had been calmly watching the throng below and said to them, "Or at least, not in the way you seem to be thinking of," he clarified. "Remember, our main objective should be to defend Dr Stomper's research. Riot control is important, but secondary. We don't have to wade in and have a fight scene with them," he said, indicating the crowd. "We just have to find and hold a choke point. The stunnulator beams in the foyer would be useful for that, providing we can get them online..." There was a crack of thunder as a lightning bolt from one of the creatos lashed out and blasted a chunk from the building entry foyer, wrecking the receptionist's desk and probably a lot of the defence equipment as well. "...Although that may be a vain hope under the circumstances," Limp-Asparagus Lad conceded. Irony Man said, "A good point, but you're being too conservative with your strategies, Limpy. I think Occultism Kid and myself *should* engage them toe-to-toe in a grandiose fight scene out the front, if only to draw fire. The rest of you head downstairs and start clearing out any intruders who have gotten past the automated defences." He looked over to Occultism Kid. "Are you fresh enough for a few more castings of that Sands spell?" "Ready," agreed the mage. "Let's motor," said Irony Man, picking up Occultism Kid and flying to street level. Limp-Asparagus Lad didn't bother to make any further comment. He'd pointed out that there was a non-dramatic approach that could be taken, but once other people were aware of their options the actual choice of which path to take was entirely their own. Instead, as he and the other LNHers prepared to head inside via the roof entrance, L-ALad tried to page the Legion's resident mad scientist: "Dr Stomper, it's Limp- Asparagus Lad. Do you read me?" The situation was looking grim for Dr Stomper. One of the two devos had grown careless enough to saunter in and try to physically manhandle and intimidate the Explainer Supreme - and was now lying unconscious on the floor after Dr Stomper had expeditiously dealt with him by smacking him over the head with a fire extinguisher. The second devo, however, had somehow had sense enough to hang back, and was currently peppering the lab with zap gun fire (and screaming, "Ook! Revert!") while Dr Stomper crouched behind the benches and took stock of his situation. If he could just create a distraction... well, there were any number of counterattacks or escape plans he could implement. The devo jumped up on the top of a bench and pointed his weapon at where he thought Dr Stomper was hiding. No such luck. Increasingly disgruntled, the devo prowled along the top of the bench, kicking equipment out of the way in a noisy and destructive tirade, which brought a reproachful comment: "Sir, you will kindly refrain from that doing that," came the stentorian and Robby-the-Robot style voice of W.I.L.B.U.R. "If you cannot behave yourself I must ask you to leave." The devo did a doubletake, then hooted with derisive laughter at the presence of the Legion's Wildly Improbable LISP Based Urbane Robot. He hopped to the floor. "The Legion's mechanical man. We know about you, evil product of technology!" He capered over and sneered insolently at W.I.L.B.U.R. "You cannot harm us, because you are programmed with that sinner Asimov's three laws of robotics. You cannot harm a human!" Had W.I.L.B.U.R. possessed eyebrows, he would have raised one sardonically. It was true that he had been built and deployed by Multi- Tasking Man to act as support staff for the Legion's headquarters rather than as a combat droid, and his essentially pacifist nature kept him from initiating fight scenes. "You are, of course, absolutely correct sir," answered W.I.L.B.U.R. And then with a speed and precision that the devo could barely perceive, let alone act to prevent, the robot reached out and plucked the ray gun from the man's hands and then crushed it into a little ball of wadded scrap. The devo stared at the remains, and despite all that he had just said and all that W.I.L.B.U.R. had agreed with, the man felt a suddenly stab from the Frankenstein Complex - the fear of self- motivated machines and other artificial people. He wet himself. The devo backed away, knocking into a desk and startling himself. There were a variety of things there: bits of equipment, scraps of metal and various inventions in of partial assembly or disassembly. The devo picked up a prosthetic arm and threw it at the robot. "Please do not throw hands at me," said W.I.L.B.U.R. reproachfully. Doctor Stomper grabbed the devo from behind and injected him with a knockout drug. "Well done, W.I.L.B.U.R.," he said as the devo dropped unconscious to the floor. "Thank you sir," replied the building's major domo, gently but firmly picking up first one devo and then he other, and hefting them over one shoulder. "I shall deposit these miscreants in the holding facilities, then rejoin the defence of the building." He glanced down at the yellow stain on the floor where the devo had disgraced himself. "However, I regret that neither myself nor the cleaning staff will have time to mop up that mess before the current fracas is over. Please be careful not to slip and fall over on that spot." The comm.system came to life. "Dr Stomper, it's Limp-Asparagus Lad. Do you read me?" Dr Stomper turned on his communicator as W.I.L.B.U.R. departed. "Stomper here." "How is the situation?" "I've had some problems with intruders, but they've been dealt with for the moment. I'm sealing the labs so that I can finish this work," he added, typing something into a computer. There was an emphatic sounding whoosh-thunk noise as the doors closed. "It shouldn't take too long now." "We'll be in contact when the situation has stabilised." Back in Mutant Town, other devos were also having robot trouble. "No, bad men! You will not hurt Ekktro's little squishy friends! Ekktro won't let you!" The old Ferro-American's solid steel fists came down with the force of a pile driver, shattering concrete and creating shockwaves that scattered the closer devos like ninepins and even knocking two of them unconscious. Behind Ekktro was a small group of mutants-forced-to-human, huddled on the ground in various states of distress. The conscious devos jumped away, but not very far. They paused at the periphery, screaming, "Ook! Vootie! Revert! Revert!" One of them in particular capered about, in a bid to attract the robot's attention. It was, unfortunately, a more than successful attempt. Ekktro was a simple soul; it came from being a Ferro-American built back in the 1960s, and consequently having less RAM than a modern calculator. Not much processing power, in other words, and a corresponding inability to refocus his attention on different potential threats. But the devos weren't exactly the brightest of sparks either, preferring swarming tactics. They outflanked Ekktro easily - and then squandered that advantage on continuing to shoot him with their zap guns. Or perhaps they mistook him to be a mutant with biomechanical physiology. Whatever, they were confused when he did not turn into a human form - so much so that they continued to fire even as hefted up a chunk of concrete and threw it at them. The concrete hit one of them with deadly accuracy, and the remaining devos fled entirely. "You safe now," the old machine rumbled as he turned back to his neighbours. Jed Hopkins wasn't so sure about that. In particularly he was worried about Granny Connors, who'd reverted to her full chronological age and collapsed. She seemed to be unconscious, or perhaps even in a coma. She was also bleeding, and Jed had stripped off his 'Lagneto Was Right' t-shirt and was using it to staunch the blood. "Ekktro, we have to get Mrs Connors to hospital," said Jed, who was feeling rather helpless and panicky at the moment - he wasn't used to moving on only two legs and knew he couldn't help her on his own. "Then Ekktro take Granny to hospital," said the machine simply, and picked her up and cradled her in his arms with a care that belied the way he'd just crushed a devo with a piece of the street. Jed turned to the two youngsters that were with them. "Go and find Lancer. Tell him with we've taken Granny to Mercy General," before climbing up onto Ekktro's shoulders. Just as they were about to go, some devos ran past, screaming, being pursued by Rover, the watch-shoggoth from the nearby Al Haz-read bookstore. Jed snorted dismissively; under the circumstances he couldn't find it in himself to be sympathetic to their plight. Occultism Kid had cast the Sands of the Somnambulist several times already and Irony Man had fired a number of barrages of tear gas. The crowd had thinned considerably - but the sheer size of the throng, plus their dispersal through the currently extravagantly wide streets, made it impossible to catch them all. The mage was beginning to tire. Within his line of sight were devos, but they were hanging back since they had learnt to fear his Bolts of Bedevil.net. They were shooting their guns and lobbing bricks at him from a distance, but Occultism Kid had used the Images of Ik.rom to confuse them, and their attacks were completely off target. The Legionnaire glanced around. The riot had been particularly bloody, and there were a number of fatalities. Occultism Kid suspected that had it just been one group or another against the Legion, then the superheroic genre convention of bright, flashy and mostly sanitised fights probably would have prevailed. However that didn't seem to be the case here. Was it an incursion of some trendy use of extreme violence to indicate 'realism'? Or was it the conflict between two groups who didn't *quite* fit the mould of four-colour villains that was undermining genre conventions? Occultism Kid wasn't sure. He could hear Irony Man's repulsor beams lashing out against other parts of the crowd, and the counterpoint of lightning bolts suggested that his current opponents were creatos. Then he heard cries of dismay and fear, as well as a buzzing, and realised that the creatos had more tricks up their sleeves than just lightning bolts. A swarm of locusts exploded forth from across the street, expanding outwards like the rolling front of a dust storm. Occultism Kid grit his teeth against the fatigue and cast a spell to manipulate the net.elemental of Net to form a whirlwind vortex that drew much of the swarm high up into the air. Then he cast a second elemental control, this time to make use of the net.element of Archive, corresponding with the freezing stasis of elemental Ice. It was not one of the classical Western net.elements, but rather one of the five Norse ones. Occultism Kid's ability to slip so fluently between different magical paradigms was one of the reasons why he was such an astonishingly versatile mage: he was familiar with many of the world's supernatural traditions and could use them in eclectic contrast and synthesis without having them blurring together into one grey, homogenous, New Age mush. The locusts were drawn upwards into the region of biting cold and quickly frozen to death, before being allowed to intermittently fall back to earth as a very strange form of hail. Occultism Kid's sense of satisfaction with this was short lived, as a new series of screams broke out among the crowd. .oO( Now what? ) he wondered. He was about to move to confront whatever was going on, only to discover Retcon Lad had arrived with a Giant Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was the latter that was causing the screams, because it was using its noodly tentacles to grab a number of rioters, rip their pants off and do... hentai things... with their nether regions. The remaining members of the crowd now took the opportunity to flee. Retcon Lad, who been watching proceedings with his hands in his pockets, glanced over at him. "Hi there. Uhm, that you, Occultism Kid?" "Yes," said Occultism Kid, somewhat distractedly by the Spaghetti Monster's antics. He hadn't realised that a Flying Spaghetti Monster would do that; surely it would be more appropriate for it to be shoving meatballs where the sun doesn't shine? Meanwhile Retcon Lad was nodding. "Thought I recognised the trenchcoat," he said cheerfully. From above: "No! No please... AAAAARGHHH!" "Did you bring this?" Occultism Kid asked, pointing to the Spaghetti Monster. "Mmm-hmm," Retcon Lad nodded. "How did you gain control over it?" "I didn't," Retcon Lad said. Occultism Kid stared at him. "What?" "Well, I saw all these fanatical creationists running around causing trouble, and so I asked myself, 'Who do those type of people get up the nose of who's also powerful and immune to their abilities?'." "So you called up a Flying Spaghetti Monster." "Well, not `called up'," disagreed Retcon Lad mildly. "I decided that all the ruckus would attract the attention of a Giant Flying Spaghetti Monster who would also JUST HAPPEN to be well disposed to the Legion." He looked about with satisfaction. "You'll note that it's handing out whup-ass onto the devolutionaries too." "AAAIIIEEEE!" screamed one devo as if to underscore the point, as he was hoisted upsidedown into the air. "I haven't heard screams like that since the last time someone used Evard's Spiked Tentacles Of Forced Intrusion," Occultism Kid said. Retcon Lad looked pleased. "Hey, do you read _Order of the Stick_ as well?" "What?" "Ah. I guess that's a 'no', then," Retcon Lad said, then paused to redirect his thoughts in a less fanboyish direction before adding, "Of course I didn't realise that the Flying Spaghetti Monster would pants them, but it makes a type of sense when you stop to think about it. Technically speaking it *is* a type of tentacle monster, and there are some things that tentacle monsters just *do*, y'know?" "Can you call it off when the crowd clears?" "'Fraid not. Don't have any powers at the moment." "What!?" "It's true. I'd just managed to arrange for the Spaghetti Monster to turn up, then I got shot by those zap guns. I haven't got any powers at the moment." "You're taking this very well," Occultism Kid accused. Retcon Lad grinned. And for the first time it was not a pleasant grin. "You'd prefer if I gave in to my first impulse and cursed them with immortality, decapitated them, stuck their heads in pickle jars and buried them somewhere on Mars?" He ahemed. "These people are incredibly annoying, but I know the difference between righteousness and self-righteousness." He looked around with a speculative expression on his face. "I got better, so maybe they can too." There were cultists all over the inside of the LNH-HQ as well. Fuzzy fired a shot of tear gas into the cafeteria, bringing the screaming battle taking place there to a rather abrupt halt as both sides scrambled for cover. But by a stroke of bad timing this meant that Fuzzy had left her back exposed to a creato who just happened to turn the corner of the corridor, and who would have shot her in the back with something considerably more lethal that tear gas had it not been for Limp-Asparagus Lad. The Man of Dull gave the creato a solid punch to the face followed by a sharp chop with the side of his hand to the back of the creato's head. Fuzzy turned just in time to see the miscreant fall unconscious to the floor. She gave Limp-Asparagus Lad a quick nod of thanks. "I found some time bombs in the armoury," L-ALad said, holding up some hourglass shaped devices. "Good," said Fuzzy. She took one of them and primed it. "Seems a shame to use both these and gas on them," she said as she lobbed it in through the door. "But the bombs make better restraints." Seconds later there was a flash of light and suddenly the cafeteria was quiet as the two feuding groups were trapped in a frozen instant of time, their efforts to escape the choking gas rendered into a motionless tableau. Fuzzy gave a nod of satisfaction "Good work," said Ultimate Ninja, who appeared as if from nowhere. The others didn't bother to be surprised; they had gotten over his habit of doing that ages ago. "What is the situation like in the rest of the building?" asked Limp-Asparagus Lad. He didn't bother to ask if the ninja had encountered any *overwhelming* trouble, and in truth Ultimate Ninja had indeed spent the last forty-five minutes in relaxing combat against honest-to-God hordes of cultists. He was feeling quite limber after the work-out. "Being brought under control," replied the ninja. "Take those time bombs over to the peril room and help Organic Lass with mopping up..." "Dr Stomper to Ultimate Ninja," the Doctor announced over the comm. "Ninja here." "I've got a cure for the devolutionary guns, including a short term protection that will act as a type of inoculation. But I've also discovered a problem. The full solution isn't as easy as I first thought." -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Next Issue: Well, feh. Turns out that the 'Decimation' storyline will be a three parter. Hopefully it won't blow out any further. Then maybe I can start on 'One Month Later'... -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Character Credits: Devos gleefully plagerised from Scott McCloud's _Zot!_. Giant Flying Spaghetti Monsters are from Bobby Henderson's Church of the Giant Flying Spaghetti Monster (http://www.venganza.org) but carefully changed into the plural to avoid trademark litigation and/or accusations of impiety against Pastafarianism :-P Fuzzy created by Connie Hirsch and not reserved. Doctor Stomper created by T.M. Neeck and not reserved. Irony Man created by Doug Moran and not reserved. Limp-Asparagus Lad owned by Saxon Brenton. Created by Mystic Mongoose (Robert Armstrong) and wReam (Ray Bingham (chaos and entropy incarnate)). Occultism Kid created by Josh Geurink and not reserved. Pulls-Paper-Out-Of-Hats Lad created by Arthur Spitzer and not reserved. Retcon Lad created by Saxon Brenton and not reserved. Swordmaster created by Badger (Matt Rossi). Used without permission. Multi-Tasking Man and W.I.L.B.U.R. created by Jeff Coleburn and not reserved. Ultimate Ninja created by wReam and not reserved (no permanent damage to be done to this Writer Character). All characters copyright 2006 to their creators or owners as applicable. Back issues of the Legion of Net.Heroes may be found at Russ Alberry's Eyrie Archives at: ftp://ftp.eyrie.org/pub/racc/lnh The LNH stories of Blue Light Productions may also be found at: http://www.blue-light-productions.com -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Add Notes: Ah, world building. The bit about the wide streets was derived from a blog entry at the Absorbascon, where the author confesses his existential dread of the endless expanse of Central City: http://absorbascon.blogspot.com/2006/01/infinite-city-crisis.htmlBack to the Index.