Limp-Asparagus Lad Special #2 A one-shot Legion of Net.Heroes story that the Writer can't really be bothered trying to fit into the main continuity of his title just at the moment. "They Shoot Pizza Delivery Boys, Don't They?" Written by and copyright 2003 Saxon Brenton Art by Brent And*rson --------------------------------------------------------------------- Cover shows a pizza delivery boy at a front door. The door has already opened just before he was about to knock, spilling light out onto the porch, and he looks startled. --------------------------------------------------------------------- Oh yeah, there's no doubt about it. Being out and about in a city crawling with superheroes can give you the most amazing experiences. Some of them can be literally life changing. I've been working my way through college for just over two years delivering takeaway for Pizza Hovel. Now, Net.ropolis has a bad reputation for chewing up and spitting out pizza delivery boys... excuse me, 'pizza delivery technicians'. I'm not quite sure it's as bad as that. Compared to what anyone else has to risk just by living in this city, I mean. No, no, no; I'm not saying that weird shit doesn't happen. I can cite you half a dozen cases off the top of my head of delivery dudes who've met sticky ends. Or beginnings, if you count stuff like getting an Origin from being transformed into a cyborg by an artificial intelligence that wants a physical body of its own. So you've heard about that guy from Domino's then. Yes, Malcolm's one of the more notorious instances. He's also one of the ones who had a happy ending. Eventually. What I mean is that there's a lot of... mythology, I suppose you'd call it, about delivering fast food in Net.ropolis. On top of all the very real stuff, you also hear a lot of things that are little more than urban legends... Sometimes with masks'n'capes overtones to give it that touch of authenticity. Well, that's what urban legends *are* really, aren't they? Tall stories with just a few bits of detail to fool you into thinking that they might be real. So, no. You hear a lot about the guy who delivered to a satanic cult that'd been feeling a bit peckish, and after he'd been reported as missing and the police had investigated the delivery address it had turned out that the cultists had thrown away the pizza and eaten him instead. Or variations on the old favourite of the kidney kidnappers harvesting organs for transplants. But none of that's ever been proven. Unfortunately, it also means that you haven't got much chance of delivering to a clothing optional pool party where you get met at the door by a nekkid babe. And your chances of getting tipped with sexual favours? Forget it. But getting back to your question, yeah, this *is* a city full of net.ahuman activity, and there *are* risks. There are mad scientists out there looking for experimental subjects. Escaping net.villains do turn bystanders into stone in order to distract their pursuing enemies. Normal folk have been used as unwitting pawns in complicated five dimensional strategy games by the sort of people who use the title 'Doctor' in their name without ever having taken the Hippocratic Oath. My point is that that sort of trouble could strike anyone; from physicians contracting a meme plague off of someone who otherwise looks like they just have a bad case of the flu, to little old ladies whose basements are picked at random to be a beachhead by alien conquerors from Dimension X. In the face of stuff like that, you just have to take precautions. One of them is the obvious 'move to another city', but if you've got the guts to stick around... Well, as a for instance: most fast food restraunts have a policy against their 'delivery technicians' going armed. But what the managers don't know won't worry them. There are other precautions you can take as well. You'll notice that I ride a motorbike. Now the insurance for bikes is above the national average in Net.ropolis. They also don't have the carrying capacity of a car, and it sucks majorly when you have to ride one in wet or cold weather for a six hour shift. But they're fast and manoeuvrable in tight situations. There was this one time when I was dropping off an order to a company in one of the office blocks in the city centre. As I was driving off after the delivery what should happen but an attack by a giant monster. "Tremble mortals," he booms, "before the fearsome power of Fin Fanfic Foom!" No, I don't know why a giant dragon would want to wear diapers either. Maybe they're just briefs and it's a fashion statement. I dunno. In any case, there were reports later that said that he'd been under the mental influence of a sorcerer who'd needed a distraction while he plundered the Net.ropolitan Museum for some mystic artefact or other. But right then and there a giant dragon in the middle of downtown Net.ropolis means just one thing, regardless of whether he's wearing diapers or not: instant gridlock that isn't going to be fixed until after the net.heroes come and finish off the problem with a fight scene. But I'd thought ahead and had my zippy little motorbike. I made my way through the congestion and was able to get back to base for the next delivery. Well, okay, yes, I'm being a bit blase about it. Fin Fanfic Foom landed practically on top of me. The car in front of me had its rear badly crushed, and the one behind me was able hit his brakes in time, but if I hadn't been out in the open and able to see the descending shadow and swerve, I'd have been stepped on by a scaly foot as wide as a minivan. There are other little tricks as well, some of them a bit less mundane than others. See these earplugs? They're spinoff technology from sonic baffle research that was originally done over at Dave Thomas Deluxe University. They protect against sound based hypnotic powers. They're a cheap and relatively simple defence against nutbars like the PsychoBabbler. Maybe one day the cost of the other types of protection against mind control will come down too - the glasses against hypnotic flashes and the field generators against psionics. Of course, you can't always rely on gadgets and prepared contingency plans. Sometimes you just have to rely on your wits. To get an idea of that, there was another time where I had an order to deliver to what turned out to be some kids playing in the sewers. At first I couldn't find the building number and thought the order was a prank call. Then these ten year olds called up to me from a sewer grate that they'd dislodged. Turned out that they'd been watching too many Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movies. Freaking Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! I mean, I'd watched those when I was a kid. So I delivered the pizza and told them that it wasn't safe to be down there. They said to take a hike, the little snots. Still, it wasn't any skin off my nose, and I figured that they wouldn't be able to get into too much trouble in the time it took me to put in a call to the cops and get them taken home. Well, turned out that was wrong. Just as I was walking away and getting out my mobile phone, I heard this deep growling roar echoing up from the grate. I'd heard that sound only twice before, but once you've heard an albino sewer alligator you don't forget it in a hurry. Now the kids started screaming and I high- tailed it back over to lever the grate off again. Once that was out of the way they came streaming up like their pants were on fire, and their haste was making them fumble fingered. There were five of them in all, and the last boy slipped and almost fell back down, but I grabbed him and hauled him out. I probably came close to yanking his arms out of their sockets, but it was better than the alternative, because right at that moment the 'gator barges up out of the manhole. Don't ask me how something with legs like that could have climbed up the ladder, because I don't know. All that matters was that there was this smegging huge alligator halfway out of the manhole hissing at me. The kids were already screaming off halfway down the street, so I backed off more than a few steps and started firing a few shots at it. I don't know whether it didn't like the noise or whether the bullets were actually having some sort of effect on it, but it seemed to decide that getting its dinner up on the street was more trouble than it was worth, so it turned around and slithered back into the manhole. For all I know it found the pizza and garlic bread and ate that instead. Mind you, keeping your wits about you applies in mundane situations as well. There are some neighbourhoods where you have to be extra alert in case you get rolled, and some neighbourhoods you just don't go. No matter how much people joke about how it 'must' be safe for Pizza Hovel to deliver there because of the similarity in the names, we don't go to Hovel Homes any more than any other fast food joint. Yes, I've heard about the court cases where fast food restraunts have been sued for racism over refusing to deliver to some areas. It changes nothing. We're not talking about places that have reputations just for bad tipping, you know. But, having said that, the number of high risk neighbourhoods has dropped over the past decade, or so I'm told. Back in the 1980s and 90s was supposed to be a pretty bad time for inner city living. Crime rates were up, the 'white flight' phenomenon was at its strongest, and it seemed like nearly every net.hero was an antihero psycho in chrome and leather with either big guns or big boobs. I remember one of my sociology classes pointing out how the comic books of the time reflected the grim'n'gritty attitude. These days things seem to be looking up. You get articles in the lifestyle section of the newspapers talking about social renewal and the attitude of civic mindedness that's sprung up since then, and every now and then one of the older folks makes some comment about how bad it was back then - and since it's going against the trend of people to look back on `the old days' as the best of times I suppose there might even be something to it. Oh yeah, the life changing experiences. Sorry, I guess I ran off on a tangent there. Anyway, the point is that although not everything you hear is true, there's still more than enough weird stuff going around out there, and yes, some of it's definitely life changing. A good example happened recently when I had a delivery order for a place that turned out to be in the abandoned warehouse district. So I think to myself, here we go again, more bloody ninja turtles. I just hoped there wasn't anything like albino sewer alligators involved this time as well, because frankly that sort of thing is more than just dangerous, it's a major pain. Half the time you don't get to deliver the pizza and get paid for it because you've either lost the food or there's no one left willing or able to take it; and in any case you don't get hazard pay for rescuing people from the consequences of their own stupidity. So I knocked on the door, and when someone asked who is it I called out the franchise motto, and they let me in. There was a guy and a gal dressed in gold lame who paid me for the food, but just as I turned to leave this voice called out whether the delivery boy had arrived yet. When they said yes, the same person yelled out, "Then bring him before Frank, the Demon Lord of Disco, Bwahahahaha!" Then of course they grabbed me and hustled me further into the building. Frank looked like a kind of pale version of Ricardo Montalban with small horns on his forehead, and dressed in a polyester leisure suit. He had quite a few other people done up in gold lame hanging around as well. He went into a long rant about building up his army of minions for an assault on the Legion of Net.Heroes, and then the music started up and they began bombarding me with Ritchie Family song lyrics: It's the best disco in town / Number one in disco sound / It's the place where hip people meet / Hey! Hey! "Embrace the power of Disco!" roared Frank as he and his Solid Gold Dancers started strutting around their impromptu dance floor. "Feel the POWER and VITALITY and the burning need to BOOGIE ALL NIGHT LONG!" At this point my mind went kind of futzy. I couldn't think straight and I certainly couldn't stand up straight. The next thing that I was even vaguely aware of was that I'd collapsed on the floor and was having funny thoughts about how great it would be to have an afro and wear platform shoes. Now, I resisted this as best I could, and I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have lasted anywhere near as long as I did if I hadn't had those sonic baffle earplugs. I can only half remember what was going on, but I do remember how weird it felt. Actually, in a way Frank was right, because in hindsight I could feel this strange strength flowing into me. It makes sense in a twisted sort of way that if he was going to have minions based on a dance craze that he'd give them superhuman endurance needed to be able to dance non-stop. Maybe he gives them other powers like enhanced agility too. Anyway, I was lying there on the ground twitching, while a group of athletic people in figure-hugging lame and their demon lord were trying to brainwash me by pranced around to the beat of retro song tracks with lyrics extolling how cool it is to give yourself up to the music. I was probably mumbling something like, "no... must resist... the gold lame..." because apparently that's what usually happens in situations like this. Then the net.heroes arrived, busting through the ceiling of the warehouse. I recognised a few of them, like Irony Man and Ordinary Lady. This distracted Frank's attention away from me, and I recovered just enough to be able to crawl and then stagger out of the way while Frank used his Mirror Ball to create endless duplicate images of himself and his Solid Gold Dancers to battle the heroes. Later, after Frank and his group had been exorcised back to Net.Hell, the heroes had checked for any other victims in the remains of the warehouse after it got trashed in the fight, and the paramedics had given me the all clear, I headed back to base. My manager was pretty cool about me taking the rest of the night off and even told me to ring in tomorrow if I still wasn't feeling up to it. He's been in the business long enough to know that this sort of thing happens and has backup plans to get fill-in drivers. Actually the next day I was feeling pretty good. Hyped, in fact. At first the only connection I made with the previous evening was the euphoria of having survived it. It was the same type of adrenalin rush as you get from escaping from an albino sewer alligator. But this kept going on and on. Eventually I figured out what was going on after I realised that I was half expecting something else dramatic to happen; looking forward in anticipation, in fact. Now that's not a normal reaction for most people. Sensible people try to avoid net.ahuman battles as much as possible, and only 'look forward' to them so that they can make plans to stay out of the way. But I kept getting half-baked daydreams of something like it happening again, and I couldn't keep them out of my head. More telling, I think, was the way I kept remembering the fight against Frank - not in a flashback sense, but as something exciting. I wanted more of that. So that was it. After a while I sat down and start piecing things together and figured out what I had to do. Once it became clear that at least some of Frank's influence had taken hold despite the earplugs, I went a specialist of net.ahuman psychiatry and started working on a detoxification program to overcome my growing desire to become one of the discoing underlings of a demon lord. What? You think that just because you've had a life changing experience that you can't change back? Oh come on! Do I look like I'm built like a jock? There's no way that I'd look good in skin-tight lame. ---------- Character credits: Frank, the Demon Lord of Disco (nee, Demon Lord of Seventies Memorabilia) and the minionous version of the Solid Gold Dancers created by Matt Rossi. Used without permission. Irony Man created by Doug Moran. Considered Public Domain these days. Ordinary Lady created by Martin Phipps. Used without permission. Everybody else is mine. All characters the property of and copyright 2003 to their creators.Back to the Index.