Antipodean Antics #2 A Very Net.Zealand Christmas part 2 of 2 Still starring: Bladed Lad Fan.Boy Kiwis Mouse Retcon Lad Written by Saxon Brenton ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Cover shows Bladed Lad, Fan.Boy, Mouse, Retcon Lad and the kiwis in a defensive circle. They are surrounded on all sides by walruses wearing waistcoats and fur trimmed caps, and all grinning nastily. The foremost of the walruses are clearly visible, but further back they vanish into shadow, until finally only their eyes and tusks are visible in negative silhouette. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Last issue revealed that Mouse had been packed off for Christmas to visit her aunt, and that several other LNHers had decided to come and visit her. Since this was in Net.Zealand, it was mid summer, and very hot. And then it started to snow. The Legionnaires, sans one kiwi, held a war council. It was now 6:30 PM, which meant thanks to the longer summer days and the wonders of daylight saving it would still be light for a few more hours. And if anything it was snowing harder than ever. They stood or squatted or perched about in the front verandah room, which was about the only place big enough to comfortably hold them all. They held steaming cups of tea or coffee, and on the table was a partially demolished plate of scones (what Joe thought of as biscuits). In one corner sat a Christmas tree, which incidentally was also a Christmas Tree (a Net.Zealand Christmas Tree, or pohutukawa). It had only some silver tinsel for trim; for the most part its own mass of vibrant scarlet flowers acted as more than adequate decoration. "Okay guys, things are getting serious," began Dan. "Well, duh," said Mouse. "So what are we going to do about it?" "We should probably be out rescuing people," offered Joe. What they had all seen of the news on the telly earlier made it clear that emergency services were pretty stretched. No doubt there were still any number of campers still out in national parks who couldn't be reached. "Maybe not. Let's look at this logically, shall we?" suggested Barry. Mouse boggled. "You? Use logic?" Barry blew a raspberry at her. "Look, we're slap damn in the middle of a superhero universe, right?" "Okay." "And then a mysterious phenomenon pops up that constitutes a Mind- Boggling Threat To The Continued Existence Of All Everything, or at least to Net.Zealand's Summer, right?" "Yeah, so?" "And we just _happen_ to be in the right place to do something about it, right?" "You've been waiting for this, haven't you?," Mouse accused. Barry grinned impudently. "Well, isn't it obvious that an absurd plot contrivance has placed an adventure in our laps." He stood up and assumed a Dramatic Pose. "We must go forth, fellow heroes, and do battle with the Forces of Evil, to right wrongs, and to boldly split infinitives where no LNHer has split infinitives before! To the flight.thingee, Robin!" One of the kiwis threw an empty soft drink can at him. "Oh come on, I wasn't that bad," he protested. "Yes, you were," Mouse deadpanned. "Actually, he does have a point you know," Dan observed. "I mean, emergency services are pretty much flat out trying to rescue people. But _we're_ the only ones with the training, resources, and sheer dumb luck to fix... whatever it is that's going on," he waved his hand vaguely off in the direction of outside. "Barry's right that we should attack the cause of the problem..." Barry smirked. "...but it shouldn't be for self-aggrandisement. Let's keep our priorities straight here people." "Okay, so what are we supposed to do. Try and track down the source of this weird weather?" Mouse asked, starting the options listing process. "That's one strong possibility," Barry agreed. "Last issue a Penfold met a kiwi from Aotearoa..." "Yeah, right," said Dan impatiently. "They're all from Aotearoa. It's just another name for Net.Zealand." "No, I mean it she was a purple one..." "Say what!?" exclaimed Mouse. Barry took a breath. "A purple kiwi by the name of Candice turned up last issue and told Penfold that there was a dreadful threat to both our worlds." The kiwis stared at him doing very credible impersonations of stunned mullets. Dan looked at Mouse to ask her if she knew what he was talking about, only to find her banging her head against a table. "Mouse...?" he asked gently. "Oh god, I don't be-LIEVE this!" "Look, just give us a straight answer, will you?" Mouse glared at Dan, then composed herself by taking a deep breath. "A while ago Mum and myself rescued a little girl who had accidentally missed going to care. We took her home, and while we were waiting for her parents, Mum told her a bedtime story. It was a fairy story that involved a lot of the LNH as the basis for characters. It was set in the land of Aotearoa, and the kiwis there were purple." [_Writers Block Woman (and Mouse)_ #20 - Footnote Girl] "Kitty's fairytale," murmured Joe. "Say what?" demanded Dan. "Way back in an old issue of the _X-Men_ Kitty told a similar bedtime story, using the X-Men for characters in a like manner. Later, in the _Nightcrawler_ limited series, those characters turned out to be real. The old, 'all fiction is real in some other dimension' schtick." He shrugged and looked at Barry. "Did this Candice say what the threat was?" Barry shook his head. "There was scene change and they weren't seen for the rest of the story." Joe nodded and steepled his hands in thought. "Probably the Writer was being cagey and didn't want you spilling too much," he concluded. "Great," lamented Dan. "Okay, we'll go with what we know. Extradimensional threat. No stated source. That leaves trying to track it down." "Okay then. So how are we supposed to track down the source of a weather anomaly if the weather bureau can't?" Dan folded his arms and stared thoughtfully at the ceiling. "We'll have to use the sensors in the flight.thingee." "And if that doesn't work?" persisted Mouse. Dan looked at Joe. "Then we'll have to use a well-placed retcon or two for something a little bit less frivolous than finding caches of translator.thingees." Joe shrugged. Hey, it wasn't his fault that most of the kiwis didn't want to use the things. Penfold followed Candice through the portal she created. The air on the other side was very dry and very chill. He looked around. There didn't seem to be any greenery growing anywhere. The landscape consisted of rocks of all sizes - rounded, like those on a pebble beach - scattered for as far as the eye could see. Crawling out over this vista was a webwork of metal pipes. The pipes were quite large, but Penfold noted that as they spread out over the landscape they eventually grew smaller. Tracing them back the other way, he turned, and beheld a large iron tower, all twisted and bizarre. It was as though it were a gnarled and evil looking tree, and the pipes were its roots. Candice was shaking a small device that she had apparently used to bring them here. She'd called it a hole puncher. "<Drat,>" she said. "<A problem?>" She nodded. "<It's still not working properly. We should have been closer to ColdHeart's stronghold. I think it's the shape of space being all twisted around here.>" She glanced around. "<Come on. We'll need to find some cover closer to those pipes. We stick out like sore beaks in this place.>" "<What was that about the shape of space?>" "<That's an even longer story,>" she replied, quickly making her way across the stones into the shadow of one of the pipes. "<Okay, quick and dirty explanation. There's an Evil wizard who's been exiled to this area, and trapped by wards that keep him imprisoned within this region. His name is the Wizard ColdHeart, and as his name implies he specialises in cryomancy.>" "<Uh, magics dealing with cold?>" "<That's right. Anyway, after ColdHeart was exiled here, he kept trying to escape.>" "<Understandable, I suppose,>" he commented, eyeing the desolate landscape. "<It wasn't always like this, you know,>" she commented sadly. "<ColdHeart was exiled to this area because it was the most sparsely populated part of Aotearoa. It's called the Western Wastes, you see, and not many people wanted to be here because of its desolation.>" "<We're on the west coast?>" "<Ah, no. Actually we're in the south east. It's called the Western Wastes 'cause it alliterates nicely.>" "<Oh.>" "<Anyway. ColdHeart's presence only exacerbated things. It isn't just a waste anymore, it's completely dead. Part of it's because of his experiments and attempts to escape. But part of it's his mere presence.>" "<Pardon?>" She sighed, then recited, "<'Places take on the atmosphere and attitude of their rulers. Evil pervades the very rocks and trees and air where it resides. And, if allowed to fester, killing the good, it will remain so long after the rulers have departed.'>" He stared at her. "<It's true,>" she protested. "Anyway, over time he's sucked this place dry, mainly of heat to power his magics and technomagics. That's why this place is now a freeze dried desert. He's tried other tricks too. The most dramatic one was to try to actually reduce the size of the area inside the wards that hold him prisoner. He used his mastery of cold to cause the fabric of reality within the wards to contract. His idea was to cause the wards to try to contract to keep hard up against the edge of the Waste. Then, because the wards are so rigid, they were supposed to shatter.>" "<I take it that it didn't work.>" Candice smiled and shook her head. "<No. The Queen Mother's smarter than that. The wards are moored in an absolute position, not relative to the Waste. The Waste contracted, with the space within the wards crumpling as a result, and a spatial void forming a ring inside the wards. But that's about it.>" She shrugged. "It didn't do him any immediate good, but it makes it a pain for Aotearoan Intelligence to keep tabs on him.>" "<So you're spying on him?>" "<Uh-huh. Even locked up, he's too dangerous to be left unsupervised. Quite apart from the physical damage he does, one of his specialities is to control peoples' minds by causing their reasoning ability to freeze up, and then playing on their self-interest.>" They had by now reached the base of the tower. "<There should be an entrance around this way. So, yes, there's a rotating shift of field agents assigned to make sure he doesn't get up to too much mischief.>" "<So how do you get through these wards??>" "<Oh, we go around them. They're not specific to kiwi physiology if you try to cross them in other dimensions. It's only in this world that they block the path of every living thing. To keep anybody from unwittingly wandering in and getting chewed up and spat out, you see. And that's where the problems began. You see, eventually it occurred to ColdHeart to try and go around the wards in other dimensions as well.>" So, eventually the Legionnaires had piled into the flight.thingee and taken off. They'd circled around for a bit, trying to get a fix on the problem. When they'd managed to do so, Mouse was more than a bit exasperated. "What, you mean it's only ten kilometres away? It's been practically on top of us?" "Ki-wi," the kiwi manning the sensor array affirmed with a nod. "<I'll set her down at those co-ordinates,>" Gloria, who was doing to flying, said to the other kiwis. She had refused to use a translator.thingee, much like most of the kiwis had, and was communicating with the humans purely by gestures. She had put a number of cushions on the seat so that she could reach the yoke and see out the window, and this, combined with the fact that this particular model of flight.thingees didn't use pedals, enabled her to aviate just nicely. "<Who says kiwis can't fly,>" she muttered to herself. "<Phhbbt!>" "Almost there," said Fan.Boy, who was co-piloting. "Uh, lessee, it's in the national park." "Big surprise there," Mouse noted absently. Fan.Boy nodded. Bellinjuk was landlocked on all sides by national park. That was one of the main reasons the town was so small. He pointed, "Closest clearing looks like it's over there." Gloria nodded and brought the .thingee in. Then they disembarked into the cold, snow covered bushland. "Good thing for thermally insulated costumes," Retcon Lad remarked. Then, to the kiwis "How are you guys going?" The kiwis - who had dressed themselves in a variety of jumpers and sweaters, tracksuits, and anoraks (although where they had gotten them from was beyond the humans) - returned a general affirmation that they were warm enough. The only one who wasn't dressed for the weather was Abigail, and that was because she was one of the aforementioned Alpine Kiwis. When it had started snowing she had sat watching it along with the others. Then, unable to contain herself, she'd gone out and had a snow bath by rolling around in it. She was feeling much better now. "Okay then," continued Retcon Lad. "Well, at least we won't have to worry about snakes in this cold weather," he said, eyeing the thick undergrowth of the ubiquitous ferns. "No snakes in Net.Zealand," disagreed Fan.Boy. Then he paused, "Unless somebody's been changing the fauna between here and New Zealand again," he said, throwing an arch look at the kiwis. "No snakes," agreed Bladed Lad. "Watch out for the spiders though." "Spiders?" asked Retcon Lad. "Lots of spiders," Fan.Boy informed him. "Like, for the movie Arach.net.pobia they used spiders from here, because they were the biggest, hairiest, scariest looking mothers they could find. Totally harmless though. It's the katipo you have to watch out for. It's the only poisonous spider we have. Kinda small and black with a red splotches on it, related to the Ame.rec.an black widow or Alt.stralian redback. I doubt if any of them will be about in this weather... What?" he asked, as he saw Bladed Lad, Mouse and the kiwis staring at him. "What about wrestling spiders" asked Mouse. "Say what?" "They're about half the size of a kiwi," Bladed Lad said. "They're usually called 'wrestling spiders', 'cause they jump at you, bite you, wrestle with you till their poison takes effect, then gnaw your limbs off!" Fan.Boy glanced around nervously at the bushland. Scenes from the Pertwee era _Dr. Who_ episode 'Planet of the Spiders' came to mind. "Uhm. Male or female kiwis?" he asked. It was a valid question. Female kiwis were larger, since they had to lay the huge kiwi eggs; the males only had to incubate them. "Female," Mouse supplied matter-of-factly. "Don't worry about it now. Like you said, they won't be out in this weather. And besides, we've got kiwis with us," Bladed Lad continued. "But, like, always make sure you're wearing insect repellent when you go bushwalking, and always take a staff. They're good for walking aides, and you can use them to clobber the spiders." Mouse and several of the kiwis nodded. "<Come on,>" said Harris, waving a scan.thingee. Harris was a young kiwi, who wore glasses and who - if he had been human - would have been your basic adolescent geekoid suffering from a Defcon 2 level acne attack at ground zero. "<This way.>" They followed her through the night for a few hundred meters, to an old mine shaft. Mouse puzzled. "Strange, I don't remember any of these being in this area." "What, mines?" "Mmm," she agreed. "There used to be gold digging around here back at the end of last century. But I thought they were mainly up in the hills away from the coast. Oh well." "Ooooh. It's a mysteriously appearing mine shaft," said Retcon Lad, who then hummed the Twilight Zone theme. "Oh, give up," Mouse said distractedly. "Come on." They entered the mine shaft. They followed Harris' lead, then halted when he held up a stubby wing. "<It's just up ahead,>" he told them. "Okay. Reconnaissance team?" Bladed Lad said, asking for volunteers among the birds. "What's the plan?" Mouse asked. "FAN.DOOM SMASH!!!" snarled Fan.Boy unexpectedly. [Everybody stared at him, stunned. And it wasn't _just_ because he'd pronounced pronunciation at them, either. It was also because he was acting so wildly out of character. He had hunched forward, as if he wanted to drag his knuckles on the ground, and a savage scowl filled his face.] "What are you talking about..." began Mouse, only to be cut off by a growl from him that was truly chilling in its bestiality. "Fan.Doom smash villain!!!" he reiterated, lumbering ahead. [ ] When the others had come too again, Fan.Doom had moved forward towards where Harris had indicated the core of the anomaly was. Retcon Lad rushed after him. .oO(What's going on here?) wondered RLad, his thoughts racing wildly. (Has he gone nuts? Is he Darkening(tm)? No, it can't be that, it's happening too fast. Darkening happens slowly over time, with horrifying dramatic buildup. Oh, wait. He was feeling down earlier. Is it related? Uh, no, possibly not; he wasn't getting aggressive then. Oh crap, there's not enough info to judge with!) "Fan.Boy..." began to soothe Retcon Lad. "Fan.Doom!!!" countered Fan.Doom (nee Fan.Boy) aggressively. [ ] "No, no. You're not Fan.Doom. You're Fan.Boy," said RLad earnestly. "You're not a bloodthirsty and homicidal anti-hero. You're a Legionnaire. You're supposed to represent all that's good in humanity. You stand for hope for a better tomo... urk!" Fan.Doom had grabbed RLad by the throat, causing the latter's eyes to bug out. "Fan.Doom not be confused by babbling of puny net.hero." " but... you always liked my babbling before... " protested RLad with laboured breaths. .oO(Or at least tolerated it,) thought Mouse. "Hit him hard," she yelled to the others. The kiwis and Bladed Lad rushed at Fan.Doom, nasty sharp natural weaponry bristling. The kiwis pecked and BLad sliced. And none of it seemed to do the slightest bit of damage. Fan.Doom grabbed a random kiwi, and held him by the throat much like Retcon Lad. "Fan.Doom not impressed by puny kiwis. Fan.Doom is strongest and most violent and can talk about self in third person. If puny kiwis not like, then Fan.Doom will squish puny kiwis like bugs." The sight he presented as he announced this was pretty ludicrous. You're probably all expecting him to have turned all green (or perhaps grey) and muscly and become the object of adolescent power fantasies, right? Well, he didn't. He remained, physically at least, a skinny bespectacled young man even as he shrugged off the most vicious of kiwi attacks. The kiwis were more than a bit taken aback by this. People _always_ fell before the concerted attacks by the fearsome feet and biting beaks of kiwis. Still, they pressed on. Mouse, meanwhile, was throwing subliminal suggestions at Fan.Doom for all she was worth. Unfortunately, in his current Image-style mental state there really didn't seem to be much of Fan.Boy's mind left to affect. Or any mind left to affect, for that matter. But she persisted anyway. ===Attack the villain, not the heroes==Attack the villain, not the heroes==Attack the villain, not the heroes,=== she projected at him. Finally, it seemed to have some effect. "Puny villain, Fan.Doom is coming for you!" [Fan.Doom snarled and lumbered further into the lair.] "Urk," managed Retcon Lad, massaging his throat. "So, now what?" "We follow him," Bladed Lad said decisively. Retcon Lad nodded. He was still wondering if F.B's moods earlier were related to this. Meanwhile, up ahead, the mindless force of vigilante vindictiveness that had once been a hero smashed his way through to an impending fight scene with lots of senseless violence and gratuitous bloodshed. "Now puny villain," announced Fan.Doom as he faced off against an appropriately sinister looking man. "Fan.Doom smash." The figure before him seemed unimpressed by this threat. He was thin and pale looking - almost gaunt - with piercing eyes of ice green. About him was an air of calculating cruelty. He waved a finger dismissively. "Hardly." On the floor about him, pale coloured walruses in white waistcoats and wearing fur trimmed cap with little tinkling bells on the ends grinned unpleasantly. Fan.Doom snarled and strode forward, fists clenched and muscled knotted. His opponent looked disdainful and launched some sort of fancy special effect at him. A swirl of greeny-orangy-purple light accreted about Fan.Doom's head, causing him to go " eep " before his eyes rolled up into his head and he fell to the floor unconscious. "And now for his little friends," the villain commented to the walruses. Outside, the other Legionnaires all went " eep " too. The walruses sniggered. Later, the assembled heroes regained consciousness. The villain and his walruses had been waiting for them to do so, although they had manacled them to the wall in the meantime. Having your opponents conscious but captive is very important so that you can gloat at them. The villain waited. The heroes did nothing. "Well?" said the villain. "Well what?" asked Mouse. "Aren't you going to ask me what my fiendish plans are?" Mouse rolled her eyes. "Oh ye gods. No! Not if I can help it. Does it matter? You're going to gloat at us anyway, so why bother waiting for prompts from us?" The walruses shifted about in a sullen manner, the bells on their caps tinkling angrily. The villain sighed in restrained resignation. Ah well, it seemed that he would have to do things the hard way. Best to get the mandatory exposition out of the way; he had other things to attend to. "Very well. Know, foolish heroes, that I am ColdHeart, Wicked Wizard of the Western Wastes. And these are my White Waistcoat Wearing Wyrdling Walruses." "I bet aLLiterative Lass is going to kick herself for missing out on this one," Mouse commented, sotto voice. "You don't look like a wizard," noted Bladed Lad. "You're not wearing a trenchcoat." "<Ixnay,>" said Harris, who had recently been accompanying F.Boy and RLad to the role playing club at Dave Thomas Deluxe University. "<If he's from a fairy tale world, then he's probably a Merlin-esque wizard. The robes are appropriate.>" ColdHeart paused with a touch of confusion. This wasn't going how he had expected. He decided to change tack and try to regain the initiative. "I really must thank you," he oozed maliciously at Fan.Boy. "It really is so very convenient to get an impetuous hero who'll barge in without thinking and try to beat the villain with brute force alone. Also easier to knock the unconscious: a mind that's acting on brute instinct can be rendered insensate with less retcotheric effort than one that is fully active and aware." Fan.Boy flushed red and squirmed in embarrassment. A number of kiwis glared at him. The only sympathetic face seemed to be Retcon Lad's. "And now," continued ColdHeart, preparing to really rub the salt in, "because of your actions I have both you and your companions as my prisoners. Nothing can stop me from sucking the warmth from your world." The walruses grinned nastily. "Okay. So how do you plan to do that?" Retcon Lad asked pointedly. It was a standard hero ploy to get the villain to boast of his plans so that the inevitable fatal flaw in them could be identified and exploited. Besides, it would distract him from picking on Fan.Boy. Huh. So much for F.B's enthusiasm for having an Adventure. Normally, whenever he met a villain, his reaction was to burble enthusiastically about how neat it was to meet him/her/it/them, and possibly ask for an autograph. While he wasn't quite as annoying as Obsequious Lad of the British InterKnights, he did tend to give the impression that he wasn't taking things totally seriously. Now, however, he looked like he wanted to crawl under a rock or something. One thing that did puzzle RLad, however, was ColdHeart's apparent non-involvement in Fan.Boy's bizarre behaviour earlier. When he'd discovered they were up against a wizard, RLad's immediate reaction had been to blame him; mind controlling spells and suchlike being the obvious answer. But ColdHeart seemed to be disavowing that. Curious. The net.hero wondered what could have happened then. [See the upcoming _Fan.Boy Annual_ #1 - Footnote Girl] ColdHeart smiled thinly at RLad's question. "With this," he enunciated, making a small, controlled gesture to a huge contraption on the far side of the chamber, which had somehow escaped the attention of everybody (heroes and audience alike). It looked vaguely like a steam engine of some type: a huge upright standing cylinder with a cantilevered plunger bobbing up and down. It was covered with all sorts of weird pipes that hissed and leaked steam, as well as an even weirder system of glowing spidery filigree. It was soot encrusted and incredibly ugly. "What is it?" asked Mouse, not particularly impressed. She'd seen weirder stuff brought home by her mother after a particularly frenetic shopping spree. "My Heat Pump," replied ColdHeart with a touch of pride. "Never heard of reverse cycle air conditioning I take it?" Mouse quipped. "Do you have to do that?" demanded Bladed Lad with irritation. "Well _somebody_ has to. It's not like Lite is just going to pop up and do it for us," she replied in a withering tone. Then everybody waited. When it became clear after a few seconds that Easily-Discovered Man Lite wasn't going to make a guest cameo, they continued. "So let's get this right..." said Retcon Lad. "You're going to use your Heat Pump thing to suck away the warmth from Net.Zealand..." ColdHeart inclined his head slightly in acknowledgment of the question. "It isn't just the _physical_ heat that it is absorbing," he corrected didactically. "It is the emotional warmth as well. Even now, people across the country are losing their Christmas Spirit, and becoming grouchy and mean tempered And soon, you're entire world will follow suit. Then, with the energy absorbed by the Pump, I will at last be able to sunder Block Alys' wards that circumscribe the Western Waste I will be free to roam Aotearoa again, and have my revenge." Bladed Lad looked at Mouse. "Do you want to, or will I?" "You sure Macy and Loopy won't mind?" "Nah, they're cool dudes. They won't mind." "Okay then. Well, why not do it together?" she suggested. He considered for half a second. "Okay." "You'll never get away with it!" they chorused in unison. On the other hand, ColdHeart's words had set in motion a completely different train of thought for Fan.Boy and Retcon Lad. "Hold up. Block Alys?" queried RLad, who had read his Pratchett. "Don't you mean Black Aliss?" Fan.Boy nodded. "Yeah." ColdHeart gave them an irritated look. "What are you two blabbering about?" This was a question which most of F.B's and RL's companions wanted to echo, but deliberately refrained from. Had it been earlier in the story then things would have been different, since there are long- standing conventions that at the start of a story if two heroes or groups of heroes meet they will engage in a near-obligatory fight scene and pummel the snot out of one another before settling their differences and teaming up against the bad guy(s). But at this stage of the story it was against protocol to show dissension among the ranks of the good guys. This is why the kiwis had been able to peck Retcon Lad to death at the start of the story, but why everyone was so ticked off at Fan.Boy for succumbing to malign influences only minutes before. Then Harris piped up, since he, like the other two, had also read his Pratchett. "<She was the most powerful of the fairy tale witches,>" he offered. "<Gingerbread houses, putting castles to sleep for a hundred years, turning coaches into pumpkins, that sort of thing.>" ColdHeart steepled his hands thoughtfully. "If only," he replied. "I believe I could do a deal with such a woman. No, this is the Queen Mother of Aotearoa I am talking about, with her ability to block things. After my last defeat, it was she who exiled me to the Western Wastes, the set up wards about the place to keep me in. They are powerful. Even in this place..." "Here?" "Yes. Here," he affirmed, waving his hand in a small circle, to indicate precisely what the net.heroes couldn't yet be sure. "This world. Do you think that if I had dimension spanning technomagi I wouldn't have already tried to use it to circumvent the wards by avoiding them in another dimension? No matter which world I have gone to, and no matter how far I travel in that world, I always return to Aurora Loonialis within the Western Wastes." Penfold looked at Candice. "<So he's escaped to Loonivearth?>" "<Not quite.>" "<Not quite?>" "<He's been blocked on all dimensions. He can't go around the wards and escape into the area beyond the Wastes back in Aotearoa. But he can move about in a limited area in your world, and he can contact the people who enter that area.>" She frowned, and shook the hole puncher a few times, then said, "<It's no good. It's completely dead.>" She looked up at the tower. "<Blast. He's moving too fast for me.>" "<What?>" "<He's up to something. He's built another one of his technomagical constructs to do something on your world. I don't know what, precisely, but with him it can't be any good. Whatever it is, it's playing hob with transit in and out of the Waste, not to mention communication. I wanted to brief someone on your side about what was going on so that you and yours could keep an eye out for him in your world, while I made a quick trip back to report to my superiors. But he's moving ahead faster than I thought, and we're both stuck here with no way to contact the outside.>" She glared at the tower. Penfold looked at the tower. Candice turned back to Penfold. "<I guess we'll just have to handle it ourselves,>" she said. "<Oooh, crumbs.>" "So, what we're talking about is a basic revenge plan," Mouse summarised. "Well, yes. Basically. I mean, it also combines your basic Evil plot, and a twist on the 'cold' motif, but essentially it's revenge driven. Yes." "Oh gosh," Mouse deadpanned in a sarcastic monotone. "What a terrible plan. It will absolutely ruin Christmas. You fiend. How could you? You nasty Evil person you." ColdHeart smiled a frosty smile. This was more like it. "It is so pleasant to be appreciated," he murmured, inclining his head once again. "And, in all honesty, I think I can say that I deserve it. For soon, your world shall be doomed" If her arms had been free Mouse would have put her hands in her face with despair. .oO(You've gloated your plans, you stupid nong. We don't need you anymore. Just _go away_.) She decided to throw a few subliminals at him in order to get him to do just that. Pleased with himself, ColdHeart left, taking the walruses with him. "Thank god. I thought he'd never go," she complained. She glanced around. "Okay then. So, here we are manacled to the wall..." began Mouse. One of the kiwis grumbled something under his breath. "Look, I don't _know_ how he knew to have exactly the right number of kiwi-sized manacles, okay?" she countered. "The point is we're already half-way through the second issue of a two part story and we haven't had a fight scene yet!" "<A-hem!>" "Against the villain I mean. We have to stop ColdHeart's plans before he freezes the world solid." Then she paused, embarrassed. "God, that sounded like a ridiculous bit of stating the obvious. Usually it's Mum that does that sort of stuff." "Don't worry, you did fine," said Bladed Lad. "Anyway, it shouldn't be any problem to escape." He turned both hands into blades with diameters smaller than the inside of the manacles, and just slipped free. Then he did the same with his feet, albeit one at a time so he didn't fall over. "Okay, who's next?" "<How do you plan to free the rest of us? Can you cut through them?>" "Dunno. Might be a bit difficult against tempered steel," BLad replied. "I suppose I can only try." "Ah, no thanks man," said RLad. "Not that I'm antsy about you carving my hands off or anything, but it'd probably be quicker to just get the keys now that you're free." Bladed Lad looked around. "So where did you retcon them into being?" "I didn't retcon them anywhere. They're sitting on the far side of the table over there. Behind that spanner." "Oh. Right." Some five minutes later they were all free. Mouse asked, "Shouldn't we've left Fan.Boy locked up on the wall?" "No! You shouldn't have!" exclaimed Fan.Boy, aghast. "Gee, I don't know F.B," said Mouse with a look of false innocence on her face. "You did turn out to be a liability before." "Mooo-ouse," whined Fan.Boy in anguish. The discussion got no further, however, because at that moment they were attacked by a walrus. There was a short, furious battle, but the kiwis alone outnumbered him 19 to 1 so the outcome was a forgone conclusion. "<Exciting.>" "<Well, you wouldn't want things to get boring, now would you?>" "<Guess not.>" "<So, now what?>" "Oh. Probably all we have to do is wreck the machine," Bladed Lad guessed. "Once that's done everything will return to normal, right?" Mouse nodded. "Yup. Simple comic book physics." "Just as long as we don't have to use the old cliche of heroes sacrificing themselves to save the universe by throwing themselves into or against machinery," warned Fan.Boy. "Well, actually I think we might have a problem there guys," observed Retcon Lad, who had walked closer to inspect the device. "What's that?" "It doesn't seem to really be there." Penfold and Candice were running like blue blazes. They had successfully snuck into ColdHeart's stronghold, and made it quite some considerable way before being discovered. They had been ambushed by a pack of walruses. The resulting fight hadn't been pretty. One moment they had been moving quietly in the shadows, heading for the chamber where Candice claimed the mad wizard had set up his latest nefarious device. The next there were six walruses lunging at them, barking loudly and making savage swipes with their tusks. The birds had struck back in quick retaliation that had eliminated one of their opponents. This had surprised the walruses, and given the two of them precious seconds with which to make a hasty escape. Unfortunately, there were still too many of them to make a stand against, and in any case they didn't have the time to make pointless fights against ColdHeart's lesser minions. Through it all, Penfold admired the way Candice kept her head. She continued in the direction of her intended destination, and made the best use of spaces too small for their pursuers to follow them through. Then he almost ran into Candice, who had come to a complete stop. He looked around her to see what was wrong. Oh... They had run into a dead end, a small balcony jutting out into a large chasm, running many stories down and up and across. There had plainly been a bridge of some type across the chasm at one time, since there were pieces of rotten wood both on the balcony on their side, as well as on the balcony on the other side. Penfold looked around. The walruses were right behind them. He was out of breath. And his shirt was all ripped. Hmm. His shirt was all ripped. Maybe he could use this to create a Doc Savage frame of mind. With a determined set of his beak he pulled from nowhere he pulled an India.net Jones style fedora and plonked it on his head. He grabbed Candice around the waist with one wing, and a vine that hadn't been there a second ago with the other, and doing his best Flaming Carrot impersonation said, "<Ut. Now we swing for it, babycakes.>" Candice looked at him. "<Good luck.>" He shifted his weight from his feet to the vine, and swung out across the void just as the walruses arrived. They howled in impotent fury. Penfold let go the vine, and then, because kiwis can be dreadfully obnoxious when they set their minds to it, blew a raspberry at them before he and Candice raced off. The Legionnaires examined the Heat Pump. Or more precisely, the image of the Heat Pump. "These pipes here seem to be solid," observed Bladed Lad, "But they turn intangible about here." "Hmm. Neat trick. Most of it must've been built in the other dimension," surmised Fan.Boy. "<That'd explain how the room can be so big up around the top of the Pump,>" theorised Harris. "Correct," confirmed ColdHeart from the far end of the chamber. "Oh bother," sniped Mouse. "It's the boogeyman." Bladed Lad dropped into a fighting stance, his blades whirling. "Come back to fight this time?" he challenged. "Oh course," replied the villain calmly. "The heroes are _always_ escaping for climactic fight scenes. I've been through this before with so many groups of knight errants it's not funny. But I don't propose to let you fight." He clapped his hands twice. "Attend, my walruses. Use your Caps of Christmas Crassness," he commanded. The walruses grinned nastily and breathed at the heroes. "Erk," said Retcon Lad. "Uh, guys. I feel kinda funny." "Schmaltzy," echoed Fan.Boy weakly. Bladed Lad didn't answer. He was busy humming inane Christmas songs. "<Gosh. Will you look at this place? It could really do with some decorations,>" Gloria observed. "<Yeah. Like some tinsel.>" "<And fake snow.>" "I wonder if all the presents I got my family will be in the right price range?" muttered Retcon Lad. "Wouldn't want to upset them by spending too much or too little." ColdHeart allowed himself a sepulchral chuckle. "You are mine. Distracted from your true purpose by inane holiday commercialism, you cannot possibly summon the willpower to defeat me." Mouse glared at him, feeling for some strange reason that she should be offended by this. She tried to make a cutting remark, but all she could find in her thoughts were the tunes to bland Christmas mall muzak. What had she been going to say? Something about not wanting to miss the Christmas special that was going to be on TV, wasn't it? She shook her head. There was something wrong here... On the other side of the portal, Penfold and Candice stared in horror. They had finally throwing off their pursuers, and had snuck into Heat Pump's chamber just in time to hear the previous conversation."<Oh no, he's wiped out their spirit of humanity and replaced it with crass commercialism and insensitivity," Candice whispered. Penfold turned an appraising eye on the Heat Pump, and ColdHeart's position relative to it. "<Is he here, or there, do you think?>" Candice looked thoughtful. "<There, I'd say.>" Penfold nodded. Good. If he was on the other side of the interface, then that should keep him from sensing the two of them by their body heat. "<Leave them for the moment,>" he said. "<While ColdHeart's distracted by playing with them, we have to reverse, or wreck, that machine.>" She followed his gaze, then nodded. They carefully began sneaking around the edges of the room. Back on the Looniverse side, Mouse was doing and uphill battle against the effects of the walruses' caps. It was not easy, but thanks to her powers and her immunity to her mother's powers, she was the only one with a snowball's chance in summer of doing so. She narrowed her eyes on the gloating ColdHeart, feeling instinctively that he was at fault behind... whatever it was that was wrong at the moment. Something like that. Then she saw two kiwis, a green one and a purple one, sneaking around behind him. That felt... right. Okay, that was something to work on. It was right that he not see sneaking kiwis. So... she should... do something to make sure he didn't see them. Yeah. Uhm, and she could do with some help too. She stole a glanced at the others. Difficult proposition. They were either wandering around arguing what colour the tinsel should be, humming Jingle Bells, or composing wish lists for Santa. She frowned, desperately trying to keep her thoughts together under the consciousness numbing onslaught of the words from every novelty Christmas song she'd ever heard. She had to appeal to their current sense of self interest. Ah. Of course. "Gratuitous fight scene!" she screamed, pointing at the walruses. The other Legionnaires, human and kiwi alike, perked up, their eyes alight. "Hey, yeah!" they cried, and threw themselves at the very surprised walruses. ColdHeart was utterly taken aback. What he had failed to take into consideration was that, by taking away their spirit of Christmas, he had also inhibited their basic humane tendencies towards civilised responses to situations. Thus, they were stuck in 'instant self- gratification mode', and for net.heroes this meant violent and utterly pointless fight scenes where they could pound the bad guys into street pizza. That was a mistake that would cost him dearly. As the fight began, Fan.Boy hung back. He cold hardly use his powers to stun without affecting his teammates, and he certainly didn't have any skills at fighting... Then he slapped his forehead in astonishment at how stupid he had been not to think of it before. "Of course!" he exclaimed. "What's up?" asked Retcon Lad as he and a walrus circled each other warily, both looking for an opening. "I'm an idiot. I completely forgot that this is being written by _your_ Writer! Not mine." "So?" "So, that's about the only time that I'm any good in a fight!" He grinned madly, and launched himself at RLad's walrus. The walrus whirled to face the new attack, just in time to take a haymaker in the jaw that left it seeing stars. Then Fan.Boy gave it a judo kick in the stomach, hefted the stunned creature above his head (despite the fact that it weighed about as much as a small car) and hurled it across the room where it crashed on top of another walrus that had been sneaking up on some kiwis from behind. Retcon Lad was amazed. "I didn't know you had superhuman strength." "I don't. It's just your Writer being silly again, I think. I'm operating on pure hyperbole." And then he turned to take on a second walrus. Retcon Lad just shook his head. "<Oooh, vicious gut punch,>" whispered Penfold in admiration as he stood on the Heat Pump's control panel. He looked back to Candice. "<Can you make head or tails of this?>" "<I think so. Lessee. Reverse this, this, and this. Oh, and throw that level over there, would you?>" "<What, this one labelled 'plot device'?>" "<Yeah, that's the one.>" "<Okay.>" ColdHeart quickly overcame his bamboozlement, and prepared to launch the knockout spell that he'd used against the heroes earlier. Then, two new walruses lumbered in. Ah, reinforcements. A bit late now, but... And then the new walruses barked something quite disturbing to the wizard. "Kiwis at large in the stronghold?" "<Uh-oh. He's on to us,>" Penfold noted. "<Too late!>" Candice cried as the Heat Pump began shaking and spitting out steam. "<Crumbs! The warp drive's venting plasma,>" he observed facetiously. "<Run!>" "Arggh! My Heat Pump!" cried ColdHeart, actually getting excited enough to use exclamations. The Pump continued its meltdown. The stolen heat began to rush back from whence it came (moving to even out the level of energy from a high concentration to a low concentration - simple thermodynamics modified slightly by comic book physics). Worse still from the wizard's point of view, energy feedback began cascading back across all the items and spell webs it was hooked up to for empowering. Little flashes of light danced and sparks of magic earthed themselves as all of ColdHeart's carefully constructed magics went down, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. Well, no, that's not quite true. There were a number of things he could have tried, but with runaway spell cascades going amok all over the place it would be extremely dangerous to try to intervene directly. There was a good chance that anything he tried to do to halt the process would only exacerbate things as the chain reaction soaked up any extra magic sent against it. The only safe thing to do was throw up a cube of protection and hope the denatured octiron rods inserted in the walls to handle just such an overload did their job. Then the backlash caught up the spells handling the dimensional overlays, and the LNHers watches as the wizard and his walruses faded out. In the tower, explosions ripped through the chamber where the two kiwis were. "<Where too?>" Penfold yelled above the din. Candice cast about the room. That was a very good question. She glanced at the hole puncher. "<One in a million chances turn up nine times out of ten,>" she muttered. She turned it on, and wonder of wonders, it was working again. "<Jump!>" she yelled as a portal formed. "<You don't have to tell me twice,>" Penfold agreed fervently. A bit later, after Penfold and Candice had told their story, (with Harris translating for the humans) as well as being treated for minor burns, Candice said it was time for her to take her leave. "<I have a report to make to Aotearoan Intelligence. Hopefully ColdHeart will be out of mischief for a while, but I don't doubt that he'll be back again later.>" "<Oh,>" said Penfold. "<I was hoping you'd stay for a bit.>" Candice looked at him, and for the first time realised he was smitten with her. Carefully she replied, "<No. It's best that I leave now.>" She opened up a portal with the hole punch. Then she gave him a small peck on the cheek. "<Thank you for everything, Penfold.>" Then she stepped through, and the hole collapsed completely, leaving no trace of its passing. Penfold took off his glasses, and wiped them nonchalantly. "<Let's go,>" he said with an apparent indifference that would have made Retcon Lad think him heartless, if he hadn't caught the briefest glance of a tear. --------------------------------------------------------------------- Character Credits: Dan Andrews (Bladed Lad) created by Campbell 'Sasquatch' March. Barry Knewbee (Fan.Boy) created by Jamas Enright. The kiwis created by Descrii (Ian Porell). Mouse Simons/Connery created by Jaelle (Jessica Ihimaera-Smiler). Joe Forsythe (Retcon Lad), ColdHeart and his walruses created by Saxon Brenton. All characters copyright and tm 1995 their creators. --------------------------------------------------------------------- Add Notes: The S.C.H.M.U.C.K./Nothing In Particular references in part 1 were ripp^H^H^H homaged from Valentino's _normalman_. Aotearoa, as set out on _WBW(&M)_ is a fairy tale dimension, and emphasising that fantasy nature is the main reason I kept including Pratchett references. There is, however, one other allusion of that nature, and that is the quote Candice recites abut Evil infecting the areas where it dwells. That comes from Jack Chalker's _Songs of the Dancing Gods_. And Thank Yous: Okay, that's the first story for _Antipodean Antics_. I want to thank Jaelle, Jamas, Campbell and Ian for all letting me use their characters. Since none of the Alt.stralian characters I have plans to introduce (Bruce Bloke, Cultural Cringe Boy, et al.) have turned up yet (and at the rate my plans for them keep getting pushed back you can expect to see them some time in the next century...) I had to look around to find replacements. I also want to thank them for feedback and pointers on the care and feeding of their characters. This is especially so for Jamas, who offered lots of pointers on Net.Zealand when my own researches just didn't go far enough. Jamas also gets thanks for coming up with the final title (the working title had been _Antipodean Absurdities_, but I think 'Antics' has more finesse). The origins of this story lie in the comments Jaelle made last Christmas in _WBW(&M)_ #9 about the nature of a southern hemisphere Christmas. But basically, the whole thing is just a big excuse for me to write a story set in the fishing village of the endless summer of my childhood. Bellinjuk, you see, is just Hat Head transplanted. The fiendish schemes of ColdHeart were added in because this is a superhero universe, and as Fan.Boy pointed out, that's the type of thing that happens in superhero universes. _Antipodean Antics_ is meant to be an occasional ongoing series. I'll post stories as stories needed to be set Down South come to me, but there really aren't that many I can think of at the moment. I know there's at least one other story coming up, which features the Easter Bilby vs. the Easter Bunny, with Bruce Bloke and the ravening hordes of alt.devilbunnies added for good measure (No. Really). But after that... Well, we'll see.Back to the Index.