[LNH][Contest] Legion of Net.Heroes Volume 2 #35 HCC8 ___ ___________________________ | |-| \ | |-|  / #35 | | |  egion of \ 'Opposites: Spots and Stripes' | | | __     / (Part of High Concept Challenge #8) | | | [___][ \et.__eroes \ | | | \ ] [ __ ] / written by and copyright 2010 | |-|     \ Saxon Brenton | |-|___________________________/ | | | | | | Cover shows a number of LNHers reeling in surprise, pain or perhaps | | just drama as overlays of two different colour schemes - one of | | spots and the other of stripes - clash unevenly down the centre of | | the illustration. The overlays have almost-but-not-totally washed | | away the original hues of the Legionnaires, but they bear no | | relationship to the shapes of the things they are bringing colour to. |_| [A Silver Age-style roster of characters in the form of a series of mug shots in little circles runs down the side of the title page:] Roll call for this issue: o Occultism Kid! o Hell Catalyst! o Twitter! with appearances by: o Captain Capitalize! o Fearless Leader! o The Hooded Ho''od Win o Innovative-Offense Boy! o Irony Man! o Johnny Stomper! o Limp-Asparagus Lad! o wReamHack! These are just some of the super-powered do-gooders who belong to an organisation that thinks that running around with your underwear on the outside is acceptable as a fashion statement. They are: the Legion of Net.Heroes! @%%%%%%%%%%@ Luke Nzikal arrived home in suburban Net.ropolis after a long day at the office, intending to unwind with some online gaming before dinner. He'd already doffed his coat and tie as he'd left work, and now begrudged only enough time to change out of his starched button down shirt in favour of a more comfortable t-shirt before settling down in front of his TV and logging on to a session of Clown Incursion. The premise to the game was simple. Actually working your way through it was more difficult since it required a modicum of strategic thinking. The world had been invaded by evil extradimensional clowns with terrible Lovecraftian abilities. It was up to players - who belonged either the faction of robot pirates or of zombie ninjas - to stop the invasion. However pirates and ninjas hated each other, and with all other factors being equal would get almost as much experience points from knocking off their rivals as they would from destroying the clowns. Players therefore had to gather information about each clown incursion and carefully assess whether they could afford to go it alone, or whether they needed to make a temporary alliance with their enemies. Luke's pirate character Rustbeard was scouting a temple complex rumoured to be a base of clown cultists when he encountered a slurping horror. More and more of these dangerous beasts had been turning up as random encounters recently, and their presence was a fairly solid indication that there was a breach into the non-Euclidean realm of the clowns somewhere in the area. But was it a small breach close by, or a large breach at a greater distance? Was it possible that the recent loss of contact with harbour city of Davenport was related to this, and a major incursion was underway further down the coast? Rustbeard drew his wheel lock blaster and fired at the horror, which sidestepped the robot's attack with its ability to 17-and-a-half dimensional shuffle. However the pirate had enough experience fighting these creatures to recognise the manoeuvre and prepare an appropriate counter-counter attack, drawing his vibro cutlass and making a broad slice through a few of the most probable areas where the creature would rematerialise. Luke frowned with concentration, then went "Wha?" as the picture started to go wonky. The image seemed to be loosing resolution. No, not *seemed*. The image was losing resolution; becoming more pixilated as the creatures and objects on screen became blockier. The gamer stared at the picture, and with both befuddlement and a knee-jerk irritation wondered what was going wrong with his TV. Then with a blinding flash of insight, Luke realised that they weren't pixels at all. They were spots. He understood now. He understood *everything*! @%%%%%%%%%%@ Twitter frowned as she compared the two blouses. As any woman will tell you there's something almost elementally pleasurable about going shopping. In Twitter's case there was also something of a novelty factor, since up until recently her lack of control over her powers had kept her from being able to buy her own clothes at all. "What do you think?" she asked HellCat. Hell Catalyst looked up from the shoe display she'd been inspecting and gave careful thought. "I'd go for the blue one for casual. The lacey teal one looks more formal." Twitter considered this. "Hm, yeah." And then a thought occurred. "Although maybe something in spots." HellCat blinked in surprise. "Spots? No, I don't think spots are for you." Twitter massaged her temples. "No, I don't think so either, But someone around here does," she said, glancing around. What happened next was not so much an explosion, since that implies a physical concussion leaving devastation in its wake. Instead the flash of colour left everything and everyone covered in spots - and the only devastation that that caused was one of good taste. There were cries of surprise and consternation from around the store. "No, no, no!" said HellCat. "This is *not* the fashion statement I was looking for!" She held up her arm to examine the patterns across the back of her hand and on her sleeve. The spots were in different patterns and different combinations of colours. Then she asked, "Uh, Twitter, are you okay?" "Spots!, They're everywhere, they're taking over the entire world!" Twitter said, rubbing her eyes and beginning to speak in the rapid fire blurt that she typically dropped into when she used her super speed. "Well, it does kind of makes everything look like a Roy Lichtenstein painting..." began HellCat, but she was brought up short when Twitter stopped squeezing her eyes shut and looked at her with that almost creepily intense stare she sometimes got. "Not out here," Twitter said, flicking her hand to indicate the clothing store. "I mean inside my head!" Her eyes darted about as if he was looking for something. "Someone's got a supervillain level monomania about spots." She vanished. Hell Catalyst glanced around. She couldn't see any afterimages, so she guessed that Twitter had moved out onto the street with her super speed. Twitter reappeared. "Come on, he's outside," she said, then vanished again. Hell Catalyst followed her. Twitter was standing on the curb, more or less in one place, but all jittery and visible mainly because of persistence of vision. "Look at this place, it's cover in spots, isn't it great?" She blinked. "No wait, supervillain plot so spots are bad, arrgh!" To HellCat she said, "Sorry I'm having trouble focusing." "Just take your time," replied HellCat, reaching out with her own power to influence other people. "Take deep breaths if you have to." She glanced around, taking in the scene. "So where is 'he'?" The city street was in a state of pandemonium, of course. However, a far bigger problem was that it was also all but unrecognisable. Nothing had actually changed shape, but the spots that covered everything made them look different enough that it would take a while that the pattern recognition abilities of people to be able to easily comprehend what they were looking at. Confusion was inevitable. And as if to emphasise the point, at that moment two cars collided. "He headed off that away," Twitter said, pointing northward. "He looked like a guy, but he was a couple of stories up so it was kind of hard to tell, He seemed to be levitating on a field of Kirby Spots... Dots!, I mean Kirby Dots." "So he's definitely left the area?" asked HellCat, gazing out over the rooftops. Twitter shrugged. "The overwhelming sense of spots being great is fading, and all I'm getting now is the people around here being ticked off with spots." Hell Catalyst took out her communicator and called back to the Legion of Net.Heroes HQ. "HellCat here. Guys, we've got a bit of a situation in Greystanes. We're in High Street and everything's been redecorated with spots, and I mean *everything*, even the sky. Twitter thinks the source may be moving north from here. Can you do any tracking from your end?" "Well, now there's a coincidence," came the voice of wReamhack. "We're getting reports that the north side of the harbour has been covered in stripes. Hold up a second, we've tapped into the CCTV cameras so that Multi-Tasking Man can plot a vector." Hell Catalyst looked at Twitter. "You think maybe they're teaming up?" Twitter shook her head emphatically. "The mind I felt hasn't got room for anything other than spots." "Okay," said wReamhack as he came back online. "Confirm that. Two guys, one with a aura of spots, the other with stripes, and they're moving towards one another at speed." "Okey-doeky," said HellCat. "Listen guys, if it wasn't obvious already, we think they could be moving in for a fight scene. You might want to some heavy hitters there to break them up and keep them from doing collateral damage." "Limp-Asparagus Lad!" interjected Twitter suddenly. "He can try and keep them calm with his powers." "There's an idea," agreed wReamhack. "Have you got the spot guy's starting point?" asked Hell Catalyst. "Uhm, yeah. Not far from you, as a matter of fact." "Okay, gimmee, and we'll go check it out." The two of them texted down the address and made their way there. When they arrived they discovered a house that had one of the walls burst open, and a police cordon. "Wow, look at that!" said Twitter, who rushed over at super speed and examined the hole. "It's as though the wall wasn't just decorated with spots, but turned into spots and lost its cohesion." One of the cops raised his voice and called, "Hey, this is a crime scene." Hell Catalyst showed him her ID. "Legion of Net.Heroes," she said. He raised an eyebrow. "What, are you the Spotty Sisters, or something?" he snarked. .oO( Oh dear, ) thought HellCat, and turned her powers onto him. In a bright voice she said, "You know, it would be a really peachy keen idea to let the Legion of Net.Heroes onto the scene so that they can solve this problem as quickly as possible." "Hey, yeah. It would be, wouldn't it? The guy who's already here could use your help." "Oh, I'm sure he could," HellCat gushed. "Thanks for everything." Once they were inside the found the other Legionnaire crouched down, examining the remains of a television with an exploded screen. "Oh, hi there Occultism Kid," said HellCat. "Hello, Hell Catalyst," said the trenchcoat wearing mage, glancing over at the two women. "Got zapped by the Spot Lord, huh?" he said, not without sympathy. " 'Fraid so. We were shopping when the spots went down, and even changing into costume hasn't helped fix this fashion disaster. Whatcha got here?" she asked him, as Twitter impulsively moved forward to take a look at the way the TV screen, but only the screen, had shattered outwards across the carpet. "Well, there's a *lot* of retcotheric energy related to our two antagonists. But that isn't too much of a surprise, since they look like they're literally a Lord of Spots and of Stripes. Anyway, I was kind of hoping that there was some sort of artefact here that one of them might have been drawing power from, like a battery..." "Or even a portal that could be shut down, cutting off the power flow," said Twitter offhandedly as she examined the TV, causing Occultism Kid to look at her in surprise. "Oh, right. You must be Twitter," he said. "Hold up a moment." There was a second's pause, and then Twitter blinked in surprise. With a touch of chagrin she said, "Oops. Sorry, I keep forgetting not to do that. Neat trick, by the way." Hell Catalyst was confused. "What?" "Blocked my mind from being read telepathically," answered Occultism Kid. To Twitter he added, "You might want to be careful about that. I won't lie to you and say it wasn't at least partly about personal privacy. But I also know a number of occult secrets - some of them really gut churningly horrible stuff. That's not really something I'd want anybody stumbling on by accident." "Er, okay," said Twitter, somewhat disturbed. He smiled reassuringly. "Hey, I'm not mad or anything," he said, perhaps a little too quickly. "I just worry about people ending up on the pointy end of good old 'things that humans weren't meant to know'. Human sanity can be a fragile thing sometimes." He ahemed and changed the topic. "Anyway, what we have here seems to be a direct manifestation of one the Lords of Spots, using a human to incarnate itself into a physical form. "Just a second," said HellCat. " 'Lord of Spots'. You mentioned that a second ago. Is that anything like the Lords of Order and Chaos? Or that other one... The one involved in the affair with the undead gorillas in the subway?" [_Legion of Net.Heroes Volume 2 #4-5 - Footnote Girl] "The Lord of Art," supplied Twitter - who even by accident was able to telepathically retrieve the memory faster than HellCat could. "That's it," agreed HellCat, "The Lords of Art and Nature." "Something very much like that," said Occultism Kid. "Uhm," went Twitter, who had by now slowed down to the point where she was able to think about the notion for herself, rather than just have the information randomly flash through her mind. "So how many of those groups are there?" Occultism Kid shrugged. "Scores of them. As many as the Looniverse's Drama field can bear. Look, the force of Drama thrives on conflict, yes? And one form of conflict is the dynamic antagonism between cosmic dualities. Everyone knows about Good and Evil, and Order versus Chaos. They're very high level ones of course, among the universal dualities. Spots versus Stripes are lower down the scale. Much lower. They're one of the parochials, after all. But they can still cause a lot of trouble when they manifest in the material world and starting butting heads with each other." "Oh, poopy. And here we were thinking it was simple supervillain monomania," said HellCat sardonically. "So, what ideas do we have for stopping them?" Occultism Kid stuffed his hands in his pockets and looked thoughtful. Twitter began to pace around the room. "We can't cut off their power supply," she said. "Correct," agreed Occultism Kid. "Their power seems to have been internalised. We could wait until the human bodies burn out from overload, but there are issues of 'protect the innocent' and the amount of collateral damage that would be done in the meantime." "Could you... I dunno... exorcise the power from them?" "Possibly," he said, "But they're packing a *lot* of power. They'd have to be overpowered and restrained..." "Oh, that shouldn't be too difficult," HellCat said. "All we have to do is call up Kid Kirby or Cheeezarr. It's not like the Legion doesn't have powerful members." "Ooo! Ooo, ooo, ooo!" went Twitter, who started bouncing up and down in a very good impersonation of Kid Enthusiastic. "I know, we use their power against them!" "Pardon?" "Look, it's about conflicting opposites, right? The clash of two types in a dynamic antagonism? But that's not the only way that opposites interact! Black and white can mix at the boundary to make grey. And then there's synthesis! The classic yin-yang symbol, where each half complements the other, and they have a bit of the other within themselves. Can you do something to make them cancel each other out rather than going all matter-antimatter explodey?" "They'd still have to be restrained in one place, probably in some sort of magic circle," mused Occultism Kid. "But on the plus side, it would be a lot quicker than trying to build up a separate charge of energy to neutralise them both." He looked at Twitter, "You know, I think that might be a workable plan." @%%%%%%%%%%@ A hasty quarter hour later: Fearless Leader took a skycycle and flew up to where Limp-Asparagus Lad was floating several hundred metres away from the sparring Lords of Spots and Stripes. Fortunately 'sparring' was all they were doing - dancing around each other and making occasional feints as they tested each other's strength. So far Limp-Asparagus Lad's drama dampening powers had been able to ensure to that at least, and kept the two from escalating into a full-on no-holds barred fight scene. Occultism Kid had expressed relief and gratitude for that after he had realised how much power the two Lords had. He'd taken mystic soundings to estimate their power levels in order to be able to properly delineate the energy strictures of his own spell - and discovered that they were at minor cosmic level. If they'd been allowed to fight one another, or even been engaged for subdual by some of the more powerful LNH members, then they were packing enough power to shatter the Looniearth! As he made his way towards Limp-Asparagus Lad, Fearless Leader noted that they'd already done enough damage. There was a several square kilometre zone of the suburbs along the north shore of the harbour which had been evacuated, and within which the landscape had been twisted into some piece of strange abstract art, or in a few locations simply disintegrated. There were also a few news helicopters hovering out beyond the edge of the air exclusion zone that had been set up. Fearless Leader pulled up next to L-ALad, who briefly nodded to him. "How're things holding?" Fearless Leader asked. "Quite well, actually," replied the Man of Dull. "They do not seem to be interested in much more than directly opposing each other, and I am keeping that to low level antagonism. They also don't seem to want to use the ground or buildings as cover, the way humans would." Fearless Leader nodded. "That would make sense. If they're cosmic principles and even their indirect fallout can reshape the landscape," and here he made another glance at the twisted land below them, "then incidental obstacles aren't much of a hindrance to them, and they'll simply ignore everything else." He raised an eyebrow. "That may be why you've been able to sneak in so close and dampen them down: it's not within their mindset to consider anything other than their direct opponent when fighting." "For which I am duly appreciative," said Limp-Asparagus Lad, straight faced. "Have they dropped any useful pieces of information while they've been bombasting at each other?" "They haven't been bombasting at each other," said Limp-Asparagus Lad. "They haven't been talking at all." "Really? Huh, well, that's kind of creepy. Oh well. Look, Occultism Kid is about to start his big yin-yang spell. We're going to try and drive those two over to the magic circle that he's laid out on the basketball courts at Blueberry Fields. Keep your powers focused on those two during the time the others are herding them to the trap, then cut off the moment Occultism Kid says he's starting the spell. "Understood." Fearless Leader activated his communicator and said, "We're right to go." "Roger that," came the voice of Innovative-Offense Boy from the other end. "Beginning operation now." There was a roar of jets as Johnny Stomper's StomperRobo came in on a flat trajectory and crashed tackled the Lord of Stripes, dragging him several kilometres towards the target area. The Lord of Spots followed, as expected. However about three quarters of the way there the Robo disintegrated into lines of vector graphics as the Lord of Stripes used his abilities against it. The Lord of Spots moved forwards to take advantage of this distraction, only to be caught by the same tactic as Irony Man grabbed him and began to drag him along as well. CAPTAIN CAPITALIZE likewise joined the fray, in a somewhat successful attempt to get the Lord of Stripes closer to where Occultism Kid needed him. The Lord of Spots dismissed Irony Man with an omnidirectional burst of spots that acted like a repulsor ray (how ironic). The net.hero was sent flying backwards, but circled around, looking for another avenue of attack. And throughout it all, the two Lords stayed eerily silent, not engaging in any sort of supervillainous banter at all. @%%%%%%%%%%@ At ground level Innovative-Offense Boy lowered his binoculars with a shake of his head. "It *@?>*% well looks like we've reached the point of diminishing @=!@# returns," he said to Occultism Kid. Into his communicator he said, "Okay guys. Pull the %$(&} back. We're going to '[#@/ well try for the second +#*' plan." Then he looked at another Legionnaire, who was standing beside Hell Catalyst. "Looks like you're #?/}* well up, Hood." <( Very well, )> said the Hooded Ho''od Win. She threw wide her hands in a dramatic gesture and announced, <( She Who Must Know demands... Wh'oo'd Win in a contest between the avatars of the Lord of Spots and the Lord of Stripes in a race to their allocated positions in Occultism Kid's magic circle. )> For nearly two whole seconds nothing seemed to happen. <( They are resisting, )> said the Ho''od Win through gritted teeth. "You want to #*&@!ing well burn a plot device?" asked Innovative- Offense Boy. "No, here they come," said Occultism Kid as the two Lords suddenly made a beeline for their respective halves of the huge yin-yang circle. "NOW!" he yelled, punctuating the exclamation with a slicing motion to indicate that everybody should halt trying to affect the two Lords with their abilities; he didn't want any other superhuman powers present and interfering with the spell of synthesis. As Innovative-Offensce Boy relayed that order over the communicators, Occultism Kid activated the spell. Once again there was a pause as nothing seemed to happen, but as soon as the two cosmic principles within its bounds began to throw their spots and stripes against each other, the circle began to glow as the energy was siphoned off. The lines of the yin-yang pattern of the circle began to throb. The Lords appeared to ignore this, until a critical point was reached. From then on the circle was no longer absorbing any free energy that had been let loose within its bounds - it was now actively leeching power off from the two of them. Now the Lords of Spots and Stripes struggled to free themselves from the magical trap that they found themselves in. It didn't do any good. They lashed out with explosions of spots and cutting rays of stripes, but these were simply whisked away to the edges of the circle where they were absorbed. The pattern inscribed on the ground began to pulse with greater vehemence. The two prisoners tried to move to the edge of the circle and perhaps force their way through the barrier, but they discovered that they had each gravitated to the eye at the focus of each half of the yin-yang symbol and could not leave that spot. And then the circle began to spin. "Whoa!" went Twitter. She had been up close examining the glow of the circle, but now jumped backwards to join the other few LNHers standing beside Innovative-Offense Boy. The spin of the rotating circle made a menacing whoosh-whoosh-whoosh noise as it sped up, despite the fact that the only physical things within it which were moving the two Lords. Power was streaming out of them, and now for the first time they could be heard making a noise as they yelled in outrage and then screamed in fear. Their terror did not impress Occultism Kid. "Those bodies do not belong to you," he said in a brokes-no-nonsense tone of voice. "Begone, and do not return!" The rapidly rotating circle was now glowing too brightly to look at directly, and then with a mighty clap of thunder there was detonation. When people could see again the circle was no longer glowing or rotating, and two figures were lying unconscious on the ground. Occultism Kid stepped forward to take the pulse of the closest man. Other Legionnaires moved forward to check the other; Twitter got there first, of course. "Still alive, but very weak," observed Occultism Kid." He looked at Innovative-Offense Boy. "A job well done, I would say." "You're not finished just yet," said Hell catalyst, as the paramedics moved it to take the unconscious men to hospital. Occultism Kid was confused. "What else besides cleaning up is there?" he asked. "Some of us aren't interested in going about in spots or stripes for any longer than is necessary," she said, pointing to one spotty hand. Occultism Kid rolled his eyes. "May the Sera.pin-numbers have mercy. There's always *something*," he said ruefully. =========Character credits: Captain Capitalize, Hooded Ho''od Win and wReamHack created by wReam (Ray Bingham). Fearless Leader created by Dvandom (Dave Van Domelen). Innovative-Offense Boy created by uplink (John Scheibeler). Irony Man created by Doug Moran. Hell Catalyst created by Jeff McCosky. Johnny Stomper and Occultism Kid created by Josh Geurink. Limp-Asparagus Lad created by wReam and owned by Saxon Brenton. Twitter created by Rob Rogers. Authors notes: Written for the 8th High Concept challenge: Opposites. Kind of unfocused as a story. But Twitter is always fun to write, and she's even more hyper here than she was in _Beige Midnight_ for reasons that I suppose one day Rob and/or myself will have to get around to explaining in detail. (Actually, an early idea was to team Twitter up with Writers Block Woman, and see how Mouse coped with *two* women whose powers made them somewhat scatterbrained.Back to the Index.