Blue Light Productions presents

[LNH/HCC12] Legion of Net.Heroes Volume 2 #39
     
     
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| |-| []                        /                 #39
| | | [] egion of               \           'Hack and Cough'
| | | []__ [] []   []  []       / (Part of High Concept Challenge #12)
| | | [___][ \[]et.[]__[]eroes  \  
| | |      []\ ]   [ __ ]       /    written by and copyright 2010
| |-|      [] []   []  []       \           Saxon Brenton
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[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.  There is 
only one for this issue:]
     
Roll call for this issue:
  o  Fuzzy!
     
This is just one 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!
     
                    @%%%%%%%%%%@
     
     "Ahh, ahh, ahh-CHOO!"
     Fuzzy hated being sick.
     The problem wasn't that snot got everywhere.  I mean, snot *did* 
get everywhere - but that was a perfectly ordinary situation that anyone 
would have to put up with.
     The problem as Fuzzy saw it was that while it may well be that Time 
waits for no man, it was definitely the case the Crime waits for no 
superhero.  There was always a crisis of some sort going, and they *had* 
to be dealt with otherwise Bad Things would happen.  In this case it 
would be that the Injokerz street gang would release a sample on Injoker 
venom into the city's water supply.
     The net.heroine wiped her nose (fortunately she had the advantage 
of usually not needing to wear a mask of any sort) and gazed down at 
old water treatment works with a pair of mini binoculars.  The building 
had been abandoned decades ago when new infrastructure had been created. 
But significantly it hadn't been torn down.  It was a lot like the 
abandoned warehouse district in that regard.
     She scanned along each side of the building, looking for signs of 
an Injokerz presence.  They weren't in their usual haunts, but this was 
only one of several thematically appropriate...  Wait.  There.  Guards 
with Injokerz gang colours.  Which meant suits in wildly different 
colours, faces done out in pale makeup, and hair dyed in equally insane 
rainbow hues.  Right, it was time to deal with them... unambiguously.
     Fuzzy moved across the roof to a side that faced away from the 
derelict water treatment plant and leapt from the edge of the parapet, 
making her way to the ground with a series of acrobatic leaps that would 
have made the average parkour enthusiast green with envy.  Splash page 
montage of her descent: the side of the building is shown in full, and 
along the way are inset panels of her grabbing railings and swinging 
downwards, using her momentum to somersault between fire stairs and 
downpipes, until she lands, crouching on the balls of her feet with one 
outstretched to steady herself and the other arm in a defensive 
position ready to do battle with any lurking gang members.  It looks so 
cool that for a moment the reader forgets to ask: now hold up a second, 
with her powers of ambiguity how come I can even see her at all?
     To which the obvious answer is: her powers are playing up.  This is 
why she hates being sick.
     And so Fuzzy made use of shadows as she quickly headed for the old 
treatment works.  That stunt had been risky - gymnasting down the side 
of a building like that while sick and when any fumble could have meant 
serious injury or death.  But not to do so was almost as bad.  This 
world was one of action and drama, and it required constant narrative 
impulse.  Movement, movement movement!  Keep moving, don't stop, don't 
let the momentum run down.  It was part of the cost of living in a 
fictional world that ran on narrative principles.
     She arrived at the entrance.  Two Injokerz were standing guard.  
With a ruthless efficiency she took them down.  First a chop to the 
solar plexus of one of them, knocking him unconscious.  The other 
ganger wasn't quite so easy, having quick reactions and taking aim with 
a gun.  Fuzzy disabled him with a leg sweep, then as he was still 
falling grabbed him by the head and rammed his face hard against the 
brick of the wall.  He fell to the floor, his nose broken and bleeding. 
Then she was off again.
     Now, in a sensible world - a world running purely on the laws of 
physics, and governed by mundane cause and effect - there wouldn't be 
a demand for constant heroic endeavours to keep the world on an even 
keel.  But in a world like that there was also no guarantee of 
dramatic last minute saves from disaster.
     So, yeah.  With the prospect of millions of people being infected 
with Injoker venom, and then the resulting deaths either directly from 
the venom or indirectly from the chaos caused by mass psychosis?  She 
needed to take the risk, keep her moves fast and funky, and hope like 
blue blazes that the Rule of Cool would make up any shortfalls if she 
fumbled because of ill health.
     Inside were more guards.  She disposed of them as well.  There 
were also signs of hasty engineering work being done.  There were 
flickering lights from an arc welder being used downstairs.  Down where 
the pipes connecting this disused treatment plant to the rest of the 
city water supply system were.  Pipes, which like this entire building, 
should have been fully disconnected and torn down.  It didn't make any 
sort of economic sense in an urban area where land near the city centre 
was at a premium.
     But it did make narrative sense: cities with superheroes needed 
abandoned buildings for the supervillains to lair in.  Or the super-
villain groupies, in the case of the Injokerz.
     She snuck further in and down.  From the shadows she saw this: 
there were four Injokerz standing around, watching someone not dressed 
like a gang member, with a welding mask and welder, working on the 
pipes.  This man paused and raised the mask.  One of the Injokerz - Ramon 
Yont, Fuzzy recognised, one of the gang leaders but not the overall 
Injokerz head - said, "No slacking off, now."
     "It's done," replied the engineer, wearily.
     "Well now, that's different," Yont drawled, walking over with an 
anticipatory glee.  "All set and ready to go, then?"
     "Yeah.  This pipe, straight through to the 42 Avenue junction.  
But, look, if you do that you'll kill thousands of people."
     "Aw, come on," said Yont in a sing-song voice.  "It's just a joke." 
he patted the engineer patronisingly on the face.  "Can't you take a joke?"
     And the engineer began to gasp and choke.  Fuzzy's eyes narrowed 
and went flinty.  Even before the man finished collapsing onto the 
floor, dead with his face stretched into a hideous rictus grin, she 
knew what was happening.  Ring poisoned with concentrated Injoker 
venom, with a small poisoned spike that broken the victim's skin when 
Yont had patted his face.
     Fuzzy picked up a half brick and lobbed it back upstairs, where it 
landed with a clatter.  The noise attracted the Injokerz' attentions, 
but not their immediate suspicion.
     Yont called upstairs, "Soup, Parker, we're ready to go down here." 
When no reply came Yont yelled again, "You'd better not be goofing off 
up there!"  Still no reply.  Yont nodded to one of the other Injokerz 
with him down by the pipes and said, "Go and find those two idiots."  
The Injokerz ganger mumbled, "Sure thing, boss," and moved off.
     Fuzzy followed him, and with perhaps a little too much relish 
thought .oO( 'Vagueness and ambiguity that confound my enemies.' ) before 
ambushing and knocking the ganger unconscious as quickly as she could.  
So, now she only outnumbered them one to three.
     She returned downstairs.  She doubted she had much time left to 
play around with picking off the gang one at a time.  Then, just as she 
was about to make her move she was struck with a wracking cough.  Damn!  
The equivalent of a character in a _Scooby Doo_ cartoon sneezing at just 
the moment when it would give away their hiding place to the not-really-
a-monster-but-a-guy-in-a-rubber-mask who was chasing them.
     "A net.hero!  Get them!" came the predictable cry as she was 
suddenly revealed.  Two of the remaining Injokerz started shooting at 
her.  Fuzzy dodged, since she wasn't completely sure that her weakened 
powers of ambiguity would be enough to keep them from getting a bead on 
her if she stood still.  Nevertheless she didn't go to the lengths of 
fully ducking behind cover.  Past experience and testing when she'd 
been sick before suggested that as long as she kept moving then the 
people attacking wouldn't be able to target her properly.  They'd lag 
behind, aiming at where she had been, rather than where should actually 
was. 
     Meanwhile she'd already pulled out her own gun and gotten off some 
clear shots that downed one of the two Injokerz, and if anything caused 
the other one to panic and fire wild.  She closed in on him, weaving 
about slightly to keep him from being able to proper aim, then grabbed 
a chair and smashed it over his head.
     And that left one.
     Crap.  Now was going to be the tricky bit.  Final foe.  Big climax.  
     And again she was hit by a wracking cough, which was exactly the 
opening that Yont had been looking for.  Fuzzy heard the brokes-no-
nonsense click as Yont primed his gun and took careful aim at Fuzzy - and 
she knew, just *knew*, that now that the two of them had reached the big 
climax that Yont's aim would not be thrown off no matter how well her 
powers of ambiguity were working.  If Yont fired that gun, then he would 
hit her, and Fuzzy would die.
     Time for one last superhero trick.
     Fuzzy coughed again.  She didn't bother to try to cover her mouth, 
not while she was keeping her hands out in the open where he could see 
them.
     "Feeling a bit under the weather, hey hero?" taunted Yont.
     Fuzzy grinned.  "I've had the flu all week, I feel like hell, but 
I've still more than tough enough to take you down, Yont."  She coughed 
again.
     "Big talk for someone hacking their guts up," smirked Yont.  "Now 
I think it's time for you to take a dirt nap so I can get on with the 
big picture of making the whole of Net.ropolis smile."
     Cough.  "By dumping Injoker venom into the water supply."
     "You got it sister."
     "Thousands of people will die if you do that."
     "But they'll die with smiles on their faces."
     "I don't think you're going to do that."
     "And who's going to stop me?  You?"
     Cough.  "Oh yeah.  Me and my flu germs."  Cough.  "I've been busy 
breathing all over you."
     Yont sneered with a you-do-you-think-you're-trying-to-kid? look 
and fired.  But it was too late.  His vision was starting to go blurry 
and his aim was off, and Fuzzy didn't even need to dodge.  (Although 
she did, after she heard the retort of the gun, because even though she 
knew intellectually that her plan was sound most people's reaction to 
gunfire was to flinch and duck.)
     She punched him in the face and sent him sprawling.  The gun fell 
from his hand and he scrabbled to reach it, but she simply stamped 
down on his wrist.
     "You see Yont," she said in a conversational tone of voice, 
"Superhumans tend to have superhuman constitutions.  We're usually 
resistant to disease except as plot point.  But when we do catch 
something, anything strong enough to make us sick is going to work 
even faster and harder on a non-super."
     Yont's eyes were wide with adrenaline rush and frustration at 
having been beaten.  "You bitch!  You went and deliberately got me sick.  
I oughta sue!"
     "Tell it to the marines," said Fuzzy as she reached for her LNH 
comm.thingy.  "You've done more than enough damage for one evening."
     
     
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Character credits:
     Fuzzy created by Connie Hirsch.
     
AuthorÔ~@~Ys notes:
     Written for the 12th high Concept Challenge: under the weather.
     I dithered while deciding on exactly what story to write for this.  
This story starring Fuzzy is basically one of my fourth wall breaking 
examinations of how genre mechanics work.  Partly because it's in an 
established superhero setting and mainly because it's in a style I find 
fun it was quick and easy to write once I actually started.
     The other story examined the idea of people developing powers after 
getting sick, along the lines of the Wild Card virus from the _Wild Card_ 
series of mosaic novels.  It would have been set in Moscow and featured 
the choking smoke from the summer fires killing people (just like current 
real life events) being used as a plague vector by a necromancer to raise 
an army of undead but also causing some Russians to develop superpowers 
as an antibody reaction to the necrotic plague.  Unfortunately that story 
would have required more time and effort to write in order to do it justice.
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