___ ___________________________ | |-| \ | |-|  / #52 | | |  egion of \ 'The Rumours Of My Demise...' | | | __     / (Part of High Concept Challenge #32) | | | [___][ \et.__eroes \ | | | \ ] [ __ ] / written by and copyright 2012 | |-|     \ Saxon Brenton | |-|___________________________/ (or *is* it?) | | | | | | | | The cover shows Kid Enthusiastic and Fairy Princess Lad bouncing up | | and down in excitement while older Legionnaires look on, bemused. | | | | | | |_| [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 Anal-Retentive Archive Kid II! o Cynical Lass! o Fairy Princess Lad! o Kid Enthusiastic! o Masterplan Lad! o You're-Not-Hitting-Me-Hard-Enough Lad! 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! @%%%%%%%%%%@ A teenaged boy in a gaudy costume entered the foyer of the Legion of Net.Heroes headquarters. He glanced around, but quickly spotted the reception desk and approached it. "Hi. I'm here to join the Legion," he said. Fred nodded and passed over the application paperwork. As the newcomer took out a pacer pencil to fill in the forms, the receptionist asked, "What code name do you go by?" "No!-It-Can't-Be-Saxon-Brenton!-He's-Dead! Lad." And in response Fred thought .oO( That's going to cause trouble. ) @%%%%%%%%%%@ Meanwhile, in the cafeteria: "But isn't the word 'kids' gender neutral?" asked Fairy Princess Lad. "Mmmm," went Kid Enthusiastic, sounding doubtful. "Maybe in the sense that 'man' was supposed to be a gender neutral, but now everyone realises that that's just handwaving." " 'Kid' is also the description for all young goats, male or female," suggested Fairy Princess Lad. "I'm not a goat!" exclaimed Kid Enthusiastic. He pointed at Anal- Retentive Archive Kid II, who was sitting at the other end of the table, "And he's not a goat!" Anal-Retentive Archive Kid II looked up from the statistical analysis of recent crimes that he was processing for Innovative Offense Lad. "What's the problem?" he asked the two pre-teens. "We're trying to figure out what you Anal-Retentive Archive Kids should be called. As a group, I mean," explained Fairy Princess Lad. The orc put down his computer pad. "I would have thought 'Anal- Retentive Archive Kids' would have been good enough. And that's assuming we need a group name at all. There's only two of us, and that's a lot less than all the Nope Lads and Lasses who joined as a result of Hex Luthor's Net.Hero Registration Act." "The Nope-I'm-Not-Training-To-Be-A-Net.Hero members weren't planning on staying around, so they didn't see a need to form a properly named sub-group," pointed out Kid Enthusiastic. "Well I'm not either," pointed out ARAK II. "Summer job, remember?" "You're planning on staying around long enough to actually work for the Legion, not just train under them," countered Fairy Princess Lad. "And go on missions, and everything!" "And at some point there's going to be an Anal-Retentive Archive Kid who's a girl," said Kid Enthusiastic. "And you'll have to be ready for that, otherwise it'll be like with the Hyphenated Eaters Corps all over again." Anal-Retentive Archive Kid II nodded. He remembered that. Well, not directly, because it had been a bit before his time, but he'd heard accounts of the kerfuffle when Spicy-Mexican-Food-Eater Lass had found out what the male members of their group had wanted to register the name of their team as. [_Legion of Net.Heroes Volume 2_ #27 - Footnote Girl] "Ooo! Ooo!" went Kid Enthusiastic, bouncing up and down in his seat as he suddenly got an idea. "The word 'kinder' means 'children', and that's gender neutral. ARA Kinder!" he speculated in rather sloppy German. "Ooo! Ooo!" went Fairy Princess Lad, echoing his friend. "And that can be turned into an internet pun: ARA Kindles!" The two boys high fived each other. ARAK II looked at them with bemusement. "I've never understood the need to make internet puns out of everything," he said. "Oh, it's because our stories are distributed over the internet," said Kid Enthusiastic matter-of-factly. Well, yes, they were. But the Legion's licensed merchandise was also dual published in hard copy - the so-called dead tree format - and had been for a long time. And then there were all the TV adaptation and direct-to-video productions. Like he'd just said, ARAK II didn't quite get the emphasis on the internet distribution. He spotted Cynical Lass's expression. She was sitting a table over from them, and had a look on her face which he completely misinterpreted as, 'They're children. Let them play their games while they've still got the energy.' Actually what she was thinking was, 'You poor schmuck. If you think I'm going to explain to you that we're all fictional characters in an imaginary world then you've got another thing coming.' The new applicant wandered into the cafeteria. The still exuberant Kid Enthusiastic saw him, motioned for him to sit down, and then said, "Hi there. Who are you?" "I'm No!-It-Can't-Be-Saxon-Brenton!-He's-Dead! Lad." A hush fell across the cafeteria as various LNHers just *stared* at N!ICBSB!HD!Lad. Except for Cynical Lass, who face palmed as it occurred to her that it wasn't just saying things out loud that counted as tempting fate. Some days that you just couldn't risk an ironic thought even in the privacy of your own head. And except for Anal-Retentive Archive Kid II, who asked, "Who's Saxon Brenton?" You could practically hear all the eyeballs squeak as they swivelled from No!-It-Can't-Be-Saxon-Brenton!-He's-Dead! Lad to Anal- Retentive Archive Kid II. "He's a Writer," said Kid Enthusiastic. "Yes, I got that," said ARAK II. "Between So-Lame-Even-Saxon- Brenton-Wouldn't-Use-Him-In-A-Story Lad and Joyce Carol Oates Lass, it's obvious that some people codename themselves after writers." He had long since finished eating his lunch, so he absently stacked the cutlery on his empty plate before standing up and placing the plate at an adjacent collection point. "I just don't know who he *is*. I've never seen a library catalog entry for anything he's written. What does he write? Science fiction? Romance? Neo-Edwardian comedies of manners?" "Superhero parody," said Masterplan Lad. "We're in one of them at the moment." "Oh yeah," said You're-Not-Hitting-Me-Hard-Enough Lad, glancing upwards towards the from: line among the headers at the start of the posting. "I hadn't noticed the email address." "Forged address," said No!-It-Can't-Be-Saxon-Brenton!-He's-Dead! Lad with a grim earnestness. "Someone's pretending to be him. Identity theft of a dead man. Pretty ghoulish, really." Anal-Retentive Archive Kid II sighed. "Cut the comedy, people. This is no time for those Church of the Fourth Walls gags." Sister-State-The-Obvious looked surprised. "You don't know that you're fictional?" "I'm not. We're not. Which is good, because if we were then the master's degree I've been slaving at for the past few years would be useless." You're-Not-Hitting-Me-Hard-Enough Lad turned to Masterplan Lad and said, "You'd better bring him up to speed." Masterplan Lad had been considering No!-It-Can't-Be-Saxon-Brenton!- He's-Dead! Lad's words, but now he arched an eyebrow. Was it cluelessness that made YNHMHELad completely miss the nuance of what the orc had just said? Callousness? Or a ruthless commitment to the truth at any cost?" The latter, at least, was a respectable reason to Masterplan Lad's way of thinking. He shrugged, then walked over to ARAK II, and for maybe a minute had an serious conversation with him in lowered tones. The look on ARAK's face went from irritation, to surprise, then on to utter horror. The turn around time in convincing the young orc of the truthfulness of their claims was astonishingly quick, but Masterplan Lad was one of the Knights Temporal, and there were few other LNHers who were as familiar with continuity and fictionality as he was. In any case, within less than sixty seconds he had ARAK II accepting the notion. At which point Anal-Retentive Archive Kid burst into angry tears. Masterplan Lad was so startled by this that he reflexively took a step backwards and half raised his umbrella. "I... What...?" he stammered, uncharacteristically taken aback. "All the research work I've done for the past six years is pretty much pointless now," ARAK snarled. "And the worst thing is that it isn't a problem I can deal with by punching it!" You're-Not-Hitting-Me-Hard-Enough Lad gave him a particularly intense look. He always seemed to pay more attention when there a chance of punching involved. "And you're not gonna just hit someone else instead?" "What, and play kill-the-messenger? I'm not stupid, Hard Enough," ARAK said dismissively. He wiped his sleeve across his snout in a quick angry gesture to deal with his sniffles. "Honest advice is too valuable to waste just because you don't like what you hear." Cynical Lass invaded ARAK's personal space, stood right in front of him and pointedly got in-his-face to demand, "So what's the big deal with research, then? After all, didn't you once say that it was basically just politics?" He frowned at her. "It's an overview of the mechanics of a multi- species society, based on how all the mutants and aliens have integrated here in Net.ropolis. Going by how other groups have developed, at *some* point in the next few centuries my people," and here he thumped a fist on his chest for emphasis, "are probably going to start giving up tribalism and move towards settled urban living. If I can produce a working blueprint then the chances of conflict, and especially of them being slaughtered by a technologically superior civilisation, will be reduced." He started pacing about in a small circle. "But if this world is fictional, then that all goes out the window. I shouldn't be worrying about politics and social dynamics, because those aren't the elements that will ensure their survival. Convincing everyone else that orcs are interesting characters who they'll want to have around is what I'll need to do, which means I'd do better by taking a creative writing course and churning out bestseller potboilers aimed at the mass market." He rounded on Cynical Lass and pointed an accusing finger at her. "And you..." - and he paused as his brain caught up with his mouth - "...have just tricked me into brainstorming a solution to my own problem." "Yes. Obviously," said Cynical Lass, straight faced. "Thank you," said ARAK II. He reached into his pockets and brought out three brightly coloured rubber balls and began to juggle. It seemed to be so that he had something to do with his hands, since he continued to pace about and hardly paid any attention to the spheres that he had whizzing about. Only Masterplan Lad noticed that although they were all the same size they seemed to have different weights, making ARAK's almost absent minded juggling feat all the more impressive. Meanwhile, Fairy Princess Lad was agog. "You worked out all that in two minutes flat, from the standing start of a nasty surprise?" Masterplan Lad spoke up in ARAK II's stead: "To be fair, it's a rather obvious conclusion when you stop to consider the evidence." Then to ARAK II he said, "However, there's another piece of information that could modify your conclusions." Anal-Retentive Archive Kid II glanced curiously at Masterplan Lad. "Really? Okay then, let's hear it." "There's at least one of the Legion Writers who takes absolute delight in exploring the nature of a multi-species society in a superhuman world," said Masterplan Lad, pedantically. "Well, that sounds great," said ARAK. "Who is it?" "Your Writer." "Ah," breathed ARAK, knowingly. "Ask not for divine intervention, lest you discover that you yourself are the instrument that enacts that intervention. How very C.S. Lewis." Then he recognised the rather strange looks that the others were giving him, and the last piece of the puzzle fell into place. "But there's the small drawback that that Writer was Saxon Brenton, right?" "Yes." "Huh. I guess that brings us back to you, then," ARAK said to No!- It-Can't-Be-Saxon-Brenton!-He's-Dead! Lad. "What are the circumstances he died in? Maybe there's something in his writing I can use, or salvage from his legacy, or whatever." No!-It-Can't-Be-Saxon-Brenton!-He's-Dead! Lad shrugged. "Sometime after he got back to Australia in July after RACC-Con, he died. After all, he hasn't been putting out any editions of the _End Of Month Review_ recently." "There were really long periods when he wasn't putting out the _End Of Month Review_ last year, either," pointed out You're-Not-Hitting-Me- Hard-Enough Lad. "Plus," said N!ICBSB!HD!Lad, raising a finger to stave off further protests. "The cheque hasn't been cashed." "What cheque?" asked Cynical lass. "During RACC-Con Arthur Spitzer stayed in the same hotel room with Saxon Brenton," explain N!ICBSB!HD!Lad. "When Arthur went home he wrote a cheque to cover the cost of the days he was sharing. That cheque still hasn't been cashed. That's not what you'd expect from someone who has to cover costs from an overseas vacation." Masterplan Lad had been listening carefully to this, and now he identified what had been troubling him. "No," he said. "That is factually incorrect. On the evening Arthur arrived at the Benicia Best Western Saxon hadn't made proper preparations with the front desk for him to check in while the others were at the barbeque at Rob Roger's household, and Arthur had had to book into another room for one night - a room booking that was only covered by Scott Eiler's blanket offer to subsidise RACC-Con attendees. The cheque has gone uncashed not because of inability, but because of a sense of guilt!" No!-It-Can't-Be-Saxon-Brenton!-He's-Dead! Lad gave Masterplan Lad a deadly glare and took a threatening step forward. His eyes glowed red. Fairy Princess Lad exclaimed, "Now just calm down," and sprinkled some of his sparkly magic dust in the N!ICBSB!HD!Lad's direction. However it seemed to have no effect. You're-Not-Hitting-Me-Hard-Enough Lad leapt forward with his battle cry, "No, you villain! Hit *me*!" (Finally, some action after all that exposition.) Unfortunately No!-It-Can't-Be-Saxon-Brenton!-He's-Dead! Lad used an aikido-like move on him, taking the boisterous net.hero's own momentum and using it against him - grabbing YNHMHELad and throwing him out through the ceiling of the LNH-HQ, such that he would land about two miles away. So, sure, YNHMHELad will have absorbed an impressive amount of kinetic energy to boost his strength, but it will take him a while to get back to the fight. Anal-Retentive Archive Kid II threw one of the balls at him. The blue one. The one with the solid steel centre under the thin rubber outer covering. It hit No!-It-Can't-Be-Saxon-Brenton!-He's-Dead! Lad square in the face, where it made a 'bonnggg!' sound effect of metal on metal. "Killer robot!" ARAK yelled, and then had to dive for cover when N!ICBSB!HD!Lad blasted out a laser beam death ray from his frickin' eyeballs. The other Legionnaires were manoeuvring for their own counter- attacks. The first, perhaps surprisingly, was Fairy Princess Lad, who promptly went Sailor Moon on N!ICBSB!HD!Lad. He glowed and sparkled and yelled, "Villain! In the name of Queen Titania and Lord Oberon, I will punish you!" And then Fairy Princess Lad unleashed a power blast from his hands that slammed N!ICBSB!HD!Lad back across the cafeteria and through a wall of solid strongstuffium with an enormous WHHAMMM!!!, pulverising the trouble-making robot and leaving a large hole in its wake. The Legionnaires all stared at the hole in the wall. The only sound was the occasional light 'ping' as the metal started to cool. "Huh," went Anal-Retentive Archive Kid II. "I didn't know he could do that," said Kid Enthusiastic. "Always a useful power to have, though," pointed out Cynical Lass. "Not the type of ability I would have expected from someone channelling the Powers That Be of Dom Daniel," observed Masterplan Lad. Fairy Princess Lad came over to ARAK II and gave him a big hug. ARAK looked at him. "What was that for?" Fairy Princess Lad gave him a serious expression and said, "Big scary orcs who are secure enough with themselves that they don't need to take it out on others when they're upset deserve hugs." "Really? I don't remember that rule. Did I miss a memo?" "I just made it up." "Ah. Well, that explains it then," said ARAK II, patting Fairy Princess Lad on the back. "Okay then. Thanks. Now, I suppose we should collect the remains of that robot." Cynical Lass rolled her eyes. "Oh please. How are we supposed to get recurring villains if you go around acting responsibly, securing defeated bad guys and tidying up dangerous messes?" And the scary thing was, ARAK II didn't have enough experience with the whole 'recognising the cliches of a superhero parody story' to tell whether her protest was serious or not. ===== Character credits: Anal-Retentive Archive Kid II and No!-It-Can't-Be-Saxon-Brenton!-He's-Dead! Lad created by Saxon Brenton. Cynical Lass created by Rob Rogers. Fairy Princess Lad and Kid Enthusiastic created by Andrew Perron. Masterplan Lad created by Adrian J. McClure. Sister-State-The-Obvious created by wReam (Ray Bingham). You're-Not-Hitting-Me-Hard-Enough Lad create by Arthur Spitzer. Author's notes: Written for the 32nd High Concept Challenge: "I'm Late!" Reading back through this now that it's written, this is easily one of the most meta and self-referential stories I've written in years. Notwithstanding all the confusion about numbering in this series - ranging from the fact that I have yet to finish the second half of LNHv.2 #48, that the Writers collectively have yet to finish the LNHv.2 #50 roundtable story, or the disagreements about LNHv.2 #51 - I'm reasonably sure that the issue number of 52 hasn't been claimed yet... What's that? A phone call from DC Comics complaining that they've copyrighted the number 52? Awww, man...Back to the Index.