[LNH] Limp-Asparagus Lad #53

Saxon Brenton saxon.brenton at uts.edu.au
Mon Jul 19 03:23:55 PDT 2004

Blue Light Productions present:
Limp-Asparagus Lad #53
A Legion of Net.Heroes title
"The Shadow Labyrinth"
Written by and copyright 2004 Saxon Brenton
Art by Richard Sc*rry
The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Olde Net.ropolis Towne is looming up on 
the top right of the cover in a Bela Lugosi pose, and casting a shadow 
diagonally down across the rest of the scene. The area of the shadow 
contains a hedge maze, within which the other characters are wandering.
     Elizabeth stopped and frowned. Wendle looked back at her, wondering 
if she had caught the scent of some new threat. "What is it?" he asked.
     "Have you noticed that this street is turning into a tunnel?"
     He paused for a second as he realised that she was right. "I hadn't, 
actually," he admitted. "I was so busy keeping a watch out for nasties 
that I wasn't paying too much attention to that." Crud, that sounded 
like excuse making. He put that aside and focused on the topic of the 
street. Thinking back on it, it was suspicious how gradually, even 
surreptitiously, things had changed.
     He remembered how the street surface had slowly deepened in the 
middle to form a central drain, because both of them had voiced their 
conscious choice to walk on either side of the central rivulet of slurry. 
Similarly he also remembered when the first two bridges had crossed 
overhead, because there wasn't anything like that in the real 
Shimbleshanks, even on the really steep side facing towards the harbour. 
However, after that he hadn't paid much attention to them, and so couldn't 
precisely recall when the street had begun to be crossed by an increasing 
number of increasingly wide overpasses and viaducts, causing them to 
to spend more and more time under cover than out in the open. The 
occasional street lamps were placed high enough above the brickwork of 
the bridges that the street was divided starkly into bands of diffuse 
illuminated mist in the open and damp stygian shadow under cover. The 
profile of the street had continued to sag in the center as well, making 
the place even more like a culvert than a thoroughfare.
     "Do you want to backtrack?" asked Wendle uneasily.
     The vampire looked at him. "You sound doubtful about that."
     "Well, yeah. I am. I really don't trust this place." He felt unsure 
of himself in this creepy area without the type of information he needed 
to make a proper strategic decision. Of course, if what he was beginning 
to suspect was true, then hopefully the choices he made wouldn't make 
much difference anyway. Then he shrugged and started walking back the way 
they had come. "We may as well try it out, I suppose."
     "God, you are so calm about this," Elizabeth complained, despite him 
just having more than half-confessed otherwise.
     "No, I'm not, actually. But I've got a feeling that things might not 
be as bad as they seem," said Wendle.
     "What makes you say that?"
     "We aren't wandering around alone in the dark anymore," he said, 
then realised that that would make no sense whatsoever without further 
explanation. "I mean, the Phantom Raspberry Blower went to the effort to 
separate us all. Probably to scare us more, I suppose. But we ran into 
each other. My guess is that Joe has used his powers to pull strings so 
that we all begin to meet up in the one place."
     "So we all wander to the edge and escape together?" She sounded 
vaguely hopeful at that.
     "I kind of doubt it. We all wander to the villain's lair and then 
dogpile on the bad guy, would be more like it. That's the way net.heroes 
tend to work." Then he added thoughtfully, "If nothing else, that's a 
different enough plan from what he's probably expecting that the Raspberry 
Blower wouldn't realise how much trouble he's in until it's too late."
     "What, from you?" she asked sceptically.
     Wendle bridled but managed to remain civil. "No, not from me, 
-actually-. I'm just the token normal person," he said. "But when the 
others figure out how to unblock their powers, I imagine that they'll 
come down on the Raspberry Blower like Godzilla stoked up on angel 
dust. And Odin only knows what Harris will do to him." He gave her an 
interrogative look. "Don't you want to see a bit of justice done?"
     "I want to get out of here," she said angrily. "I'm growing sick and 
tired of all of this weird crap rearing its head and trying to complicate 
my life. I don't *want* to hang around in strange little cliques of self-
proclaimed 'secret masters' scheming against all the other cliques of 
secret masters in some bizarre world where everything you know is supposed 
to be a lie." She realised that she had her hands balled into fists. 
Angrily she unclenched them and shoved them into her pockets where they 
would be out of the way. "I've seen enough of how the vampires think the 
way the world works to realise that when they tell themselves they're 
part of the hidden realm underlying the real world that makes everything 
else possible, they're really just self-important parasites hanging on to 
the side. And I'm ready to bet that that's the same with all the other 
hidden groups and conspiracies as well. Human society is where all the 
energy is, all the vitality. All the weirdos and freaks who can't handle 
being in the mainstream just tell themselves that they're the real prime 
movers because they can't cope with the idea that they're just sad little 
nobodies who can only get attention when they're terrorising people."
     Wendle simply nodded. He'd heard versions of that argument before, 
although nowhere near so venomously expressed. There were certain of the 
nightkindred who though that deliberately creating a barrier between 
themselves and the normals based on lifestyle was dangerous. That hiding 
behind the role of 'the Other' ran the risk of confusion setting in and 
the role being adopted as the reality. That wallowing in the 'weirdness 
schtick' of belonging to another world that mundane people couldn't begin 
to understand would ultimately result in alienation, despair and mental 
     Of course, taken to their logical conclusion, both versions of that 
idea also applied to superheroes. No wonder Elizabeth wasn't impressed 
with the idea of Joe and the others regaining the use of their powers and 
then trouncing the Raspberry Blower.
     "I'm not going to argue with any of that," he said, trying to be as 
reasonable as possible. "But just keep in mind that sometimes when you're 
attacked - especially if it's from something that the mundane world 
can't deal with or even recognise - that you have to be prepared to 
defend yourself and squish your enemies like a bug."
     Elizabeth snorted but didn't offer any other objections.
     Eventually Lenny realised that Bruce was having trouble with the sky.
     They could actually see the sky now, such as it was. The two of them 
had been travelling at roof level through the place that was either the 
suburb of Shimbleshanks gone all strange, or a dodgy pod-person imitation 
of it. During that time the fog up here had thinned away to almost 
nothing. The spirit being wasn't sure why this was a problem - if anything 
it should have made things easier - but it was beginning to affect their 
progress. Bruce paused at the edge of a building, and, as Lenny had come 
to expect, briefly glanced upwards before turning his attention to the 
street below.
     "Hmmm," went Bruce, and Lenny looked down as well. There was another 
square below them. The man and the squirrel-shaped spirit creature had 
encountered a few of them so far this evening, where the twisty pattern 
of narrow olde worlde streets had briefly opened out into a larger 
area that was too wide for Bruce to pole vault across. It hadn't been 
particularly troublesome so far; they'd simply made brief detours around 
     Now Bruce said, "You know, if I didn't know better I'd say we were 
being tracked, and this was deliberately put in our way."
     'This' was a churning cauldron of fog that filled the square to a 
height of about two or three stories. It was dense and subtly illuminated 
from below and was swirling around with noticeable speed. Then, as they 
stood watching, the vapours congealed into the shape of opening lids on 
an enormous eye, which then stared at them with a dispassionate interest 
that was most unnerving.
     Bruce quickly stepped back from the edge and out of sight. Lenny 
asked, "We are still invisible, aren't we?"
     "We should be. But I'm beginning to wonder if that's enough," Bruce 
said, before adding philosophically, "A hunter doesn't need to see his 
prey when he can follow it by its tracks in the sand." He scanned to his 
left and right along the tops of the adjacent buildings, assessing them 
for the best route to take, and despite himself glanced up again. Then 
he frowned as he caught himself in this action and deliberately forced 
himself from it.
     "Is something wrong?"
     Bruce grunted. "The sky feels wrong," he said grumpily. "I know 
it's just an illusion, but I keep getting the feeling that it's lowering 
in on me."
     From where he sat on Bruce's shoulder Lenny craned his face up at 
the sky. It was empty. No fog or clouds. No stars or moon. No city light 
haze (not that Lenny really wanted to complain about *that* being 
absent). There was just a blank emptiness. "I don't understand."
     Bruce looked at him. "Don't spirit creatures ever suffer from 
optical illusions or tricks of perspective?"
     "Not even spirit creatures that have been trapped in material form 
and have to put up with limitations of the physical body?"
     The sarcasm was totally lost on Lenny. "No."
     Bruce gave up trying to needle the yabon. "Humans and other animals 
have built-in skills for pattern recognition," he explained. "It's how 
we survive in our environments, especially how we recognise danger. But 
sometimes that runs away from us and we get tricked into seeing things 
that aren't there. We get incomplete information, our minds try to play 
join the dots, and we come to the wrong conclusion. You with me so far?"
     "I think so."
     "So that blank sky is like nothing I've seen before - and I've been 
through some weird stuff with you, remember. That total darkness feels 
more like a dark cave than anything else, and despite myself I keep 
wincing back in case I run full tilt into a low ceiling or sudden wall."
     "Oh. Right then, I see the problem. Do you want to get back to 
street level?"
     "No. It's just trick of the mind, after all," demurred Bruce. "Come 
on," he said, pointing around the square. "We've still got some 
travelling to do."
     As they continued back along the semi-enclosed street Elizabeth and 
Wendle began to hear noises up ahead beyond the crest of the causeway, 
and approached more carefully. Over the crest the ground dropped away into 
a steep hillside surrounding a very large bowl-shaped valley - something 
that they had most definitely not seen anything like on their way through 
the first time. The hill was seemingly made of terraces. Fog lay heavily 
across the lower levels, obscuring whatever was down there, but scattered 
distantly down and across the slope could be seen protruding upright 
stones. Even on the upper terraces those menhirs were veiled by at least 
some vague tendrils of mist, while at the same time all of them were also 
marked by the flickering of small fires near them or at their base. There 
was a lot of agonised screaming coming from the directions of those 
stones. Just rising above the distant horizon was an impossibly large 
moon whose dark seas sketched out the suggestion of a leering skull.
     "Oh for crying out loud..." said Wendle as he quickly ducked back. 
"Lurid and lacking in subtly."
     "Yes," agreed Elizabeth with revulsion in her voice. "Look at this," 
she added, pointing to where the walls of the causeway ended. There was 
dried blood on the rough hewn rock. Wendle had a sudden instant of panic 
that the scent of blood might send her into a feeding frenzy or some-
thing, and was therefore both surprised and relieved when she asked quite 
collectedly, "Do you still want to go down through that?"
     "I don't *want* to go anywhere," he replied shortly. "But there's 
not much point in trying to skirt around things anymore. Not if this 
place is as changeable as that. We'll just have to keep moving."
     "Why?" she challenged. "If your friends are such bigshots, we could 
just find a defensible position and hold out until they fix the problem 
and come back for you, right?"
     Wendle shook his head. He just felt instinctively that they had to 
keep moving... But how to explain it? For a second of despair he realised 
that he couldn't even sure that his assumptions were right. His meeting 
with Elizabeth might have been coincidence, or even orchestrated by the 
Raspberry Blower. For all he knew Joe might be dead...
     No. If Joe had been killed, then he would be back by now, and boy 
would he be ticked off. 
     Movement in the shadows behind them further down the causeway caught 
Elizabeth's peripheral vision. Two figures appeared. Elizabeth's reaction 
was a gasp of horror. Wendle's was more prosaic: "Aw crap! Not Evil Twins 
again!" he complained.
     The vampire double attacked immediately, and was met by an equally 
animalistic response from Elizabeth. Suddenly all of the anger that had 
been in her during that first attack by the gibbering things was back, 
and Wendle had to admit that for a vampire apparently trying to hang onto 
her humanity the sight of the dishevelled subhuman thing with the stains 
of dried blood about its mouth would probably be a nasty shock.
     His own bete noir was nowhere near so scruffy. The Evil Twin was 
almost painfully neat, in well creased dark pants with a button down 
shirt and tie, and his hair kept short and severe. The look on his face 
was the worst thing: a bearing of self-righteous condescension. 
Instinctively Wendle knew that this doppleganger held Opinions about 
quite a number of things, of which there was only a narrow range that he 
was prepared to give his imprimatur to, and anything else had no right 
to exist. It was the type of creature that gave conservatives a bad name, 
and Wendle tasted bile rising at the back of his throat from the sense 
of personal insult. The two of them began to circle one another, looking 
for an advantageous opening to attack.
     Then there was a light off to one side. Fearing another attack, 
Wendle immediately began to edge around so that he could see what this 
occurrence was as well as keep his counterpart in sight. Fast as his 
instinctive reaction was however, he had taken no more than a step 
before he heard a somewhat familiar voice rang out: "In the name of 
Schmendrick the Magician, begone! All inharmonious and disorderly shapes 
and forces, depart at once! Begone!"
     The Evil Twins collapsed into nebulous, human-sized shadows and 
fled before the light.
     "Begone!" continued the figure, who Wendle now recognised as 
Professor Guttman, the Defence Against the Dark Arts lecturer at the 
university. He continuing to wave his glowing staff. Elizabeth and 
Wendle couldn't see what else might be lurking about, but they waited 
while he continued to abjure.
     In a moment the brilliance about the staff dimmed as the Professor 
lowered it. He sniffed the air. There seemed to be no more presences, 
at least that he could detect. There were certain entities that fed on 
fear and anxiety, and of those the filthy scarecrows who waved their 
broomstick arms in parody of every move you make were among the hardest 
to perceive, but the DAtDA teacher was almost certain that they had been 
driven away as well as the shadow-doubles. He nodded to the two students. 
"Ms Greenvale. Mr Johnson. This really is not a very safe place to be," 
was his neutral observation.
     Meanwhile, out in the city of Net.ropolis, life continued more or 
less as normal.
     There was a knock at the door.
     Bannon Nguyen sighed. It has been a long day at the stock exchange, 
he was really tired, he hadn't even had time to check the mail or the 
answering machine, and already he was getting knocks at the door. He 
loosened his tie as he turned back to the entrance.
     "Good evening sir, " said one of the well dressed and brightly 
smiling young men on the doorstep. "Have you ever considered that the 
writings attributed to William Shakespeare may actually have been penned 
by the much-maligned Sir Francis Bacon instead...?"
     Bannon stared at them, then said, "No thanks. I've already given 
at the office," and shut the door before they could try another 
conversational gambit.
     Bloody door-to-door Baconian evangelists.
     Terri and Joe paused and looked around warily. The winding streets 
had transformed themselves from narrow mediaeval laneways into something 
that looked more like a bombed-out industrial wasteland. The remains of 
half-collapsed walls and rusting girders loomed out of the mist.
     "I'm beginning to wonder if we're getting anywhere," Terri said.
     Joe was about to reply when they heard a scratching sound. Terri 
gripped her hands more tightly about a wooden shovel handle that she had 
found, when a cat bounded out of concealment, spitting at them and then 
racing off into the fog.
     Terri's eyes widened as she realised the significance of this. "A 
spring loaded cat!" she exclaimed, and swung about to be ready for the 
inevitable attack. It came immediately, as a huge jackal thing bounded 
out from its hiding place in the rubble, only to be met by a quick dodge 
and parry from Terri and a strike across its face with the shovel handle.
     "Ha! Toro!" called Joe, waving his arms from one side of the street 
while Terri tried to circle around to attack it from the other. The jackal 
thing shifted its head one way and then the other, squinting with its 
three eyes as it tried to decide on which target to attack, when suddenly 
the decision was taken away from it as Harris came at it on a horizontal 
trajectory straight for the face.
     It snapped and snarled, none of which did any good against the 
cranky kiwi. Terri moved in and began striking at the flanks. Harris 
feinted, the monster lunged, and the green bird used the opportunity to 
deliver a vicious slash to its face that left it bleeding freely above 
one eye. (Harris was disappointed. He had been aiming to slash the 
eyeball itself. Oh well.)
     There was one of those sudden pauses in combat. Joe and Terri stood 
on either side, waiting for an opening. Harris stood immediately before 
the creature, hissing, and with his feathers all fluffed out in 
antagonism. The jackal thing, now half blinded by the discoloured blood 
flowing freely across its face, snarled at the kiwi.
     Harris snarled back and took a step forward. And then another. The 
jackal thing broke and ran, leaping back over the rubble and away into 
the fog with a mere three bounds.
     "Thanks for the save," said Joe as they listened to it go. He cast 
a glance about for any other dangers but saw none, then gave the kiwi his 
full attention. "I take it you haven't seen the others?" he asked, 
prompting Harris to shake his head.
     "I guess we continue on then," said Terri with a sigh. She didn't 
feel any significant drop in tension which should have followed a 
confrontation like that; more incidental evidence that this was a horror 
setting, she supposed.
     "There looks like there's something over there," said Joe, pointing 
at some distant multi-coloured lights that faded into view in the sky. As 
they watched more and more lights slowly emerged from the darkness.
     "A trap?" Terri asked.
     "Could be," Joe conceded. "Can you tell?"
     Terri concentrated, then shook her head. "Gibberish," she said. Her 
powers to break the fourth wall were still blocked. For a second she 
felt a flush of jealously that Joe's net.ahuman abilities still worked, 
and she ruthlessly quashed the feeling as soon she became aware of it.
     Okay, yes, it would have been nice to be powerful enough to shrug 
aside any sort of suppression or dampening that could be thrown at her. 
On the other hand, she wasn't naive enough to think that that sort of 
power level wasn't without price. Joe's abilities to create retcons and 
generally mould the fabric of reality to his whim meant that... he could 
create retcons and generally mould the fabric of reality to his whim. 
'Whim' was the operative word here, with all of the possibilities for 
accidents that it implied.
      As the three of them moved on, Terri found her mind returning to 
that situation. It was fortunate that Joe no longer had bouts of paranoid 
depression about his powers. That, of course, had changed once he'd 
wrested control over the ennui he felt flowing from Nicieza's Sledgehammer 
of Angst(tm) [_Limp-Asparagus Lad_ #42 - Footnote Girl]. Organic Lass 
had even prescribed taking him off of the anti-depressants. Being largely 
free of the of the Sledgehammer's influence had not taken away Joe's 
concerns about inadvertently doing harm, of course. It had, however, 
helped him deal with them more constructively.
     "Hey, we're here," someone said, and Terri shook herself out of her 
reverie to discover the three of them standing before a huge building 
something like a gothic cathedral. The coloured lights that they had seen 
turned out to have been the glow coming from a number of improbably 
placed stained glass windows higher up, scattered across not just the 
walls but also on the steeples and flying buttresses.
     Gunfire broke the silence as they were attacked again. Terri and 
Harris hit the deck. Joe stared in amazement and irritation. "Killer 
robots!" he said exclaimed.
     The lethal machines fired with built-in submachine guns, unleashing 
round after round of high calibre death, which Joe choose to gratuitously 
ignore. "Oh for smeg's sake... You expect *me* to be intimidated by 
killer robots!?"
     Terri raised her head slightly when she realised that the gunfire 
was having no effect whatsoever. "What have you done this time?" she asked.
     "I decided that they were equipped with faulty ammo," Joe replied.
     "Oh. Okay," said Terri as she stood up. "For a moment I was 
wondering if maybe you'd zapped them with St. Barbara's Law or something."
     A look of bemusement briefly crossed Joe's face before he went back 
to glaring at the robots. "What does that one do?" he asked.
     "Variation of Murphy's Law specific to missiles," said Terri. "The 
actual flight path of a projectile won't necessarily conform to its 
theoretical trajectory."
     Joe almost smiled. "I think I've had enough of attempts at 
manipulating fundamental laws and having them blow up in my face for one 
evening," he said, referring back to the sphamming incident in #51. "I'd 
really like to limit using them to when I don't have any other choices." 
Then he added, "That was something Wendle came up with, isn't it?"
     "He pointed it out to me, yes," admitted Terri.
     The robots, meanwhile, were walking forward while still blazing 
away with their guns. Unlike most comic book machines, they did not seem 
to be capable of learning from their mistakes.
     "Looks like my cue to jump in," said Bruce, leaping down from above.
     "You're going to thwack them with your staff?"
     "No!" exclaimed Bruce. "Do you have any idea how long I've been 
waiting to use this trick at full potential?" He balled his hands 
together in front of him, then flicked them open in the direction of the 
robots in partial imitation of an explosion.
     The robots exploded as the kinetic force of their gunfire was 
redirected back at them, tearing them apart from the inside out.
     Bruce folded his arms and announced to the others, "He who lives by 
the sword, dies by the sword."
     "Yeah, well. It's the dying part I'm worried about," countered Joe 
without bothering to look at Bruce. Bruce wasn't an Am.rec.an, and Joe 
knew that he had expressed irritation in the past about the lengths to 
which some extremist Am.rec.ans took their rights to arm bears. While this 
was understandable and even laudable in the case of the more obnoxious 
ideologues, Joe still worried about Bruce's apparent eagerness to 'make 
an example' of them. For his part Joe had been an accessory to murder as 
a pre-teen religious bigot, and it sometimes bothered him that Bruce 
might take 'making an example' a little bit further than simply having 
the gun explode in someone's hand for mere shattered bones and third 
degree burns. As far as Joe was concerned, exploding heads really should 
be restricted to people drinking froppuccinos in the RACCCafe imprint.
     Joe sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose. He wasn't being 
entirely fair, of course, but sometimes Bruce's lack of need for control 
made him uneasy and jealous. Both of them could do just about anything 
they could think of with their powers as long as they could at least 
semi-plausibly justify it. In Joe's case that meant coming up with an 
explanation about how something could have happened within the bounds of 
comic book physics and cliche. In Bruce's case it just meant coming up 
with a new silly pseudo-martial arts manoeuvre, the more ridiculous the 
better, to cause things to magically happen. Worse, Bruce's habit of 
not always thinking through the consequences of his actions sometimes 
terrified Joe, for whom one poorly considered retcon or use of excess 
force could mean blowing a hole in the fabric of the Looniverse. But 
still, Joe knew that he shouldn't have been transferring his anger from 
the Phantom Raspberry Blower onto Bruce.
     "Hail, hail the gang's all here," said Bruce, looking around. Then 
he frowned. "Except for Wendle."
     "Hopefully he'll be here soon," said Joe, turning his attention up 
at the cathedral-like building.
     "So your powers are working?" asked Terri of Bruce. This time she 
did allow herself to feel a bit of envy.
     "Yeah, for the most part. Why, aren't yours?" asked Bruce.
     "Bugger," he commiserated. "I wonder why not."
     "The thing you have to understand," said Professor Guttmann after 
Elizabeth and Wendle's quick summary of the events that had led them 
here, "is that the Phantom Raspberry Blower doesn't need to block each 
and every superhuman power. Only the ones that pose a threat to his 
twisted games. He can manipulate the shape of this world and send in any 
number of monsters to fight for him - and people with super strength or 
the ability to shoot lightning bolts will not make much difference to 
that. Those monsters may or may not even be real, living creatures. What 
does he care if a few constructs are broken? He can always animate more. 
The super powers that he will try to be rid of are the ones that allow 
people to see through the illusions of his shadow labyrinth or otherwise 
give them an advantage in escaping. Merely being able to fight off the 
horrors doesn't count. Eventually his victims will tire from never ending 
surprise attacks and be overwhelmed."
     "And those type of powers would be, what?" mused Wendle. "Various 
forms of information gathering and divination? Extraordinary luck? 
Extradimensional movement and possibly teleportation?"
     "Among others, like healing and rapid recuperation," said the 
Defence Against the Dark Arts lecturer. "Have either of you noticed how 
tired you're feeling?"
     They looked a little surprised. "A bit," admitted Elizabeth.
     Guttmann nodded. "There's a type of enervation that pervades this 
place. Doing things takes more effort, and resting won't be as much 
help for getting your strength back."
     "What about reality manipulation?" Wendle asked.
     Elizabeth said, "You think your friend with the retconning powers 
might be in more trouble than you guessed?"
     True, it was something Wendle was considering, but he wasn't really 
sure, and the various possibilities kept dancing about as he tried to 
weight them up. "Maybe," he said slowly.
     For his part Guttmann was pleased and mildly relieved to find these 
two so level headed. Over the years most people who he had had to come 
and rescue from the flipside version of Shimbleshanks had been so over-
whelmed with terror that more often than not they were as much a threat 
to themselves and their rescuer as to anything else.
     Elizabeth. Well, Guttmann knew from his vocation that she was a 
vampire - but he had always been under the impression that she was a 
'daysider': one of the rebellious younger vampires who liked to stay 
up all day and wear bright colours, drink wine instead of blood, call 
themselves by names like Agnes and Irving, and pretend that they were 
accountants. It was supposed to be trendy or somesuch.
     And Wendle. Now, wasn't he working his way through university at the 
Legion of Net.Heroes headquarters? Yes, that was it. Good then. It seemed 
that the boy had encountered enough strangeness to develop a flexible and 
practical outlook to this sort of danger.
     "Depending on what sort of reality manipulation it was," answered 
Guttmann carefully, "there would be a good chance the Raspberry Blower 
would try to negate it. Does it involve superficial changes, things like 
controlling the elements, or changing the direction of gravity?"
     "He changes the cause and effect of events, basically. Well, mainly 
the cause. He can change why something has happened, rearranging history 
so that like the old cliche goes, 'everything you knew turns out to be 
a lie'."
     Guttmann didn't even need to take time to consider that one. 
"Dictating what is real and what is not, and why, is certainly something 
too dangerous for the Raspberry Blower to leave unchallenged."
     "So what do you want to do now?" asked Elizabeth. "If that creature 
goes out of his way to make it so hard for people to escape his web of 
lies, how do you manage to rescue people?"
     The Professor was seemingly unconcerned. "There are certain 
preparations that I have made beforehand to usurp priority from the 
Raspberry Blower's prohibitions. It is like bootstrapping. My spells are 
protected, and he will not be able to prevent me from using my magics."
     Wendle nodded distractedly. It briefly occurred to him that the 
Professor couldn't have prepared a protected spell for every eventuality, 
and therefore the man was probably overstating his position for the 
benefit of Elizabeth and Wendle's peace of mind.
     Frankly however Wendle's mind was elsewhere. In a way the Professor's 
presence made things much easier for him. He had been troubled by 
indecision. By rights there shouldn't be much that the library assistant 
could do. Not only wasn't Wendle a net.ahuman of any sort, but he wasn't 
even one of the normal humans with action hero status. He couldn't perform 
any cinematic stunts, let alone consistently and reliably pull them off. 
And as for surviving the inevitable cinematic collateral damage...
     Unconsciously he rubbed the spot where the Gingrinch Who Stole 
Christmas had broken his arm.
     On the other hand, the Writers (scheming bastards that they were) 
delighted in twisting story conventions. But that simply meant that while 
it was *possible* that either himself or Elizabeth could play a crucial 
part in the anticpated upcoming confrontation, it was *also* possible 
that they would be convenient hostages, or worse.
     They were like rats running around in the maze. It all made sense now 
that the Professor had explained the Raspberry Blower's methods to them.
     Wendle felt another stab of anger. Guttmann caught the sudden 
grimace on the younger man's face, and asked, "What is it?"
     "All these feelings of doubt and helplessness... They're just 
another tool that the Raspberry Blower is using against us, like the 
fear and horror. To weaken us."
     It wasn't a question, but the Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher 
answered with a simple, "Yes. Of course." Then he added, almost by 
didactic reflex, "Much of the power of Evil involves subverting the 
willpower of Good to resist."
     Wendle glanced to Elizabeth. "There's an answer for you then. We may 
not be able to do anything. But we're going to go and confront him, just 
to *spite* him."
     This worried Elizabeth, and she was suddenly very glad that 
Professor Guttmann was there. Up until now she'd had a growing belief 
that Wendle was prudent and sensible, albeit somewhat over-fond of 
obscure knowledge. Now it seemed that his reputation on campus as a 
Viking-wannabe who was too much wrapped in his pride was true after 
all. This was a disaster waiting to happen.
Character Credits:
     Anal-Retentive Archive Kid (Wendle), Elizabeth, Fourth Wall Lass 
(Terri), Professor Guttmann, Retcon Lad (Joe), and the Phantom Raspberry 
Blower of Olde Net.ropolis Towne all created by Saxon Brenton.
     Baconian evangelists swiped from Jasper Fforde's _The Eyre Affair_.
     Chinese Guy (Bruce) and Lenny (Ljundji) are both Public Domain and 
kind of sort of created by Dvandom (Dave Van Domelen) and Saxon Brenton.
     Harris the Kiwi created by Saxon Brenton, but is owned by Descrii 
(Ian Porell).
All characters copyright 2004 to their creators or owners as applicable.
Back issues of the Legion of Net.Heroes may be found at Russ Alberry's 
Eyrie Archives at:     http://archives.eyrie.org/racc/lnh
The LNH stories of Blue Light Productions may also be found at: 
Add Notes: 
     Blast and damnation, bloody smegging heck. I was hoping to have this 
story arc finished off this issue, but it kept growing. We'll have to see 
whether it gets finished next issue.
     Just for the record, part of the purpose of this arc was to give 
Chinese Guy some on-screen time and let him make a substantial appearance 
in my 'main' net.comic series before he dies in _Flame Wars 4_ #3. 
Hopefully this would at least partly explain why Anal-Retentive Archive 
Kid became/will become so upset over his death in the 2nd part of the 
_Funeral For Some Friends_ epilogue to the FW4, and in _Limp-Asparagus 
Lad Special_ #1. Typically however, their interaction was mainly in #51, 
and the rest of the time the dynamic of the story meant that everybody 
was off in completely different groups. Bleah.
     [CGuy: "Well, I didn't want to have my face bitten off by an alien 
Troll, anyway!"]
     Shush Bruce, it's only temporary.
     [CGuy: "I don't want to be resurrected as an evil minion of 
Flipseid, either!"]
     Now you're just given away plot spoilers.
     [CGuy: "I don't care."]
Saxon Brenton   University of Technology city library, Sydney, Australia
saxon.brenton at uts.edu.au
The Librarian "liked people who loved and respected books. And the best 
way to do that, in the Librarian's opinion, was to leave them on the 
shelves where Nature intended them to be." Terry Pratchett, _Men At Arms_

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