[REPOST/LNH] Saviors of the Net #17 (2/2) -- THE FINAL CHAPTER!

Arthur Spitzer arspitzer at earthlink.net
Tue Jun 20 20:41:52 PDT 2006

                              T H E
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                           O F  T H E

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Date: 20 Mar 2000 18:10:30 -0000
From: marcs at wam.umd.edu (Marc Singer)
Newsgroups: rec.arts.comics.creative
Subject: [LNH] Saviors of the Net #17 (part 2 of 2)

[continued from part one...]

(The edge of spacetime.  The Fourth Wall.)

    Shells whistled above the last four heroes standing as the
Mechanical Author mercilessly pummeled the Fourth Wall.  Each strike
brought down another piece of the barrier between realities.  Titanic
fragments of statuary--a masked head, a gloved hand--toppled around the
heroes.  A falling torch nearly crushed the Adler Stim before Very
Disturbed Scary Creature Man tackled him out of harm's way.  Without
his powers, Adler still wasn't sure if he was worth saving.

    Mere feet away, Doctor Stomper ducked under a volley of
gunfire and crawled over to Dr. Net.ropolis.  "WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!" he
shouted over the shellbursts.  "THERE MUST BE SOME WAY WE CAN STOP HIM!"

    "NOT AS LONG AS YOU'RE WITH THE LNH!" she shouted.  "BUT MAYBE--
MAYBE I CAN REACH SOMEONE WHO *CAN* BEAT HIM!"  She tapped furiously on
her keyboard.

    Dr. Net.ropolis activated her cellular modem, praying the Author
had weakened the Fourth Wall enough for the signal to get through.  She
didn't make any outward signs of joy or relief when she connected to the
Internet, just moved her sweaty fingers like a piano virtuoso.  Locating
the right archives, she searched for the records from before the
Mechanical Author's activation, before his first great wave of retcons--
and she found the people who were trapped there.

    A bomb-burst took out another section of the Fourth Wall.  This
time, light shone behind it.  The Author rocketed forward, eager for its
first glimpse of reality.

    It was a naked man, shaking his body like a monkey on crack.

    Not just *any* naked man, but... "Nudist Man!" cried Adler Stim.
The naked man jumped out of the glowing crevice, followed by several
other brightly-costumed pseudo-heroes:  Mood Arrow, the Human
Aquarium, the Lava Lamp, Gothic Gorilla, Retcon RACCoon...

    "The Author scripted himself a defeat of the LNH," Dr.
Net.ropolis said, finally allowing herself a smile.  "So I brought back the
Saviors of the Net!"

    A quick explanation from Dr. Net.ropolis brought the Saviors up
to speed on everything they'd missed while they'd been retconned out of
existence... well, not *everything*, a detailed summary of "Mutton
Mania" would simply have been absurd under the circumstances... but
when the doctor explained how the Author's retcons had killed their
teammate Captain Killfile, the Saviors heard enough.  They pulled into
formation behind Very Disturbed Scary Creature Man and charged the
Author.  Only doctors Net.ropolis and Stomper stayed behind to work on
her programming... and Adler Stim, powerless, watched from the

    The Mechanical Author had been quite calm during all this, not
even attacking the Wall, just watching.  Perhaps it was freaked out by the
hyperactive naked guy.  But as the Saviors charged, its defense systems
kicked in.  The Mechanical Author reached back in continuity himself and
pulled out his own defenders:  the maniacal conqueror known as the Alt.
Lord, and the suave assassin called Arthur E. L. Presence.

    "My own damn test programs."  Dr. Net.ropolis smacked herself
on the forehead.

    "Your work is a little *too* robust, Vivian," said Doctor
Stomper.  "But I'm beginning to see a way out..."  He ran towards the
inert armor of Irony Man, and the broken body of the Kirbybot, just as
the Mechanical Author resumed his shelling.

    Out in space, the Alt. Lord held the Saviors at bay with his
flaming sword.  "Fools!" he spat.  "You all served me once!  You were
my distractions, my advance agents, my lieutenants... all except that spy!"
He pointed to Nudist Man.

    The naked man gulped as he found himself staring at the business
end of an emotion arrow, mystically-gesturing gorilla fingers, raccoon
paws, a magical lava-producing lamp, and a transparent body full of
water and fish.  If indeed any of those things can be said to *have*
business ends, he was at that end of them.

    Mood Arrow loaded up a special Shame Arrow.  The gray-haired
archer grinned and said, "Prepare to blush, streaker."

    Very Disturbed Scary Creature Man watched it all with a silent
scowl.  As Mood Arrow drew back his bowstring, the "Rubber Animal
Avenger" threw back his cloak and growled, "Mood Arrow... you
clown... you always say 'yes' to anyone with a badge--or a flag--or a big
robot Mechanical Author body...  Well it's way past time to learn what it
means... to be a *character*."

    He pounced on them.  Emotion arrows and lava blasts and very
confused fish started flying everywhere.

    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

    "This won't do at all," muttered Dr. Net.ropolis as the Wall
crumbled around her.  "Time to bring in one--last--trick--"

    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

    Another shape appeared in the glow beyond the Wall.  Flying out
of it, silhouetted against the glow, it resolved into form and detail.  It
became a perfect circle.

    A hula hoop.

    Acting on reflexes he'd thought long-buried, Adler Stim jumped
off the balustrade and grabbed his Holy Hoop as it shot out of the Wall.
The blue and white hoop crackled with energy, burning off the filthy
clothes he'd worn as a hobo on the streets of Net.ropolis.  Burning off the
dirt and the beard he'd grown in his year on the streets.  Burning off
everything but the faded red, white, and blue costume he wore
underneath, revealing its letters, U. S.

    "Heroes!" Adler Stim screamed.  "It is I--your leader--the
ULTIMATE SAVIOR!"  And the way he carried that hula hoop, they all
believed him.

    "Don't waste your time fighting each other!  And don't listen to
those two pawns!"  He waved his hoop disparagingly at Alt. Lord and
Presence.  "You were their servants once.  But now you have a choice--
keep serving them, and create a universe where you'll always be servants
for the rest of your lives--"

commanded.  DESTROY HIM NOW.

    Ultimate Savior brandished his hoop like a shield, deflecting Alt.
Lord's, Presence's, and the Author's weapons fire.  Pretty impressive,
considering the hoop had a honking huge hole in the middle.  "You can
become their robots," the Savior continued, "acting out the roles they
write for you, never rising above what you are, because in a true allegory
the minor characters never change.  Or you can stand up for what's right
and become a major character--a true hero--a--a--"

    He thrust his hula hoop high above his head, bathing the
quarreling heroes, the unconscious bodies, the entire Fourth Wall in its
pure blue light.  And he screamed, "A SAVIOR OF THE NET!"

    And their howls of joy told the Ultimate Savior that he was right.
The Saviors of the Net turned on Alt. Lord first.  Lava Lamp trapped the
killer's feet in a quick-hardening lava flow, and Human Aquarium
extinguished his sword with a blast of water.  Gothic Gorilla carefully
explained to Alt. Lord that he wasn't really their master at all--that he
simply a character from the "Saviors of the World" comic book which
had inspired Dr. Net.ropolis, and subsequently become part of her test
program.  Alt. Lord howled that it couldn't be true.

    Mood Arrow pulled out his Sense of Nostalgia for Old Times
Which, While Technically You Were Miserable Then And You Know
You're Better Off Without Them, You Still Miss Anyway Arrow and
fired it at the Alt. Lord.  The shallow four-color character, unable to
process such a complex emotion, disappeared in a burst of cheap beer
and grunge rock.

    And then Arthur E. L. Presence stepped forward...

    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

    This is the scene featuring Arthur E. L. Presence, the character
who knows he is only in a story.  This is the first paragraph of that scene.
This is the last sentence of that paragraph.

    This is the sentence that explains Retcon RACCoon drifted over
to Arthur E. L. Presence as Presence tried to erase all of the Saviors from
continuity, and the RACCoon stopped him.  This is the sentence that
explains the RACCoon tried to erase Presence from continuity, and
Presence stopped him.  This is the sentence that says Presence said, "We
seem to be in a bit of a stalemate."

    This is the sentence where the RACCoon replies, "We each have
the power to alter the story; we perfectly balance each other."  This
sentence explains that the RACCoon actually said something more like
"nik nik nik nik nik p'too! grrrrrrowl," but Presence easily understood
him simply by going back and reading the previous sentence.  This is the
sentence that says the RACCoon said, "We seem to be in a bit of a
stalemate," balancing the end of the previous paragraph and reflecting
their stalemate through a repetition of form.

    This paragraph relates Presence's attempt to reason with the
RACCoon.  This dialogue reports his statements:  "You might as well
back down and help me, then, for while we stalemate each other, the
Author will surely continue on to pierce the Fourth Wall, slay the other
authors, and dominate this universe.  His eternal victory is guaranteed."

    This paragraph relates the RACCoon's attempt to reason with
Presence.  This dialogue reports his statements:  "You might as well back
down and help me, then, for if his victory is guaranteed then so is your
defeat.  You will always be a self-aware character, and in the Mechanical
Author's universe of allegory, your only function as a self-aware
character will be to be aware of yourself, trapped, like a mirror reflecting
itself forever.  Your eternal torture is guaranteed."  This sentence reports
that Presence thought about the RACCoon's argument, and furthermore
this sentence destabilizes the balance with the previous paragraph,
reflecting that in the end the RACCoon is right after all.

    This sentence shows Arthur E. L. Presence reading the last
sentence and realizing that under the Mechanical Author's rule he will be
stuck in just this sort of postmodern wank-off forever.  This rather long
sentence describes Presence deciding that all things considered, he would
rather go on being an assassin who's absolutely unstoppable because he
rewrites his own stories, but nevertheless *he* should be the one doing
the rewriting and to hell with the Mechanical Author anyway.  This
sentence shows Presence nodding his head to the RACCoon.

    "Thank you for the conversation," Presence says in this sentence,
adding, "It's so nice to meet someone I can finally talk to."  This is the
sentence in which he waves goodbye to the Retcon RACCoon and

    This is the last scene featuring Arthur E. L. Presence, the
character who knows he is only in a story.  This is the last paragraph that
mentions Arthur E. L. Presence.  And this is the very last sentence about
Arthur E. L. Presence... for now.

    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

    The Saviors landed on the Mechanical Author's chestplate; in the
bizarre non-directional gravity at the edge of spacetime, they felt like
were standing on solid ground and staring straight ahead into the robot's
enormous, inhuman face.

    "You're out of stooges to hide behind!" the Ultimate Savior
screamed at the Author.  Titanic shards of statuary tumbled past them,
into the void.  "This madness ends now!"


    Very Disturbed Scary Creature Man was suddenly retconned into
a cheerful vigilante who fought crime with a youtful sidekick--he
shrugged that one off, muttering something about "Jason."  Then he was
retconned into a succession of weird variations like Very Disturbed Scary
Zebra Man or Very Disturbed Scary Super-Genie Man; then into a rather
paunchy television actor who kept calling everybody "old chum"; and
then--most pathetically of all--into an "urban legend."

    Mood Arrow was retconned into a tiny baby, collapsing in a pile
of clothing and arrows.  Lava Lamp was retconned into his evil Earth-X
counterpart, Der Grossenbubblielikvidlamp.  Nudist Man was retconned
into some guy with clothes.  Human Aquarium was retconned into just
plain human--but his howling, and the flailing shapes just underneath his
skin, suggested the fish were still somewhere inside him.

    Retcon RACCoon and Gothic Gorilla fought to undo the
changes, but they could barely keep up with the Author's lightning-fast
circuitry.  Meanwhile, the constant retconning was disintegrating the
Fourth Wall, having stretched all credulity to the breaking point.

    The Ultimate Savior tried to march up the Author's torso, to its
head and its mighty electronic brain.  It was a hard walk; every other
step, he'd have a fin for a foot or a body made out of Lime Jell-O.  Or
worse, he'd turn back into Jesse Cashew, posturing villain; or Adler Stim,
selfish hacker.  Only the glowing hula hoop remained unchanged; only
holding onto that kept him the Ultimate Savior.  He dug it into the
Author's metal hull and pulled himself along, one arm's-length at a time.

    Dr. Net.ropolis watched the Author torment her team.  "This is
madness," she said.  "I'm helping them out."  She ran across the quaking
balustrade, to where Doctor Stomper was running wires from her laptop
to Irony Man's gauntlets and the Kirbybot power batteries.  Dr.
Net.ropolis ripped a jet-pack off the Kirbybot and strapped it on.

    "What are you doing?" Stomper protested.  "We need you on the

    She winked at her former mentor.  "You're a bright boy, Doc; I'm
sure you'll figure it out."  Pressing the control stud, Dr. Net.ropolis
soared off the Fourth Wall.  She spent a few seconds zigzagging
erratically through space, which inadvertently saved her life by throwing
off the Author's targeting systems.  Then her remarkably adaptive mind
figured out the jet-pack's guidance system and she dropped next to the
Author's hull, too close for him to fire on her.

    She raced up to the Ultimate Savior, who was struggling to hold
his Holy Hoop with the enfeebled arms of a ninety-three-year-old-man.
She landed beside him and fingered her lapel pin, the pin she'd stolen
from Gothic Gorilla.  (Who had just been turned into Gothic Gorgonzola,
and was unable to cast spells with the veins of blue cheese that ran
through his creamy body--but boy, did he taste depressed!)  The pin
protected its wearer from all retcons.  Cradling the Ultimate Savior in her
arms, she kissed him and placed the pin on his costume.


    "Oh yeah?"  She looked up at the towering head, the cruel mouth.
"Well *screw you*, pal!  You can't retcon me away--I *created* you!  If
I disappear, you disappear!"


    ...and she was shouting more words of defiance, but suddenly an
artery in her brain burst and she suffered a stroke.  It was a cruel and
capricious ending for Vivian Net.ropolis, but in an odd way it did directly
symbolize the manner in which that astounding brain, which she had used
to do so much, ultimately pushed too far and destroyed her.  It was a
perfect allegory.

    It was the first execution in the Mechanical Author's perfect new

    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

    The Ultimate Savior reverted to his youthful body just in time to
watch Dr. Net.ropolis stagger and fall.  He howled and caught her, but
the glassy stare in her eyes told him there was nothing more he could do.
He lay her gently on the Author's shoulderplate and looked back down
beneath him.  The Retcon RACCoon had restored the other Saviors, and
Very Disturbed Scary Creature Man flashed US the go-ahead sign.  The
Saviors of the Net charged the Author, creating the perfect distraction:  a
whole bunch of fish and magic spells and scary rubber spiders and a
wiggling naked guy.

    The Ultimate Savior howled with frustration and flew at the
Author, powering up his hula hoop.

    ...Doctor Stomper finished modifying the armors and ran,
dodging truck-sized chunks of masonry, back to Vivian's laptop.  Now
any programs on her computer could be routed through the armors and
blasted directly at the Author.  Reaching the laptop, Stomper flipped
open the screen to see what Vivian had been working on.  His face
showed confusion at first, but then he slowly cracked a smile...

    The Ultimate Savior batted aside the missiles and lasers, while the
Author's rewrites reflected harmlessly off his pin.  "Damn you," he
screamed, pressing closer to the gigantic face, "this is for Vivian!"

    ...they were stories.  The stories of their universe, to be precise,
which Doctor Stomper didn't consider "stories" at all but rather "history."
But Vivian had pulled these stories from an archive on the other side of
the Fourth Wall, where they were only stories.  Stories written by dozens
of different authors and read and reviewed by dozens more, stories which
meant anything the writers and readers wanted them to, or sometimes
meant nothing at all.  Stories in which the entire Looniverse, the
Mechanical Author included...
    ...was nothing more than a joke.
    Doctor Stomper didn't take that news too well; didn't understand
what was funny about Vivian's stroke or Adler's struggle.  He preferred
to look for nobility and dignity in his life, even if he was just a
But then, he was also a thinking, feeling human being; he could take the
hand life dealt him and choose to see it differently.
    Could the Author?
    With a savage grin, Doctor Stomper clicked "Send" and
downloaded the entire archives...

    The Mechanical Author reeled, knocking the other Saviors of the
Net off into deep space.  Seeing his chance, the Ultimate Savior slammed
into the Author's forehead and bored right through his skull.

    He emerged in a glowing cavern, shaped like the inside of a
human head and filled with pulsing crystals.  The crystals floated in the
center of the cavern, spilling out from a central node with perfect fractal
complexity, while lights that were thoughts flashed up and down their
length.  The Ultimate Savior held his hoop high, willing it to burn with
cobalt intensity.

    Lightning-storms played along the crystal sculpture, and the walls
reverberated to approximate a deep bass voice.


    Ultimate Savior ignored the voice, gritting his teeth and burning
the hoop brighter.


    "This *is* my wildest dream, you heartless bastard."  The hoop's
energy had already burned away most of his costume, but he laughed
anyway.  "And I'll thank you to call me by my real name--"

    He lowered the hoop and drew it back into throwing position.

    "I'm the Ultimate Savior."

    He hurled the hoop into the creature's inhuman brain.  There was
a cold mechanical scream as the crystals shattered, and then a light
brighter than a million suns...

    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

(Loonivearth.  Net.ropolis.  Lost Cause Boy Memorial Hospital.)

    It was a sunny day, the warmest one this spring, and the whole
city was out enjoying it.  In the hospital plaza, underneath the shade of
the statue of Lost Cause Boy, kids were reading brand-new comic books.

    The center of attention seemed to be the long-awaited final issue
of "Saviors of the World," in which the brave Arc defeated the villainous
Alt. Lord once and for all.  The kids were a little confused as to why Alt.
Lord's heart really wasn't in the final battle... why he kept saying he'd
tasted a better world, and wallowed in nostalgia for it... but they kept
reading and rereading the issue, passing it between ink-stained hands.
They loved the ending:  Arc had beaten the villain and retired to a life
lived happily ever after.  Just like superheroes were supposed to.

    In a private room high up in the hospital building, the Ultimate
Ninja briefly parted the curtains and watched the children.  He sighed,
almost as if he could see the story they were reading--but that would
have been impossible.

    Behind him, Doctor Stomper finished flipping through the
medical chart and laid it at the foot of Vivian Net.ropolis's bed.  "She's
gone into a complete coma," he said, speaking quietly over the beeping
machines that kept her alive.  "Even if she does come out of it, the
doctors say she may never regain her full mental faculties.  Such a

    The Ninja was only briefly at a loss for words.  "She was a former
student of yours, wasn't she, Vincent?"

    Doctor Stomper sighed.  "The best.  A little *too* good.  If only I
could have taught her some ethics to go with those theories..."

    "Her heart was in the right place, in the end.  And the other
Saviors, too."  The untiring leader had ordered Multi-Tasking Man to
keep an eye out for the borderline heroes ever since the LNHers had
reappeared in their headquarters, with splitting headaches and the
stunned realization that the world had been saved, and not by them.  "I
understand that Lava Lamp turned up back on McLaughlin Man's show,
advertising some hero-for-hire operation.  He's trying to rope the others
into it too, no doubt."

    The Ninja shook his head.  He hadn't liked the idea of letting them
run around loose, but after he'd realized what they'd done... after Fourth
Wall Less traveled to the Threshold and told him what she saw....  He
looked down at the statue of Lost Cause Boy again, and sighed.  "It was
the least we could do for them," he said, to himself.

    "They're much less dangerous without Vivian running them," Dr.
Stomper said, looking at the comatose woman.  "But I'd hate to have to
fight any of them again, after this."

    The Ultimate Ninja permitted himself a rare chuckle.  "Oh, if they
do go crooked, they'll have worse than *us* to worry about."

    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

(Net.ropolis.  The darkest streets.  Nightfall.)

    Cowardly Lott ran down the alley, flipping through the wallets
he'd grabbed.  Not a bad night's take; his brother Superstitious and all the
rest of the guys would be pleased.  The streets are ripe for the picking,
Cowardly thought, and he was the meanest predator of them--

    He bumped into something big.  Solid.  And covered in sticky
rubber spiders.

    The scowling man dragged the tiny criminal up the side of a
tenement building and then held him eye to eye, and suddenly a flood of
repressed and retconned memories poured back into the tiny and very
very frightened mind of Mister Cowardly Lott.

    "I will never forget Adler," the vigilante said.  "He was a good
soldier.  He honored us all.  But the war goes on."

    He pulled the criminal even closer, spilling hot, fetid breath over
him.  "I want you to tell your friends about me.  I'm Very Disturbed
Scary Creature Man.  And now," he said, smiling, "I'm *mad*."

    He dropped the criminal into a garbage dumpster.  Cowardly Lott
crawled out and ran screaming down the street.

    From his perch on the building, Very Disturbed Scary Creature
Man could see a sign advertising Lava Lamp's new business.  Was it legit
this time?  Or another front?  The vigilante figured he'd strike terror into
a few hearts and find out.  Time to become a Very Disturbed Scary
Creature of the night.

    He smiled, and dropped down into the city.

    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

(The edge of spacetime.)

    Where once there was wholesale destruction, the Fourth Wall
stands restored--a gleaming barrier that looks as if it has never been
damaged.  The only sign of the recent battle is the debris that floats in
space, occasionally bouncing harmlessly off the Wall:  pieces of a once-
great machine.  Or tattered bits of red, white, and blue cloth, and
fragments of a hula hoop.

    That part of the Wall that took the heaviest damage during the
fighting, the part that nearly became a point of entry to the World
Beyond, now stands stronger than ever.  It is filled with the body of a
colossal robot, fused to the Wall and bound in chains.  The eyes are dark
and lifeless.  The robot supports a long balustrade, which held the heroes
who defeated it.

    Above and around the creature stand statues of heroes from a
million worlds.  Directly above the Mechanical Author stands a new one.
It shows a man in a patriotic costume, holding a hula hoop.  The caption
on the pedestal reads, TO THE ULTIMATE SAVIOR.

    And the name beneath it is ADLER STIM.

                                  THE END

    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

YEEEEEEEEE-HAAAAAWWW, that was fun!!!  I hope you enjoyed
reading it as much as I did writing it, and I am truly glad that I had the
chance to help see this great storyline to its long-overdue conclusion.
Some credits and then I'm out of here.

Ultimate Savior, VDSCMan, Dr. Net.ropolis, the Mechanical Author,
and the Saviors of the Net created by Arthur Spitzer.
Ultimate Ninja, Self-Righteous Preacher, and Adamant-Authority-on-
Everything created by wReam.
Arthur E. L. Presence created by Steven Howard.  Steven Howard
appears by permission.
Nudist Man, Alt. Lord, Arc, Vice, and Onion Lad created by Tom
Russell.  Tom Russell appears by permission.
Kid Recap created by Josh Guerink.
Fourth Wall Lass created by Saxon Brenton.
EDM and EDMLite created by Rob Rogers.
Master Blaster created by Martin Phipps.
Writers Block Woman created by Jaelle Ihimaera-Smiler.
Swordmaster and CAW! created by Matt "Badger" Rossi.
Kid Kirby (the real one) created by H. Jameel al-Khafiz.
Cowardly Lott created by Sam Vimes.
This issue written by Marc Singer.  A Legacy House production.

NEXT TIME: Arthur E L Presence: Assassin #1
           by Martin Phipps

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