[REPOST/LNH] Saviors of the Net #11: Chapter Fourteen

Arthur Spitzer arspitzer at earthlink.net
Tue May 9 17:37:01 PDT 2006

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From: blore at ibm.net (Steven Howard)
Subject: LNH: Saviors of the Net #11: Chapter Fourteen
Newsgroups: rec.arts.comics.creative
Date: 16 Apr 1999 04:28:38 GMT

[What has gone before:  In issue #1, the Saviors of the Net
showed up.  In issue #2, the LNH started spying on them.  In
issue #3, various LNHers met various Saviors fighting various
crime.  In issue #3 1/7, Self-Righteous Preacher was killed and
Alt.Lord and Arc showed up.  In issue #4, Alt.Lord talked to the
Saviors.  In issue #5, Gothic Gorilla's backstory was explored.
In issue #6, Dr. Net.ropolis revealed her plan to create a
mechanical author.  In issue #6 2/7, the reanimated corpse of
Self-Righteous Preacher fought the Ultimate Savior.  In issue #7,
Retcon Lad fought Retcon RACCoon.  In issue #8, Arthur E. L.
Presence showed up and killed off a bunch of throwaway characters
from issue #1.  In the first issue #9, Presence and Alt.Lord had
a chat.  In the second issue #9, a bunch of characters who hadn't
appeared in any previous issue talked about almost entirely
unrelated topics.  In issue #10, the LNH learned about Dr.
Netropolis' plan.]

Saviors of the Net #11:  Chapter Fourteen

"So what do we do with him now?  I'm open to suggestions."

Retcon RACCoon, bound and unconscious, lay motionless on a simple
table in the center of the killfile.  Most of the Saviors of the
Net -- Captain Killfile, Mood Arrow, Lava Lamp, the Human
Aquarium, Nudist Man [secretly a spy for the LNH, as seen in
issue # 3 1/7 -- Footnote Girl] and the Ultimate Savior, who had
asked the question -- stood around the table, looking down at
their former companion.

"I don't know," Mood Arrow said.  He turned to Captain Killfile,
who was observing the outside world through a watchfile.  "Did
everything go back to normal?"

She sighed, closed the watchfile and turned to face the group.
"Who knows what 'normal' means any more?  Nothing seems any
different from when we knocked him out and brought him here."
[In issue #8 -- F.G.]

"I say we ask Net.ropolis.  She's the one who found him, so she's
the one who has to fix this," Lava Lamp said.

"Maybe we should try contacting Gothic Gorilla again.  He's
immune to retcons, supposedly.  Maybe he can help us figure out
what is and isn't in continuity," the Human Aquarium said.

"I'm already here, old friend," the familiar voice of the Simian
Sorcerer rumbled from behind the group.  As they turned to face
him and prepared to unleash a torrent of questions, he continued.
"And I'm afraid that continuity may turn out to be the least of
our problems."

* * * * * *

In the LNHQ cafeteria, Bad-Timing boy dropped his fork.

* * * * * *

"He didn't realize that the people around him were just

"He didn't realize he was just a lot of words.  Just a story

"And sometimes he would snap his fingers.  He didn't know why he
did it.  He just did it and hoped something would happen.

"But nothing ever did.

"There was a last line.  This was the last line."

[That's from the end of issue #9 -- F.G.]

Dr. Net.ropolis frowned at the printout.  There was a period
missing in the fourth paragraph from the end.  The Perfect Author
would never make such an elementary typing mistake, but that
wasn't what bothered her.  It was that vague, unfocussed sense of
loss felt by the character no longer aware of his fictional
nature that gave her pause.

Generally, unless the needs of a particular story dictated
otherwise, people in the Looniverse were aware that they were
fictional characters living in a story.  Breaking the fourth wall
was a common humorous device.  There were even some people who
seemed to do nothing at all except comment on the nature and
structure of the narrative they lived in.

Dr. Net.ropolis considered this yet another symptom of the
current Writers' cruelty to their creations. Some of them seemed
to taunt their characters, never letting them enjoy their
triumphs, rail at their defeats, plan, dream, love, hate or
experience any genuine emotion untainted by the knowledge that
none of it was real, that none of their experiences were really
their own, that every aspect of their lives had been arranged for
someone else's entertainment.

And yet, she thought, what if all that were still true and yet
nobody realized it?  What if all your experiences were still
being arranged for the enjoyment of some Readers somewhere?
Would it really be any better just because you didn't know?

* * * * * *

Bending down to pick up his fork, Bad-Timing Boy tripped the
passing Bandwagon Chick.

* * * * * *

"So we're agreed," Ultimate Ninja said.  "Dr. Stomper will put
together a team to locate and infiltrate Dr. Net.ropolis'
hideout.  Fearless Leader will put together a team to find
Self-Righteous Preacher and get him back into his old body.  And
my team will go after this Alt.Lord character."

As the others nodded their assent, a knock came on the laboratory
door.  "Come in," the ninja said.

"Sorry to interrupt, UN," Mainstream Man said, walking into the
lab.  "But I thought you should see this."

"What is it?"

By way of response, Mainstream Man pointed to a monitor showing
the outside of the LNHHQ.  A man in a black cape covered with
rubber spiders strode purposefully up the sidewalk toward the
front door.  The unconscious form of a teenage girl was slung
over his right shoulder in a fireman's carry and he was dragging
a protesting teenage boy by the collar with his left hand.

"Who is that oddly dressed man, and what's he doing with Manga
Girl and Fuzzboy?" Fearless Leader asked.

"I don't know, but he seems familiar somehow," Ultimate Ninja
said.  "I'll go down to the lobby."

He arrived in the lobby a few seconds before the stranger muscled
the door open and dropped the teen Legionnaires in a heap on the
floor.  "I believe these belong to you."

* * * * * *

A dinner roll flew off Bandwagon Chick's tray and out the window.

* * * * * *

"But what about continuity?"  Mood Arrow asked again.  "How can
we deal with this Mechanical Author you're talking about if we
don't know what's going on?"

"You raise a valid point, friend," Gothic Gorilla said.  "Now
that Retcon RACCoon is inside the killfile, he shouldn't be able
to do any more damage.  And since we're all inside the killfile,
any changes he made directly to our own histories should be
nullified as well."

"Okay, I'm not old any more, for one thing," Ultimate Savior

"And we all remember Very Disturbed Scary Creature Man being a
member, right?" Lava Lamp asked.

As everyone nodded, the Human Aquarium said, "But then who are
Alt.Lord and Arc?"

"Oh, they're . . ." Captain Killfile began, then trailed off,

"Wait, we just fought them . . . or we're about to, I think,"
Lava Lamp said.

"No, that's not right.  We saved Arc from Alt.Lord.  Then the LNH
took her back to their headquarters," Captain Killfile said.  [As
seen in issue #10 -- FG]

"What are you people talking about?"  Gothic Gorilla asked.
"Alt.Lord?  Arc?  Are you serious?"

"Of course we are," Captain Killfile said.  "Why wouldn't we be?"

Gothic Gorilla reached into an inside pocket of his trenchcoat.
"Because they're not real.  Alt.Lord and Arc were characters in
the SAVIORS OF THE WORLD comic book."  He pulled out a rolled-up
comic and showed it to them.

"We're a comic book?" Mood Arrow asked, taking the book from him
and flipping through it.

"No, of course not," Gothic Gorilla said.  "We got the idea from
the comic book, don't you remember?"  Their blank faces assured
him that no one did.  "This is most disturbing."

"But you were there when we talked to Alt.Lord," Mood Arrow said.
"You and me and Captain Killfile."  [all the way back in issue #4
-- FG]

"I do not recall such a meeting.  I do recall the meeting where
Ultimate Savior, Lava Lamp and I decided to form the Saviors of
the Net, inspired by that comic."

"Yes, I remember that as well.  At least, I think I do.  This is
all too confusing.  What do we do now?" Ultimate Savior asked.

"We've got three problems.  First, Dr. Net.ropolis and her
Mechanical Author.  Second, even with Retcon RACCoon out of
commission, someone or something is still affecting the past --
or at least our memories.  Thirdly, if this Alt.Lord you're all
talking about is really on the loose, he'll be showing up and
trying to kill us."

"We dealt with him easily enough the last time," Captain Killfile
said.  "I wouldn't consider him a major threat."

"Perhaps not.  Still, it can't hurt to be prepared," Ultimate
Savior said.  "I have an idea about the comic book, too."

"What's that, US?" Mood Arrow asked.

"If we got the idea for our group from a comic book, we wouldn't
want anybody else to know about it, right?"

"I suppose not."

"So, once Dr. Net.ropolis brought Retcon RACCoon into the
Looniverse, we'd have had him retcon out the existence of the
comic book, right?"


"Except, as we've seen repeatedly, the RACCoon's retcons aren't
perfect.  They leave plot holes lying around, contradictory
memories and so forth."

"That certainly seems to be the case," Mood Arrow said.

"So anybody who'd read that comic would have unreliable memories,
because they'd been subject to the retcon."

"I'm with you so far."

"So, if we can find somebody who never read SAVIORS OF THE WORLD,
that person's memories won't be affected by the RACCoon."

"And therefore he or she would be able to figure out what's going
on?" Mood Arrow asked.

"Possibly," Gothic Gorilla said.  "But since everyone's memories
of the comic book have been retconned away, how will you verify
that your subject didn't read it?"

"Who published that comic?" Nudist Man asked.

"Alt.er.Net Press," Mood Arrow said, glancing at the cover.

"Perfect.  I know somebody who I'll guarantee never read it."

"Who?" Ultimate Savior asked.

"Mainstream Man, of the LNH," Nudist Man said.  "He'd never read
an indy comic."

"Yes, I met him once," Gothic Gorilla said. [in issue #3 -- FG]
"I'd suggest that you and Mood Arrow go to the LNH and consult
with this Mainstream Man.  Meanwhile, Ultimate Savior and Captain
Killfile should attempt to contact Very Disturbed Scary Creature
Man.  Lava Lamp and the Human Aquarium can monitor the situation
from here using the Captain's watchfiles, and they can keep an
eye on the RACCoon as well."

"What about you?  What are you going to do?" Lava Lamp asked.

"I'm going to see if I can make an appointment with the Doctor."

* * * * * *

The dinner roll flew into a nearby tree, dislodging a noisy mob
of crows.

* * * * * *

Dr. Net.ropolis looked up from her computer monitors.  She
thought she heard something.  She opened her desk drawer and
pulled out a high-tech raygun-looking device.  "Who's there?"

"You can put down your weapon, Doctor.  I'm just an astral
projection," a ghostly voice said from behind her.

"Gothic Gorilla," she said, swiveling in her chair to face the
transparent image of the Simian Sorcerer.  "To what do I owe the

"I'd like to show you something.  Come with me, please."

"What are you supposed to be, the Ape of Christmas Past?"

Gothic Gorilla smiled, to the extent that the astral projection
of a gorilla can smile.  "Something like that.  Come."

"Suppose I refuse."

"Oh, I'd probably just tell the LNH where you are.  Then they'd
attack en masse and there'd be a huge fight, which the LNH would

"Not necessarily."

"Yes, necessarily.  This is the Looniverse.  The LNH wins.  The
LNH always wins."

She sighed and dropped the pistol.  "Okay, let's get this over
with.  Do I just follow you, or . . ."

Gothic Gorilla shook his head, then touched one of the silver
pins adorning his trenchcoat.  "Ipse dixit, deja vu, tempus
fugit, I.C.U." he chanted.

A second later, two ghostly forms appeared in the Intensive Care
Unit at Lost Cause Boy Memorial Hospital.  No one paid any
attention to the trenchcoated gorilla and the labcoated human,
which was only natural considering that they weren't actually
there.  They drifted past several beds, finally pausing before
one holding a young woman and a sobering array of life-support

"Who is she?" Dr. Net.ropolis asked.

"Lucinda Ponzi.  You knew her as Lucky Chain Letter Lucy."  [Lucy
was one of the Seven Deadly Sphammers who fought the Saviors in
their first appearance, back in issue #1. -- FG]


"And she was nearly killed by your work."

"What do you mean?"  Dr. Net.ropolis asked, genuinely confused.

"Arthur E. L. Presence killed the Seven Deadly Sphammers.  They
were a loose end, a detail that didn't make sense.  He thought it
was his job to remove them." [In issue #8 -- FG]

"Wait.  That didn't really happen.  That was in one of my test
programs, but it was never implemented."

"Wasn't it?"

"No, it wasn't.  Look, the whole point of the 'Arthur E. L.
Presence' character was that he was removing inconvenient and
redundant characters.  In the story my program wrote, the
Sphammers ALL died."

"I think you're beginning to see why I brought you here."

"I don't think I am.  Are you trying to say this is the best of
all possible worlds because some desperate criminal is clinging
to life?"

Gothic Gorilla shook his head.  "Why is Lucinda Ponzi alive?"

"Because Presence wasn't as good an assassin as he was supposed
to be?"

"No.  Because she became a character.  A Writer -- an imperfect,
human Writer -- made her a character, by simply giving her a goal
and showing her efforts to reach that goal.  She wasn't supposed
to live.  She wasn't even supposed to appear in the story after
the first issue.  But because one Writer let the Readers share
her thoughts and because that struck some spark with another
Writer who decided she wasn't just a throwaway character, she's

"Maybe.  Or it could just be that having one victim survive is a
cliche of the serial murder genre," Dr. Net.ropolis said

"Perhaps you're right.  It's certainly something to think about,
though, isn't it?"

* * * * * *

The crows' sudden departure startled a small ground squirrel, who
ran toward the shelter of the LNH barn, where Bandwagon Chick's
spectral horses were stabled.

* * * * * *

"What did you do to them?" Ultimate Ninja asked, as Manga Girl
and Fuzzboy were hauled off to the infirmary.

"They attacked me," Very Disturbed Creature Man said, as if this
were answer enough.  "I want to know why."

"The short answer is that Fuzzboy is overzealous.  I had
instructed them to locate you and to ascertain what your
involvement, if any, was with the death of Self-Righteous
Preacher."  [in issue #3 1/7 -- FG]

"What would I have to do with that?"

The ninja pondered this for some time.  "I don't remember.
Still, as a member of the Saviors of the Net, you merit a certain
amount of attention."

"Saviors?  Net?" the urban vigilante asked.

"Yes.  Along with 'of' and 'the,' that's the name of your group,
isn't it?"

"I'm an obsessed loner.  I'm not a member of any group . . . And
yet, I seem to remember a bunch of people in spandex with weird
powers that I used to hang around with a lot."

Just then, Nudist Man, Mood Arrow, Ultimate Savior and Captain
Killfile ran up to the door.

"Here comes the rest of that team you're not part of," Ultimate
Ninja remarked drily.  Then, into his LNH wrist communicator
thingy he whispered, "Yellow Alert.  Response Team A to lobby."

"We need to see Mainstream Man," Nudist Man said.

* * * * * *

The squirrel ran into the barn, knocking over a bucket.

* * * * * *
Mainstream Man, Irony Man and Bandwagon Chick ran into the lobby,
ready to confront the Saviors.

"Explain yourselves," Ultimate Ninja said.

"We need you to tell us something," Nudist Man said, addressing
Mainstream Man.  "Who are Alt.Lord and Arc?"

"I have no idea," Mainstream Man said.

"Wait, didn't the LNH just fight them?" Bandwagon Chick asked.

"No, the LNH and the Saviors just _saved_ Arc _from_ Alt.Lord,"
Mood Arrow said, impatiently.  "We all know that.  The question
is, what does Mainstream Man know?"

"I don't understand -- " Mainstream Man began.

"There's no time to explain," Gothic Gorilla said, as he, Lava
Lamp and the Human Aquarium suddenly appeared in their midst.
"I've just determined that Dr. Net.ropolis is about to deploy the
Mechanical Author.  We must go there immediately."

"Where?"  Ultimate Ninja asked.

By way of a response, Gothic Gorilla made an arcane gesture and
chanted, "Carpe diem, bouillabaisse, deus ex machina, cut to the

* * * * * *

Panicked by the sudden noise, one of the horses bolted and flew
off into the night sky.

* * * * * *

The assembled Saviors and LNHers appeared in a jumble of cables
in the center of a large computer room.  Dr. Net.ropolis sat at a
console not far away, apparently oblivious to their arrival.

Ultimate Ninja signaled the others to be quiet, drew his sword,
and crept toward her turned back.

"Despite appearances," she announced without turning around.  "I
am not oblivious to your arrival."  She punched a button on her
console.  Somewhere within the complex, a door opened.

"How did she know we were here?" Lava Lamp whispered.

"You don't have to whisper now," the Human Aquarium said.  "She
knows we're here."

"So what?" Mainstream Man asked.  The others looked at him.  "I
mean, so she turns on some computer that's supposed to rewrite
the Looniverse or whatever.  Who cares?"

"Yeah, you're right," Captain Killfile said.  "This is stupid."

The Ultimate Savior turned to Gothic Gorilla and grasped the
Arcane Ape by the lapels of his famous trenchcoat.  "What's
happened to them?" he asked.  "You've got to stop it."

"Oh, it's nothing," Gothic Gorilla reassured him.  "Probably just
the effects of the Apathy Beast.  Nothing to worry about."

"Nothing to -- but, the fate of the -- ", Ultimate Savior said,
stunned by his teammates' inaction.  He elbowed aside the
unprotesting Ultimate Ninja and strode purposefully up to Dr.
Net.ropolis.  "I still care, even if your foul beast has sapped
the will of my team and the LNH.  I still care, even if I can't
remember exactly who I am or what I'm supposed to be doing or if
I'm really a hero or a cynical villain pretending to be a hero or
a hero pretending to be a cynical villain.  All I know is, if I'm
really the Ultimate Savior, then this is my defining moment.
This is where I save the Looniverse, or die trying."

* * * * * *

The horse regained its senses several miles from home.
Instinctively, it flew toward Bandwagon Chick, drawn to her by
the mystical spell that bound it into her service.

* * * * * *

Dr. Net.ropolis looked at the Ultimate Savior, her mouth agape.
"You care.  You really do.  I made myself immune to the Apathy
Beast by repeated exposure, but you -- If you can -- and, if Lucy
is still --  No, my plan makes sense.  I'm launching the
Mechanical Author and you can't stop me."

The Ultimate Savior hauled off as if about to punch her, then
stopped.  "You're right, I can't stop you.  If you're really
bound and determined to launch that program, you'll launch it.
Even if that means you have to kill everyone in this room with
your bare hands.  Just answer me one question.  Which would be
worse: living in a parody, or living in an allegory?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, you're doing this because you think the parodic nature of
the Looniverse makes it imperfect, right?"

"That's a simplification, but okay."

"And so you're going to make it perfect, by implementing a
perfect Mechanical Author."


"But it will still be a fictional universe.  I mean, if it's
being created by something called an Author, it must be
fictional, right?"

"Well, obviously it will still be fictional, but I don't -- oh, I
see.  You're saying that the only fiction set in a 'perfect'
world is allegory."

"Precisely.  And characters in allegories do all kinds of
horrible things, and have all kinds of terrible things done to
them, just to serve as an example to the reader."

"You're right.  My god, I never thought of this.  And, and half
the time, the whole point of the story is that the so-called
'perfect' world is built on lies, or horrible injustice or
something.  I can't be responsible for something like that.  I'm
shutting this down."

* * * * * * 

The horse, having located his mistress, charged in through the
skylight, sending glass and bits of wood flying everywhere.  The
Legionnaires and Saviors alike were temporarily shocked out of
their apathy.

* * * * * *

Dr. Net.ropolis, recoiling in surprise, accidentally struck the
'Start' button with her elbow.

* * * * * *

The assembled net.heroes watched in unblinking horror as the
green letters snaked across the black monitor:  "Self-test
complete.  Reading configuration.  Preparing to launch Mechanical
Author.  Mechanical Author launched."

* * * * * *

To be continued (?) in Issue #12

* * * * * *

Copyright 1999 by Steven Howard

The Saviors of the Net, Ultimate Savior, Captain Killfile, Dr.
Net.ropolis, Human Aquarium, Mood Arrow, Gothic Gorilla, Very
Disturbed Scary Creature Man, the Seven Deadly Sphammers, Lucky
Chain Letter Lucy, and crossover concept created by Arthur

Ultimate Ninja and Self-Righteous Preacher created by Ray

Alt.Lord, Manga Girl, Fuzzboy, Nudist Man and Arc created by Tom

Fearless Leader created by Dave von Domelen.

Bandwagon Chick created by Sue Clark.

Mainstream Man, Doctor Stomper, Bad-Timing Boy and Irony Man
created by person or persons unknown.

NEXT TIME: Saviors of the Net #12: "A World Without Pain"
           by Jesse N. Willey

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