LNH: Liminals #3

Adrian McClure mrfantastic7 at gmail.com
Thu Jun 1 19:43:55 PDT 2017

#3: "False Compare"
A Legion of Net.Heroes story by Adrian McClure


Manga Girl was patrolling the vents of the LNHQ. The last time she'd
come here it was going after an attempt at making spaghetti that had
gone horribly wrong. Now she was tracking a Mini-Balrog.

They were some of the many strange creatures and beings who had come
over from the twistings dimensions created by the multiversal war
begun by the Crossover Queen. They were typo elementals from the Lord
of the Rings fandom, from the time when the sudden popularity of the
movies led to a rush of new fans with more passion than proofreading.
The saying goes that "every name mispelled in Rings, a Mini-Balrog
gets its wings." Manga Girl had run into one of those things when
she'd journeyed to the Para.net.elemental Plane of Typo [A tale to be
told in Just Imagine--Footnote Girl]. Somehow they'd made their way
through to the Looniverse, and now every time someone misspelled and
LNHer's name, a new Mini-Balrog popped up in the LNHQ in a burst of

She could hear it skittering around in the shadows. Almost there...

"Hey, watch it!" said the LNHer she collided with--Bad-Timing Boy. Uh
oh. He was cute, she had to admit, but maybe not someone you wanted to
be standing next to in a delicate situation.

"Shh!" she said. She thought she saw something scurrying through the
vents. "It's over there--"

The tiny winged creature turned its head and blasted them full on with
a burst of blue flame. Manga Girl just barely dodged it, like she
always did, but in the process slammed into the side of the vent and
knocked it out of place.

The ceiling crashed down right on top of the cafeteria, knocking over
Ultimate Ninja's table.

Maybe, she thought, it would be a good idea to get out of here for a while...


When she'd dashed out of the LNHQ, she went to visit her mother, who
lived on the top floor of an uptown skyscraper--she was the head of
Milky Way Technologies, which constructed the space elevators that
linked Earth to the stars.

Manga Girl's family history was... complicated. Her mother was
Galatea, the living statue of legend, who had become a hero over the
course of thousands of years. Her father was Manga Man, the cosmic
trickster and elemental embodiment of creativity who had set himself
up as an enemy of the LNH to catalyze them into being, challenging the
boundaries of a Western-comics-based world. [see Just Imagine Saxon
Brenton vs. Andrew Perron in the Return of the RACCies! #9--FG] Both
of them were creations of magic, and they had created her in turn.
>From them she had inherited elemental creative power, superior
strength and agility, and the ability to think on her feet.

She and her mother were sitting in the trophy room. It was a replica
of an ancient Greek temple, with mementos of Galatea's many adventures
and statues of her friends and foes painted in bright colors the way
they actually were in ancient Greece--she complained quite a bit about
how everyone ignored that. Manga Girl wondered if it was ever weird to
be a living statue in a room full of non-living statues.

She was gossiping to her mother about her teammates, while Galatea
listened, silent and seemingly completely still. Only Manga Girl could
read the subtle emotional reactions on her face. She was leaving out a
lot, of course--she knew they were both keeping secrets from each
other. That was the family way.

"So," said Galatea, "there's been a bit of a problem."


"An art thief. They've been stealing paintings from the Net.ropolis
galleries under the police's noses for the last few weeks."

"Oooh! A mysterious thief!" She rubbed her hands together. "Do they
throw roses?"

"Not to my knowledge. They simply appear, then disappear into nothing.
Just like that. I'm willing to bet anything it's one of the Shadow
People of Darknet Town."

"The what? I mean I've kind of heard of that but I'm still new here."

"It's the city under the city--the place where all the people who
don't fit in live--people from other dimensions or worlds, mutants,
monsters, renegade Drow and Orcs and such. It used to be that what is
now street level on Net.ropolis was the second floor, but after the
Great Mr. Paprika Flood of 1910--"

"Now that's a man's flood!" said a voice from the distance.

"--The city streets were moved higher and what had once been street
level was underground. It became a refuge for "weirdies" and
"super-creeps."" Galatea had been doing an experiment with the "Power
Kirby" which hasn't quite worn off so she was still speaking in Jack
Kirby-style "unnecessary quotation marks."

"In the 70s," she continued, "it was sealed off for fear of
extradimensional threats, since the chaotic energies that underlie
Net.ropolis were pooling there. Many of the people who lived there
were driven out. But now, with the Crossover Queen's war across the
Usenetverse, the dimensional boundaries are breaking down and more
dimensionally-displaced people are ending up in this world and taking
refuge down there--joining the Shadow People. Those are people who
live in the shadows, mind you, not people who are shadows. Although
there are some Shadow People who are shadow people... It's confusing,
I know."

"Cool! So are you going to take care of this?

"Alas, no. I'll be leaving the planet for the Meta-Spatial Tri-Cosmic
Tournament Which Is Definitely Not A Trap By An Evil God. Someone else
will have to take care of that."

"Oooh." Manga Girl giggled. "Sounds like a plot hook to me! Well, I'll
go take care of that. Bye mom!" Galatea silently waved goodbye as she
dashed off.

Manga Girl took the long elevator ride back down to the street,
tapping her feet all the while. She could let the rest of the LNH know
about this... But it would be more fun to deal with it on her own.
Besides--despite the fact she was the only member of her team who'd
never accidentally blown up the LNHQ--her relationship with the LNH
could sometimes be a little... strained. There'd been another Manga
Girl who'd been a member of the team briefly--her counterpart from
rec.arts.anime.creative--and she hadn't always had the best
interactions with them. She had tended to steal anything belonging to
her teammates that wasn't nailed down. Manga Girl wasn't the same
person as that one, but not everyone seemed to realize this, and
Special Bonding Boy nervously clutched his Anthony Robbins tapes
whenever she was around.

Okay, she thought, so. What would I do if I were Mx. Mystery Art
Thief? Well, I'd probably just close my eyes and pick a museum to rob
from the map at random. So she did so, and settled on the Deadrichguy
Museum of Art in uptown Net.ropolis.

Once she'd settled on the destination, she dashed her way there--she
seldom walked or even ran when she could help it, she always dashed.

At the entrance of the museum, she pulled out her pen. She held it up
and shouted, "turn me into a pretty art critic!" She drew an outline
on the air in a single stroke, then stepped into it. With a burst of
sparkling light, she became a thirtyish woman, her normal outfit--a
mix of pastels and super-bright 90s-style clothing, t-shirt with manga
sound effects printed on it--became a suit cut to show off her legs.
She had kept her customary dark pink hair.

This wasn't actually necessary--members of the LNH had a lifetime pass
for the museum. (Except for Cheesecake Eater Lad's cousin, Painting
Eater Lad.) Still, whenever there was a chance to use the disguise
power, she would do it.

She walked into the museum like she owned the place and walked around,
looking at the paintings and being careful to give the impression she
was thinking deep thoughts, even though she was mostly thinking about
the ancient Greek statues' butts.

As the sun set outside, she found herself contemplating a painting
that was a canvas of solid blue that said "I am Blue." She rubbed her
chin. What did it mean? Was she supposed to reflect on the fact that
blue paint wasn't actually blue but every color except blue? What did
"I" mean in this context? Was she supposed to think of Da Ba Dee Da Ba

She was so lost in contemplation she almost didn't notice the thief.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw their tail twitching in the
shadows. (The gallery had suddenly acquired a lot of dramatic shadows,
which meant there was a plot about to start.) In a puff of glitter her
disguise faded away. She yanked the tail sticking out of the shadows
and pulled someone out of the shadows--a midnight-blue-furred
catperson in dark red cloak, with human features and blue ears
sticking above their head. They were pretty young--another
teenager-ish character like her, probably. And cute.

"Excuse me, madam, I was in the midst of doing my work," they said.

"Hey, who are you, anyway?" said Manga Girl.

"Tybalt, Prince of Cats, member in good standing of the Guild of
Net.Thieves, at your service, though mayhap not, considering I desire
to take this fine work of abstract art for myself and you desire to
keep me from doing so."

"Do you really want it? I mean it's not that great of an artwork. It's
fake sophistication. It's like the kind of conceptual art where the
concept's not really as deep or interesting as it wants to be--like
waving a giant sign that says 'Look at me, I am making a statement'
doesn't mean you're actually making a statement, y'know? That's a
problem across a lot of different kinds of art. Actually, that sounds
like a better conceptual art work than this one. Honestly, you should
just let this one go. You're better off stealing a really *cool*

"Regardless, people will pay money for it, and that's the important
thing. Art is what people with money say is art."

"Yeah, so do thieves get a say in what art is?"

"Your art critic is your foremost thief," said Tybalt, "for they doth
steal the meaning of the work from its maker."

"That's some good paradoxing, but I'm still a member of the LNH so I
gotta stop you. Sorry."

"Aha, but first you must catch me!" Their tail slipped out of her
hands and they snatched the painting, stuffed it into their (much
smaller) bag and slipped off into the shadows. She dashed after them.
She'd like to get her hands on them for more than one reason, she
thought--they were really, really cute.

Down through the shadows they ran together, out into the streets,
scrambling up the fire escapes and onto the moonlit rooftops. It was
beautiful. This, she thought, is why I do this.

In time Tybalt came to a sudden halt, above a rickety abandoned
building. "Halt!" she said, pointing at him and making a dramatic
magical girl speech pose. "Art is one of the most important things in
the world! It--"

"I'm sure you would have given a fine speech," said Tybalt, "but I
fear I have practiced deceptions more than one. You see, the painting
was never the target--"

Before even she could move, Tybalt pulled a handful of dust out of
their pouch and flung it in her face. She felt her consciousness
fading away.

"You were."


Manga Girl awoke to find herself on a slab, cords pressing down on her
flesh. .o(Oh man), she thought .o(I hate it when that happens.)

She opened her eyes. Looming above her was a pale man with bleached
blonde hair, wearing Elizabethan finery with some truly epic ruffs.
She wondered how he ever breathed or got through doors with that

"Ah, welcome to my humble abode, good Manga Girl," he said.
"Jeez, is everyone being super pretentious and Rennaisance-y today?"
she said. "Verily, good morroweth, good sir, whofore art thou?"

"Then you've never heard of me? I am Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford."

"Nope. Doesn't ring any bells."

"Then perhaps you know me under the name I published my most famous
works. William Shakespeare."

"What? Really? Well, I really enjoyed Coriolanus. Tom Hiddleston was
great in that. And he had a nice butt."

"Ah yes, one of my finest plays. How the theater rejoiced when Titus
informed Tamora that she had eaten her sons in a pie! But those days
are long gone. In truth I have written many works since then. I have
written under many names, such as Herman Melville, Jane Austen,
Virginia Woolf... I also dabbled in art somewhat. I drew paintings
under the name of Roy Lichtenstein. Perhaps my greatest work was a
comic called, er, Homesick, written as Andrew Hussie. But of late I
have grown dissatisfied. I have never yet made any work which is truly
worthy of my own name. As I wrote long ago, in one of the first and
best poems I wrote: Ahem:"

He flung out his arm and began to recite:
" Framed in the front of forlorn hope, past all recovery,
 I stayless stand to abide the shock of shame and infamy.
 My life through lingering long is lodged, in lair of loathsome lays--er, ways,
 My death delayed to keep from life, the harm of hapless days;
 My spirits, my heart, my wit and force, in deep distress are drowned,
 The only loss of my good name, is of these griefs the ground.

"Not bad," said Manga Girl. "aLLiterative Lass would have Loved that."

"Regardless," said the Earl of Oxford, "I have for too long allowed my
reputation, my name, to be eclipsed by that, that... That *glover's
son* under whose name I published my plays. I hid my true name it is
time for fear of scandal, you see, but now his name has far surpassed
mine in glory. How could they believe that anyone not raised in a
court could understand falconry? Hmmm? Falconry! My good and dear
friend J. Thomas Looney--that's pronounced "Loney"--tried to set the
record straight, but no one listened. But now, I shall put aside my
masks and perform before the world with my true face. After all, as I
myself once wrote, 'To thine own self be true.' And that is where you
come in. You see, to create a truly worthy work, I need a certain
boost of creative energy. So I shall take yours. I would no doubt use
it better than you would. And of course, your mother was an old enemy
of mine, so that is the icing on the cake."

She looked more closely at him and saw the knife in his hand. "Hey! Is
this an altar?" Manga Girl struggled against her bonds. "Is this one
of those human sacrifice things?"

"Of course not!" snarled the Earl of Oxford. "What do you take me for,
some sort of savage? You are not human."

"Maybe. But I've still got better hair than you." She stuck out her tongue.

Rage twisted his face. He raised the knife--

"Wait!" said Tybalt. "Do you have to kill her? Isn't there another way?"

"I have studied the subject extensively, you ignoramus." He snarled at them.

"See, that's how I know you're not Shakespeare," said Manga Girl.
"Shakespeare would have come up with a really cool insult like 'thou
rustillarian frumpwart.'"

The Earl ignored her. "Remember the deal, Tybalt."

"The deal, good Earl, was you would pay me when I delivered her. And I have."

"Yes, but until the ritual is completed, I have no intention of
helping you find your sister."

"Perhaps I don't trust you with her," said Tybalt.

"Then go. Get out of here. Scat!" He tossed a pouch of gold coins at
Tybalt, who deftly caught it.

Tybalt smiled, revealing his sharp teeth. "Then our business is
concluded!" He drew a light, swift sword and sliced at the Earl of

"Bah! I knew I could not trust you!" He drew a blade of his own that
sat by his side and swung at Tybalt, who deftly danced between the
strokes. But he was exhausted after his chase with Manga Girl and
would not last long. She had to think of a plan, and quick.

If only her flow of creative power were stronger--at her peak, she
could use her power over sequential art to affect the flow of time and
space, even draw constructs like a cool gun that could set his ruff on
fire. But it came and went, and right now, she wasn't up to that.

The Earl of Oxford took a magic rope of some sort from his own pouch
and threw it in the air, and it tangled itself around Tybalt. He had
won, and prepared to strike Tybalt's head off--but now Manga Girl had
a plan. It was a pretty half-baked plan, but in her experience, those
were the best kind.

"Hey Earl!" she said, deliberately pronouncing it as a name rather than a title.

"Yes?" He scowled."

"So you're gonna sacrifice me... You're using magic, right? How does
the spell work?"

"Why should I tell you?"

"You're an artist, right? And magic is an art. Just between you and
me, I don't think you're very good at it."

"Well," said the Earl of Oxford, "I made a pact with a demon. A
difficult and delicate operation, to be sure. See?" He pulled a scroll
out of his pocket, crabbed with arcane writing.

"That just looks like you doodled all over the page."

"No, it's arcane writing. It says 'I, Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of
Oxford, do offer to the demon Byrzvrlamus, Arch-President of the 76th
Layer of Hell, the soul of Manga Girl--'"

"How do you spell that?"


"That's not how it's spelled. It's M-A-N-G-O--"

"All right, fine"! He pulled out his goose-feather pen, dipped it in
an inkwell (he carried both in his magic pouch) and corrected her

There was a spark of brimstone.

Manga Girl wasn't precisely sure what would happen, though she knew it
would be bad. She was a little surprised that a Mini-Balrog had popped
into existence outside the LNHQ, but she wasn't complaining. "MANGO
GIRL!" it shouted, spitting blue flame at the Earl of Oxford. "MANGO
GIRL! MANGO GIRL!" The fire caught on Manga Girl's bonds, allowing her
to snap them, and the walls of the teetering building. She leaped out
of her bonds before the flame could reach her, picked up Tybalt in her
arms (their fur felt very nice), and dashed out of the building just
before it collapsed into the flames.

She looked up into the sky and said:

"Goodbye, Earl."

She then turned to Tybalt--but by the time she'd finished saying her
cool line, they'd already slipped out of her arms. She could barely
make them out in the shadows. She looked them in the eyes and slowly
blinked at them. They stopped in their tracks and blinked back before
they scampered off.

She made her way back to the LNHQ--a little too tired to dash now.
Ultimate Ninja didn't seem to be looking for her, thank goodness.
Probably some whole other thing had gone wrong and everyone had
forgotten about the duct.

She stepped into the cafeteria for a late-night snack and saw
Victoria, who was smiling smiling because she'd just managed to grab
the last slice of strawberry cheesecake. [See Writer's Block Person

"Hi" said Victoria. "How's your day been?"

"Oh, OK. Not much happened."

"So you had an adventure and you don't want to tell me about it, huh,"
said Victoria, in between slowly savoring bits of the cheesecake.

"Ehhh," said Manga Girl, and dashed off to bed.



This issue marks a bit of a special occasion. Besides being the 25th
anniversary of the LNH, last month was the 20th anniversary of Manga
Girl #1, posted on May 17, 1997. This means that Tom Russell has been
writing for RACC for 20 goddamn years. In a very real sense I wouldn't
be here without him--my first LNH series was about one of his
characters. I want to thank Tom for letting me fold, spindle and
mutilate his old characters over the years, and for giving RACC so
many stories and characters and ideas. The way he's developed as a
writer and a person over the years was tremendously inspiring to me
getting into RACC and still is today. It's encouraged me to test my
own limits in my writing. Along with his 8fold cofounder Jamie Rosen
(who I miss a lot) he also provided a lot of good feedback and
encouragement in my early days on RACC and, of course, gave me a space
to write different kinds of things in Mighty Medley which helped me
reach a new level of maturity and confidence in my style. So thank
you, Tom, for everything.

The use of Earl of Oxford as villain was inspired by Kyle Kallgren of
Brows Held High's takedown of Anonymous:


And just in time for this issue he has a new on on Shakesperean
innuendo and insults


Oh, and the poem was one the Earl of Oxford really wrote.

Galatea running the space elevator company is an idea Drew Perron has
had for years but never had a chance to put into a story. Incidentally
every issue of Liminals so far has featured one of Drew's
characters--Chaos Theory was in #1 and Sickshiver in #2. Not very
surprising I guess.

Manga Girl II: Me via Tom Russell
Galatea: Drew Perron
Bad Timing Boy: Vernon Harmon
Ultimate Ninja: wReam
aLLiterative Lass: Charles Fitzgerald

The Mini-Balrogs were created by Miss Cam of the Official Fanfiction
University of Middle-Earth. They are now another lifeform that
afflicts the LNHQ along with kiwis, oozlefinches, that one monkey, and
so forth, and are Free For Use.

Everyone else is mine.

Adrian "The Dark Spaceknight" McClure, now with sig

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