LNH: The Core LNH Volume 1: "Basic Politeness Gone Mad!" TEB

Drew Perron pwerdna at gmail.com
Sun Mar 22 16:34:06 PDT 2020

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|             TEB Volume One:        _ :'_      "Basic Politeness Gone Mad"    |
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|------------------------------   ;'`_LNH_`-;    ------------------------------|
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                    #1.0: "Hope You Survive Et Cetera" Part 1
    Under six doors, which lead to six rooms, which housed six members of the
Legion of Net.Heroes, six slips of paper were slipped. Six hours later, all six
were gathered, sitting in six chairs around a table in LNHQ Conference Room
Number Six. They looked toward a seventh chair, turned away from them.
    "Greetings," said a Serious, Deep Voice, sounding surprisingly similar to
James Earl Jones. "Each of you has been chosen out of the Legion's flabbergastingly
enormous membership for an important purpose! Due to the aforementioned enormosity,
you may not know each other - and, worse, the readers may not! Therefore, roll
    "Hell Catalyst! The Blazing Friend! With the ability to tele-empathically
share her interests, and also might be a vampire!"
    "I do my best!" HC was dressed in a shimmery red-and-gold outfit with a high
collar and tights. There was a stylized symbol of a puzzle piece on fire on her
chest. Her hair was curly and deep red, and she wore fiery red lipstick and
blush on her pale cheeks.
    "WikiBoy! The User-Defined Man! With the ability to be edited by any LNH
member into the perfect partner for each situation!"
    "Hey, guys." WikiBoy leaned on his elbow, mildly amused, mostly resigned to
weirdness. Currently, he looked remarkably like Tobey Maguire, but shorter,
schlubbier, and with a beaver's tail.
    "Painful Pun Person! The Punctilious Punisher of Punchinellos! With the
ability to project physical force via puns!"
    "Oh, punchinellos, that's good..." PPP nibbled on the end of a pen, writing
the word down in a little lined-paper notebook. She had short dark hair and
Middle Eastern features, and wore a rainbow hijab and a black bodysuit with a
stylized skull on the chest winking at the viewer.
    "Skunk Girl! The Striped Operative! With the abilities (proportional) of a
    "Can we hurry this up? It's almost lunchtime." SG leaned back in her chair,
putting her boots up on the table. She was an anthropomorphic skunk with white-
striped black fur and a bushy tail, wearing specially-designed body armor in
gunmetal gray.
    "Golden Man! The Aureate Avenger! With the ability to be a pretty standard
flying brick!"
    "Not the most august collective I've ever been part of, but that's the charm
of the Legion," remarked GM, arms crossed, spine straight. He was dressed in
sparkling golden tights, with wavy black hair highlighted in blue and a square
jaw. The current artist, having come into the industry doing LNH20 work, had
drawn him exactly the same as Doc Nostalgia.
    "Miss Social-Cues! A recent recruit to the Legion, so she doesn't have a cool
moniker yet! With the ability to completely ignore social cues!"
    "Thanks!" MSC got an especially detailed description. She was black and short,
with a kinky, flowy natural mohawk, and a blue sundress with lacy edges and a
green arrow embroidered on the chest shooting past a red target.
    "Together, you shall form a new group, to face the challenges that no one
Legionnaire ever could alone!" The chair started spinning around, a bit at a
time, as if it was being scooted around by feet that could barely touch the
floor. "And we will become..." A Darth Vader voice-changing helmet was removed
dramatically, and Kid Enthusiastic stood up on the chair! "The Core LNH!"

                    #1.5: "Hope You Survive Et Cetera" Part 2
    "And we will become..." A Darth Vader voice-changing helmet was removed
dramatically, and Kid Enthusiastic stood up on the chair! "The Core LNH!"
    "Wait, what?" Skunk Girl attempted to jump to her feet, spun in the wheely
chair, fell on the floor, and jumped to her feet. "How is *this* The Core LNH?
We're just a bunch of random characters! Well, except for Kid Enthusiastic, he's
kind of core."
    "Really?" said Golden Man, raising one perfect eyebrow. "I'd say he's more
    "I mean, he hasn't been around since the Cosmic Plot Device Caper or anything,
but defined in terms of influence and-- look, that's not the *point*, okay!?"
    "She's not wrong," said Painful Pun Person, hands under the desk, trying not
to look like she was using her phone to look up her compatriots on the wiki. "If
this is the core, it's the pits."
    Kid Enthusiastic kicked off his shoes, stepped onto the table, held up his
finger, and took a deep breath-- but Miss Social-Cues jumped up on the table in
front of him. "Exactly!" she said. "The message is that the LNH isn't dependent
on any one character, or even any one group of characters! It's the spirit of
chaos and heroism, the idea that even your most gratuitous personality flaws are
actually superpowers! We're *all* the core LNH!"
    Kid E's finger drooped. "...I mean, y-yeah, that's... that's what I was gonna
say..." He coughed.
    "...oh, did I step on your..."
    "No, no, it's okay, I just..."
    "Ahhhhh, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean--"
    "It's okay, really, you don't have to--"
    "OH MY GOD SHUT UP NERDS." Skunk Girl pulled at her ears.
    "Ahem!" All heads snapped around to focus on Hell Catalyst, standing next to
her seat. Her arms were akimbo, and her expression held fast to reasonableness.
"Whether we're the Core LNH or not, that's fine. I look forward to working with
you all. But shouldn't we introduce some kind of plot hook? If we haven't gotten
past the setup by the end of our second chapter, the readers will think we've
gone back to the days of decompression."
    "Excellent point!" Kid Enthusiastic leapt out of his chair and pointed out
the door. "This way!" He scrambled out into the hall.
    The others looked at each other, shrugged, and casually jogged after.
                       AND THE CORE LNH WAS BORN!
    Kid E ran down the hall. He leapt in the air and slid gleefully along the
waxed linoleum in his be-socked feet. He skidded to a stop in front of a door,
and pointed at it dramatically! "Beyond this portal lies the most baffling enemy
the Legion has ever faced!"
    "What, in the bathroom?" Wikiboy scratched his head.
    Golden Man sighed. "I'll get Halls Jordan to clean it up..."
    Somewhere, a toilet flushed; from somewhere came the sound of hands being
washed. The bathroom door opened, and out stepped a man who looked remarkably
like a fortysomething Ricardo Montalban. He wore an expertly-tailored black suit
with red trim, and regarded the assemblage with cool amusement.
    "Not poo..." said Kid E, pointing even harder. "TYRANNUS AURON!"

                    #2.0: "Basic Politeness Gone Mad!" Part 1
    Kid E pointed at the coolly elegant, Montalban-esque man in black and red.
    The other members of The Core LNH looked at each other. Painful Pun Person
raised her hand. "...who?"
    Kid Enthusiastic patted the writer on the back. "He's a criminal mastermind
from an alternate timeline where he conquered the world, who wished himself into
a universe where he had never existed just for the challenge of it!"
    "Well-put. Thank you for the introduction, young man." Tyrannus Auron tossed
a paper towel in the trash and stepped out of the bathroom, looking up at the
title of the story. "Basic Politeness Gone Mad?" He raised one elegantly skeptical
eyebrow. "I was hoping it would be called 'Tyrannus Auron's Shocking Victory
Over the Legion'."
    "Wait just a minute," said Golden Man, stepping forward, arms crossed, and
looking T. Auron in the eyes. "Criminal mastermind? Shouldn't we be *arresting*
this fellow?"
    Tyrannus Auron smiled and opened his hands wide. "Go ahead. In this world,
all of those crimes are wiped clean."
    "Huh!" said Miss Social-Cues. "That's a good point! Welcome to the LNH." She
grabbed his hand and shook it.
    He disentangled himself gracefully. "Thank you, miss. But I'm afraid I've
come to declare my enmity for your organization, and to register as a net.villain.
However, the receptionist was busy at the moment with another of your number, so
I took the time to use the facilities."
    "...*Net.villain*!" said Golden Man, gesturing with his entire upper body.
    "No, no, he's right," said Hell Catalyst. "There are a lot of totally non-
criminal citizens who are registered net.villains. McLaughlin Man, Dan Didio,
Uma Thurman... You can be an absolutely terrible person without technically
committing a crime at all!"
    "what's wrong with uma thurman," mumbled Skunk Girl.
    Wikiboy had, by this point, realized that this was a comedic banter scene,
and his main function in those was "prop", so he had slipped away to check out
what was happening at the reception desk. There, he came upon an androgynous
human with neat hair and a loudly inoffensive outfit, who he knew as PC Person,
and who was arguing with Lester O'Brien, the receptionist on duty.
    "...I'm just saying," Lester just said, "you can't expect us to ask *everyone*
who comes through here what pronouns they want us to use. Ninety-nine percent of
them just won't *care*!"
    "And *I*'m just saying, it's for that one percent!"
    "I thought we didn't like the one percent," Lester joked, and was met with a
    "Hey, what's up?" said WikiBoy, approaching carefully due to the whole "comedic
banter prop" thing.
    PC Person put his hands on the counter. He took a deep breath, blew it out
his nose. "I'm just asking our front desk supervisor to give the most basic
respect for our nonbinary guests, and just..." He was more frustrated than
WikiBoy had ever seen him. "I'm just asking him to be *basically polite*!"
    WikiBoy paused. He looked up at the title. "...oh boy."

                    #2.5: "Basic Politeness Gone Mad!" Part 2
     PC Person was more frustrated than WikiBoy had ever seen him. "I'm just
asking him to be *basically polite*!"
    WikiBoy paused. He looked up at the title. "...oh boy."
    Just then, Golden Man strode out of the hallway, holding Tyrannus Auron up by
his suit jacket and advancing towards the door, the rest of the Core LNH running
after. "...and I don't care if it *is* legal! It's psychopathic!"
    PC Person's ears twitched. He turned around, took a deep breath, and marched
over, standing between Golden Man and the doors. "Um... excuse me, but
'psychopathic' is a rather ableist term that isn't actually sanctioned as a
diagnosis by any psychiatric or psychological organization."
    "Hi, PC!" said Kid Enthusiastic. "Thanks for letting us know!"
    "Yes, but don't worry about it," said Golden Man, stepping around him. "We're
just going to-- dump some refuse--"
    Tyrannus Auron slipped nimbly from his jacket, stepping away, standing up,
and brushing himself off. "PC Person, eh? I must say I'm not familiar."
    "I'm not surprised," muttered PC Person, running his hand through his hair.
"Not super appreciated around here..."
    "Hmmmmm, I see..." said Tyrannus Auron. His grin made WikiBoy uneasy.
    "Sokay, PC!" said Painful Pun Person, giving him a pat on the shoulder. "Lame
people never get person power!"
    PC Person grimaced, fingers clenching. "*Act*ually..." He took in a breath,
let it out. "Actually, 'lame' is really ableist too..."
    WikiBoy watched him melt the anger away - for the moment. "Nope, this isn't
good." He tugged Hell Catalyst's elbow as she passed by. "I think we're gonna
need to deal with..."
    "Just a sec, WikiBoy," said HC. Like a soft wave around your ankles on the
perfect day on the beach, the sense she was listening washed over his mind, and
he let go. "Now look, Mr. Auron - you don't need net.villainy to have challenge
in your life!"
    "Yeah!" said Kid E, immersed in debate. "And net.heroing is way more fun!"
    "Teaming up with these guys is enough of a challenge," said Skunk Girl.
    "Understandably so," said T. Auron. "But I'm afraid that would take away from
making sure the world is run correctly, and I'm rather serious about that. Don't
you agree? PC Person?" There was a terrible glimmer in his eye.
    PC Person took in a breath, let it out, and gave him the stinkeye. "I know
what you're doing," he muttered, so quiet that only WikiBoy and T. Auron could
hear. Louder, he said, "The world could be run *much* better, yes. But change
imposed from above doesn't stick. It needs to be people who change."
    "Yeah!" said Miss Social-Cues. "Your idea's really dumb!"
    "Megalomania is crazy like a pox," said Painful Pun Person.
    "Indeed," said Golden Man. "Real men don't act this way."
    PC Person twitched, arms curling in on his chest. "That's... that's not what
I..." His fists squeezed together, and his legs shook. "Could you..."
    "...um," said Kid Enthusiastic, empathy kicking in. "Is PC Person okay?"
    "oh no," whispered WikiBoy.
    "Could you *please* *just* *NOT*!?" All at once, PC Person threw his limbs
wide and thrust out his chest! With a thunderous BOOM, out burst a great orange-
red flame!

                    #3.0: "Basic Politeness Gone Mad!" Part 3
    "Could you *please* *just* *NOT*!?" All at once, PC Person threw his limbs
wide and thrust out his chest! With a thunderous BOOM, out burst a great orange-
red flame!
    Everyone blinked.
    "*Oh* boy," said Kid Enthusiastic. "Skunk Girl, get the noncombatants out!"
    "Right!" SG picked up Kid E and put him on her shoulders. She lifted Lester
O'Brien up in a bridal carry ("Hey!") and skeddadled.
    "Not me!" shouted Kid E. "I'm your leader! Also, wheeeeeee~!"
    "Let's talk it out, PC Person," said Hell Catalyst, stretching out her hands,
waves of calm coming off her. "I'm sorry we didn't acknowledge your concerns
before. We're listening now, y'know?" Her smile shone like the sun.
    "Well..." PC was breathing hard, hands flexing, a circular area in the middle
of his button-up shirt smoldering like campfire embers. "That helps..."
    "Mmmm-hm," said Tyrannus Auron, slipping his suit jacket on. "I'm sure they'll
really and truly listen, now that you've said 'please'. After all, it's *so*
different than all the other times."
    "No, no, that's not how it..." PC swallowed, a ripple of flame starting at
his hairline and running back over his head like wind through amber grain. "You
don't know... you don't..."
    "You're right," said Golden Man, stepping between Tyrannus Auron and PC
Person, making sure he was the closest target for any attacks and giving Auron
the stinkeye over his shoulder. "He doesn't know you at *all*. You can handle
this anger, PC Person. You've got the willpower of a hero."
    "Yes..." said PC Person hoarsely. "But I've been... I've been bearing up
under it for so long, no one... no one pays attention, even the heroes, no one
*cares*..." The last word was punctuated by a whumph like a gas stove turning
on. A momentary flame burst over PC's chest and winked out.
    WikiBoy edged over to the closest person - Miss Social-Cues. "I can't suggest
edits," he whispered urgently, "but..."
    She looked at him with big, innocent eyes. "But what?"
    He blinked, then shook his head. "Sorry, wrong person to insinuate at."
    Painful Pun Person stepped forward. "I'm sorry, PC. I don't even know what I
said wrong. But I really want to! I don't want to be Painfully Prejudiced Person!"
Hell Catalyst focused on catalyzing her regret and sincerity.
    PC Person looked up into her eyes. "No... I... you're not just saying that...
you really care... right?" He reached out a hand.
    "That's it," said Tyrannus Auron, suddenly in PC's personal space, eyes locked
to his. "Let them say their platitudes, let them make a shallow little change,
and that'll make up for the dismissal, the conscious ignorance of all the
oppression their little club of status quo protectors refuse to confront."
    PC Person fell to his knees. "You-- YOU!"
    "That's *IT*!" Golden Man lifted Tyrannus Auron in the air--
    The scream was a shockwave of energy, buffeting the bodies of everyone around
him, tossing them around like ragdolls. A figure of pure fire lifted into the
air, glass shattering, spinning lazily to the ground.
    "NO MORE BEING QUIET!" thundered a voice from everywhere. "NO MORE HOLDING

                    #3.5: "Basic Politeness Gone Mad!" Part 4
    "NO MORE BEING QUIET!" thundered a voice from everywhere. "NO MORE HOLDING
    Far above the building floated a fiery silhouette, boiling from red to orange
to yellow. Lester sped away in his car. Kid Enthusiastic and Skunk Girl stood on
the lawn and stared, no longer recognizing the shape as PC Person.
    "I thought this was going to be a *wacky* serial," muttered Skunk Girl.
    Golden Man stumbled out of the lobby, the rest of the Core LNH following
behind, costumes torn, hair ashy. He looked up, sighed, rolled up his sleeves,
and cracked his knuckles. "Okay. Well, Kid, you're in charge - what do we do?"
    Kid Enthusiastic shook himself out. "Right!" He dropped his backpack and dug
into it, pulling out weird devices. "It seems like he's tapping into some cosmic
power source maybe net.elemental Flame but definitely emotion-based so if we can
talk him down then we can LOOK OUT!!"
    The shape of flame flared white-hot. "NON-BINARY PULSE!" echoed Non-Binary's
voice, and a scintillating wave of light rolled across the city. The net.heroes
rolled for cover, but the light just passed through them.
    "Crap!" Kid Enthusiastic rose, holding a megaphone. "WikiBoy, you generate
personal force shields!" they shouted. "Golden Man, hold them off! Hell Catalyst,
try to calm them-- wait a sec."
    Painful Pun Person gasped. "It's a theirstorical event! All third-person
pronouns have been switched to the 'they/them' set!"
    WikiBoy spun, enbubbling Golden Man as they flew at the flaming figure and
engaged in fisticuffs. Hell Catalyst stretched out their arms and projected pure
calm. WikiBoy tried to bubble them, only to find that this ability had a 10-
second cooldown added in the last patch for purposes of game balance.
    Kid Enthusiastic cobbled together an energy-draining anti-cannon and gave it
to Skunk Girl, who hefted it onto their shoulder and tried to siphon off the
midair inferno. Painful Pun Person shouted something about there being no such
thing as two, but it was lost in the crackling furor.
    "It's not working!" shouted Skunk Girl. "They're not listening!"
    "I know what'll make this guy less upset! A *song!*" Miss Social-Cues jumped
up on top of a piece of fallen masonry and started singing. "Oh, cheer up sad
kid, don't let the skies be blue..."
    With an inarticulate shout of rage, Non-Binary broke away from Golden Man and
turned, lashing out with a gout of pain and rage and sheer destructive Flame -
right at Miss Social-Cues.
    "NO!" shouted Wikiboy, stretching out a hand. "Come on come on WORK!"
    It didn't work. MSC, eyes wide in surprise, disappeared in fire.
    "No..." The flames froze for a moment, curling waves on a burning sea. "...NO!
I DIDN'T MEAN TO!" With a screech of grief, Non-Binary rose up on a pillar of
fire and disappeared into the sky.
    Golden Man turned and sped toward the target of the flame, mind already
recalling the location of Lost Cause Boy Memorial Hospital, hoping they wouldn't
have to add another statue to the Hall of Lost Heroes--
    Miss Social-Cues stood there, on the scorched grass, perfectly untouched by
the pure elemental Flame.
    They blinked at their concerned teammates. "...oh!" They snapped their fingers.
"They were *angry*, weren't they..."

                    #4.0: "Basic Politeness Gone Mad!" Part 5
    Ten minutes later, the Core LNH gathered in the LNHQ's library. Library Lad
brought them stacks of books, but otherwise stayed out of the way, because it's
harder than I thought to fit this many characters in a one-page story?
    "Thanks, Multi-Tasking Man." Skunk Girl hung up their communicator. "Non-
Binary is on the moon, in the Gray Area. M-TM thinks they're *brooding*."
    "Okay, we got a little time." Kid Enthusiastic sat on one of the bookshelves,
an Esmerelda the Reading Kiwi plushie in their arms. "HC, your powers are linked
to Flame. Do you know what's happening to PC?"
    "I don't know what triggered it," said Hell Catalyst, "but I know what's
happening now. They've gone into the depths of the Flame. No longer able to hold
back their emotions, negative or positive. As they brood, their frustrated,
righteous rage is mixing with their anxiety over hurting someone. If we don't
talk them down, they could completely burn themselves out."
    "And they have power enough to take a major net.ropolitan city with them,"
said Golden Man.
    "Aw jeez." Kid E ran their hands through their hair, put Esmerelda back on
their nest, turned upside-down, and started pacing on their hands. "Okay okay
okay. We gotta talk to them, gotta calm them down."
    Golden Man sighed, a heavy, deep sigh that bore the weight of ages. "You 
I've always prided myself on being, mmm, polite, helpful, kind... *chivalrous*.
Not one of the crude or rough members of the Legion. Yet I dismissed PC Person's
concerns as readily and casually as any of them."
    Kid E hopped down from the bookshelf, ran up and hugged them! "It's not your
fault, GM. We all could've done more."
    "Heh..." Golden Man hugged KE in their brawny arms. "Thanks, kid."
    "I've been reading up on where 'politically correct' comes from," said Painful
Pun Person. "Looks like it was originally used by socialists to critique Communist
party members for caring about toeing the party line more than following their
    Golden Man nodded. "I remember breaking up a lot of fights about that sort of
thing, back when it seemed like half the union boys in America were one kind of
socialist or another."
    "After that, it was left to 'the left' to use it to critique each other in
similar dogma-over-good-person-ness ways. Then in the late '80s, people started
using it to say that schools and newspapers were closed-minded for trying to
include a wider variety of people and ideas."
    Hell Catalyst nodded. "And shortly after that is when PC Person showed up -
not long after the Cosmic Plot Device Caper."
     "I've been trying to look up their origin," said WikiBoy, looking up from a
laptop, "see if that gives us a clue. But the post with their first appearance
isn't in any archive. The earliest we have is 'Part II'."
    Miss Social-Cues hung back, watching the discussion. Everyone else was trying
to figure out how to make PC Person feel better... that wasn't something they
were good at. Maybe they could be helpful by... getting drinks?
    They wandered out into the hallway and put five bucks into the Mr. Paprika
machine. They pushed the button for Electric Chocolate Mayhem Mr. Paprika... and
nothing happened. They frowned, tap-tapping the button and hmmming...
    "Having trouble, miss?" They looked up, into the eyes of - TYRANNUS AURON!

                    #4.5: "Basic Politeness Gone Mad!" Part 6
    Miss Social-Cues looked up, into the eyes of - TYRANNUS AURON!
    "Oh. Hi." They looked back down at the soda machine, trying to wiggle the
button into working.
    "...need any help?" the malevolent conqueror inquired.
    "...ah. Well." Their eyes tracked left and right, and they took a bit of a
step out of their personal space. "Very well."
    MSC nodded absently, clicking the plastic button back and forth. Eventually
they just thumped it into their fist, and the can thumped into the slot. They
smiled slightly and took it, flicking the tab and taking a sip. They started
walking away.
    Tyrannus Auron stepped up beside them. "Not to object too terribly hard, but
I note that you haven't done anything particularly heroic at the evildoer in
your midst."
    Miss Social-Cues sighed. "Dude, I don't wanna *talk* to you."
    "Ah?" They smiled. "A refusal to speak with the enemy?"
    They shook their head fiercely. "It's not cos you were a villain, it's cos
you were an *asshole*." They swept their hands out, nearly dropped their soda,
juggled it, put it to the side, and faced them. "Like... PC Person was hurting,
like *really* stressed, and you just made them completely freak out. You might
believe that stuff about status quos and whatever, and you might even be right,
but for fuck's sake, you can't stop whatever game you're playing for two minutes
to let someone pick whether they wanna play!"
    "...I admit, this wasn't a response I had expected." T. Auron folded their
hands. "Passionate anger, certainly, but in the context of my villainous persona,
not the person within."
    "Yeah, but I never know when to get mad about that sort of thing. All I know
is what I see." They poked them in the chest. "What I see is, you're supposed to
be a *cool* bad guy. Someone we can kinda want to be like, smarter and more
stylin' than the heroes. The kind of guy who doesn't make jerk moves like that."
    "Heh. Well, I'm flattered, and... I must say, you're not wrong. I shall... I
suppose I shall endeavor to live up to my persona in the future." They assayed
them a short bow. "As apology, may I offer a clue?"
    MSC blinked, then grinned. "Oh, sure!"
    T. Auron smiled. "I've spent a fair bit of study on the functioning of your
happy group. In this case, I would say that, before proceeding, you should
familiarize yourself with the Discourse."
    MSC ohhhh'd. "That was really cryptic!"
    T. Auron grinned. "Thank you. Have a good evening, and I'll get you next time,
Gadget." They walked off, humming.
    Miss Social-Cues ran a hand over their hair and shook themself out. Whew!
Getting angry took a lot out of you. They finished their soda, then got drinks
for everybody else and headed back to the library.
    Skunk Girl and Golden Man were standing and arguing. Kid Enthusiastic was
hopping around, trying to interject. Painful Pun Person and Hell Catalyst were
doing a cat's cradle. WikiBoy was leafing through a book, ignoring them all.
    Miss Social-Cues put two fingers in their mouth and whistled. Everybody
looked up. "Guess what! I got a Clue!"

                    #4.75: "Basic Politeness Gone Mad!" Part 7
    The Core LNH was gathered around the big table, pondering on the clue that
Miss Social-Cues had gotten from Tyrannus Auron.
    "Familiarize yourself with the discourse..." Golden Man stroked their chin.
"Do we need to dig deeper into the history of 'PC'?"
    "I don't think so," said Hell Catalyst, hands clasped before them, brows
furrowed. "I believe Tyrannus Auron is referring to a more mystical concept -
the net.element of Discourse."
    "I've never heard of that one!" declared Kid Enthusiastic.
    "It's lesser-known than the traditional net.elements. While the four best
known, Net, Thread, Keystroke and Flame, are the net.magical equivalents of Air,
Water, Earth and Fire, Discourse is the net.element of Light."
    "I see!" said Painful Pun Person, grinning.
    "All the net.elements represent forms and methods of communication, but
Discourse is the act of communication, of putting a signal out into the world,
in its purest form."
    "How'd you find out about this?" asked WikiBoy, taking notes.
    "Occultism Lad does a metaphysical checkout on me every six months, just in
case my Revampirism flares up. They told me they'd been researching the net.
elements, and they thought my powers might be based in Discourse."
    "Huh," said Skunk Girl. "I thought your power was psychic, not magic. Like
Catalyst Lass's."
    "It's that, too," agreed Hell Catalyst. "The net.elements are a way of
interpreting the world. Cat's and my powers - they're magical, or psychic, or
just strength of personality, and all those things are kind of different things,
but also kind of the same thing."
    "Then that's it!" said Kid Enthusiastic, hopping up on their chair. "We thought
Non-Binary was just throwing around Flame, but it's actually a combination of
Flame and Discourse!"
    "Makes sense," said Painful Pun Person. "PC Person was always discoursing and
discursing about one thing or another."
    "Hell Catalyst," said Kid E, "do you know if there's a net.elemental equivalent
of Darkness?"
    "Yes, actually," they said. "It's a power that's been used by many LNHers,
but was not recognized as a net.element until recently - Lurking."
    "Aha!" Kid E pumped their fist. "New plan! WikiBoy, lemme know if this works -
we power you up to Non-Binary's level with Lurking, face them on an equal playing
field, and talk them down!"
    WikiBoy put down their notebook. "I'd say... the only way to find out is to
try it." They smiled.
    "Ah... Kid Enthusiastic," said Skunk Girl. "Can I talk to you for a sec?"
    "Oh, sure," they said, hopping off their chair and stepping to the side.
    "Are you..." SG hmh'd, trying to word it. "Are you sure it's a good idea,
giving WikiBoy this much power? The LNH hasn't always treated them the best, and
I know they can get kinda bitter about it..."
    Kid E frowned at them, then smiled and squeezed their hand. "Skunk Girl, you
    should listen when WikiBoy talks. I think you'd learn a lot."
    Skunk Girl frowned, then sighed and smiled. "Okay, Leader-san."
    Kid E gave them a thumbs-up, then pointed to the ceiling. "Time to head to
the moon!"

                    #5.0: "Basic Politeness Gone Mad!" Part 8
    Mare Crisium, a basaltic plain on the surface of the Moon formed by an ancient
volcanic eruption. Somewhere near the center sits a small human form, wrapped in
coruscating flame, curled around themselves and unmoving. As emotions burn through
this being's brain, the color of the flame shifts; yellow with fear; red with
self-hatred; orange with doubt; white with rage.
    A new star appears in the sky above them, and resolves to the streamlined
form of an LNH space.thingee. Non-Binary stirs, eyes tracking the craft as it
lands not a hundred feet away.
    Figures pile out. With their cosmic senses, Non-Binary can see them; it's the
Core LNH, in shiny silver space versions of their costumes with forcefields to
protect them from the vacuum of space. They can see the leader's mouth moving,
    "WikiBoy, you are... BLACKBIRD, the Lurking-based clone of Non-Binary, who
got swept under the rug in favor of them due to editorial interference!"
    And suddenly, Non-Binary's cosmic senses were overwhelmed by a flash of
darkness, a curling, avian shape rising from the moon's surface. They could feel
it, as Blackbird channeled the frustration of all of the characters out there
who were well-written and well-characterized but unappreciated, considered second
fiddles to older characters with more name recognition - frustration as powerful
as the naked rage of Non-Binary!
    Non-Binary roared in the vacuum and lifted into the sky. Blackbird flew up to
meet them, and there was a thunderous unsound as their conflicting energies met
above the silver sea of dust.
    And in that thunderous unsound was a voice: Hey. I'm listening.
    Blackbird responded in a gout of Flame: GO AWAY. GET GO STOP GO AWAY FROM ME
    I'm not going to hurt you. But I'm right here.
    They hurt you a lot. They dismissed you. They didn't listen.
    YES those fUCKERS hurt hurt they didn't CARE about ANYBODY i was TRYING to
    You cared a lot. It was your identity - you were created to care, and to be
the butt of jokes about caring too much.
    YES... yes... i cared and... i got mad and... oh... oh my god oh my god
    Hey, hey. It's okay.
    I can't I can't I hurt someone and it's all gone wrong I'm sorry I'm sorry I
just wanted to help I'm sorry
    And Blackbird pointed a finger of dark fire, and Non-Binary saw it - among
the silver shapes watching the battle, the one they had hurt, Miss Social-Cues,
there and alive and breathing and perfectly OK.
    oh... ohhhhh... oh.
    Non-Binary's Flame cooled. The bird of fire floated off into the night,
leaving only a thin sheath of Flame to hold their life in. Their feet landed on
the ground. They spoke, and the Discourse poured out of them and into the ears
of the Legionnaires: "I'm sorry. I went too far."
    Blackbird landed next to them, and used their actual radio to reply. "You
shouted because no one was listening. But we're listening now. So tell us: Who
are you?"

                    #5.5: "Basic Politeness Gone Mad!" Part 9
    "We're listening now. So tell us: Who are you?"
    Non-Binary took a deep breath, exhaled in the void. "...I *thought* I was PC
Person. I thought I was..."
    "Patrick Chester Peterson, a young... person living a pretty normal suburban-
upper-middle-class life, and wanting be just like my dad. He was the net.hero
Asterisk, one of the great heroes of the pre-Cosmic Plot Device Caper era. Back
before social media as we know it today, he was fighting the good fight, bringing
good discussion to the early Internet. He had the ability to absorb and transform
net.elements; he was known for absorbing the Flame of the Great Early Flamewars,
transforming it into powerful Discourse."
    "When he died, I found out that he was from the Alien Internet of Hwuau, and
that he came to this planet to fix the balance of the net.elements. I found out
that I had inherited his net.elemental powers. I decided I'd make my own identity,
and step into his footsteps, be a heroic man like him. I decided I'd bring
Discourse to the world."
    "...I didn't really know what I was doing. I made a persona based on what I
saw the most awful-sounding people arguing against, leapt into a conversation
that I didn't really know anything about, and started trying to use my powers to
get people to act better. All I accomplished was getting Ultimate Ninja mad at me."
    "I decided the problem was that I was using my powers to directly try to
influence people. So I decided to just absorb their Flame and let myself speak
the Discourse."
    "But... it didn't work. Nobody got what I was saying. They never seemed to be
listening, no matter how loud I was, no matter how much I pled my case. And I
kept absorbing the Flame, and absorbing, and taking in more and more until..."
Non-Binary let out a breath, and the envelope of Flame shimmered around them.
    Blackbird reached out with their wings of darkness. Non-Binary hesitated, but
reached out, and light and darkness curled around each other halfway.
    "I understand... it's hard to hold up your end of a meaningful conversation
when you feel like you're constantly under attack, constantly the butt of the
joke, constantly under the impression that you messed up and you deserve this,
but you don't know how, and you don't know how to fix it, and you can't stop
fighting until you do..."
    Non-Binary's face crinkled up. They fell to their knees, aura still twining
with Blackbird's, and wept, glistening tears of pure light falling to the lunar
surface and staining the silver with golden grief. The golden light grew, bright,
blinding, and in a flash...
    ...they were back on the front lawn of the LNHQ.
    Kid Enthusiastic checked the atmosphereometer to make sure things were kosher,
and turned off his forcefield. "Convenient! ...oh, hey, pronouns are back!"
    Non-Binary knelt, sans Flame, on the ground. Blackbird's dark flame dissipated,
and WikiBoy knelt to give them a hug. "Do you need anything?"
    Non-Binary wiped their eyes. "Mmmmm... to sit down... and talk... and maybe
some pizza."
    "Sounds like a plan."

                    #5.75: "Basic Politeness Gone Mad!" Epilogue
    Non-Binary sat on the overstuffed recliner in the Legion TV room. The Core
LNH was arrayed on the couches, and everyone was sharing an Ultra Supreme pie
from the Pizza Pit.
    WikiBoy took a sip of orange soda. "The Lurking spoke to me - or, sort of,
left gaps in the conversation that sounded like words. It said you never really
knew it."
    Non-Binary nodded, halfway through their fourth slice - it turned out going
cosmic took a lot out of you. "Yeah. I figured I just needed to bring Discourse,
and Lurking was the opposite of that, so I kinda ignored it."
    "You never learned how to balance Discourse and Lurking," said Hell Catalyst,
dipping a breadstick in marinara. "Speaking and listening."
    "Um..." said WikiBoy hesitantly. "It also told me what you weren't speaking
about. Why you reset everyone's pronouns. But, uh, that's your business and I
don't, won't say if you don't want, heh heh."
    "...heh." Non-Binary shook their head. "I mean, I think everybody's guessed,
I'm non-binary. As in gender."
    Six people nodded. "...*ohh*," said Miss Social-Cues.
    "You could have just said," said Painful Pun Person. "We've been getting a
lot of members like that since Drew and Jeanne came out."
    Non-Binary sighed. "I was pushing Lester so hard because I was hoping I'd get
to use my pronouns without having to kick up a fuss. But I guess I kicked up the
biggest fuss of all."
    "Don't worry about it, du-- er, you," said Skunk Girl. "Um, what are your
pronouns, then? They and them and such?"
    PC Person shook PC Person's head. "My pronouns, um, the ones I've been thinking
about using... Asterself. They're, um, I made them up myself. I'll use them in a
sentence, um..." PC Person ahemed. "Aster fought the giant monster, and I fought
it with aster. The victory was asters and mine, and aster took care of the cleanup
    The Core LNH applauded! "Nice!" said Kid Enthusiastic.
    "It'll take a bit to memorize, but so did zip codes, and at least these mean
something," said Golden Man.
    "So," said Painful Pun Person, "are you going to keep calling yourself Non-
Binary, go back to being PC Person, go on a road trip around America to find
    Aster sat back. "Well... it's definitely time for a new identity. I'm hoping
I can learn to balance Lurking and Discourse, learn how to use these powers to
really help people and push things forward..." Aster sat up. "And become... the
Social Justice Defender!"
    The Core LNH applauded again! "Double nice!" said Kid Enthusiastic.
    "So, fearless leader," said Skunk Girl, "was the first mission of the Core
LNH everything you'd hoped for?"
    "Well, I don't know what Fearless Leader would think," said Kid Enthusiastic,
grinning, "but I had a lot of fun, and isn't that what really matters?"
    "Er, no," said Golden Man. "What matters is helping people."
    "And we did that too!!" Kid E leapt up in the air for a high-five, and 
except Miss Social-Cues high-fived back! "Good job, Core LNH!"

Author's Note: The Alien Internet of Hwuau is based on the WOW! Signal:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wow!_signal Naturally, the theory that it's a
dropped packet from an immensely powerful hyperspace Internet has not yet caught
on in the scientific community.

Logo based on ASCII art by Joan G. Stark.

Drew "there we go, I feel a lot better" Nilium

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