Baron Zemo's Lair

Lair Legion: Year One, part 1 – Why there is only one Twin Parody Tower in Paradopolis today
Saturday, 08-Jan-2000 11:26:49 writes:

    This is the story of the greatest heroes of a very strange place on the far edge of the probability curve called the Parodyverse. It tells how they came to be, and why, and of the reasons for the plummeting property values of their hometown of Paradopolis. It contains the secret of the universe. It’s a tale of triumph and tragedy, but like most stories set in the Parodyverse it’s mainly a tale of ripped-off characters and marginally humorous misunderstandings. And like all stories it’s hard to know where to begin telling it.
         We might start our tale with young Mr Hopkins, his scrubby hair brushed, his sneakers polished, his Bros t-shirt neatly ironed, arriving for his first day on a two week school intern programme at a great metropolitan newspaper.
         “You!” the red-faced man with the toothbrush moustache bellowed at him as he ventured into the offices of the Daily Trombone.
         “Er, me?” Mark Hopkins worried, backing away into the water cooler, which came out of his wages (or would have done if he got any).
         “Do you see anyone else here?” demanded newspaper proprietor J. James Jerkson. “If anyone else was in the office at all, if those blanketty-blanked unions hadn’t objected to me installing pay lavatories in the staff areas, do you really think that I’d be giving this plum assignment to some sort of spotty fourteen year old who should have been shipped off to Viet Nam to become a man?”
         “I guess not,” the intern agreed, mopping the spilled water with a sheaf of important documents off a striking reporter’s desk. He decided not to point out to Jerkson that the Viet Nam conflict had been over for decades. The editor might explode, and then Hopkins would have to mop that us as well. “I, um, I’m Mark Hopkins, sir… but everyone calls me spiffy because…”
         “I have no interest whatsoever in you or your name, you repellent youth!” JJJ thundered. “Unless you happen to know what this is.”
         spiffy put on his intelligent expression – a sort of constipated frown - and looked at the item Jerkson was waving. “A camera?” he suggested.
         “Fine!” grumped the newspaperman. “You’re hired – on an unpaid temporary basis. Take this press pass and get down to the grand opening of the Twin Parody Towers. I presume you know about the Twin Parody Towers?”
         “Um, you mean the tallest buildings in Paradopolis, in the world, that have been dominating the city skyline since they construction started sixteen months ago?” Mark ventured.
         He went on his first assignment as a cub reporter before Jerkson could hurl the second typewriter at him.
         We could instead start our narrative in the dim, dusty legal offices of Coot, Coot, Wellfudge, and Coot, attorneys at law, where the newest member of the Coot, Coot, Wellfudge, and Coot family was crouched behind her economy-sized desk trying to fight last night’s hangover, working out how she had managed to get lipstick, Kool-Whip, and pizza in some of the places she had done, and trying to decipher the crabbed handwritten note from the last remaining partner of the law firm, Mr Ezriah Coot.
         “Does this say I’ve got to get the deeds out of the box, or that I’ve got to speed out in my socks ?” she puzzled rather blearily.
         Mrs Arterychoke, the vast legal secretary who ruled the offices with a rod of iron and weighed three hundred pounds in just her reinforced corsets had already marked young Lisa Waltz down as a troublemaker. There was too much of the devil in this one, she (rightly) suspected. “I’m sure I’ve got better things to do with my time than teach you to read, Mizzzzz Waltz,” the vast administrator replied haughtily.
         Lisa reached down into her top drawer and brought out a torch-sized battery-powered object that wasn’t a torch. “That’s alright, you can borrow one of mine,” she smiled sweetly as she went off towards the legal stack where all the old documents were kept.
         Lisa didn’t like the old storerooms. They smelled of mildew and of promises which kept the letter but broke the spirit of the deal. She strongly suspected there were rats, and vowed to herself yet again that someday she would get a cat. Most of all she didn’t like it because it reminded her of the orphanage where she and her sister had spent most of their childhoods, dank and gloomy and full of rules.
         Perhaps that’s why she managed to get lost. She had finally deciphered that she was to take the transfer deeds for the land which the Twin Parody Towers had been built on along to the ceremony so that they could be officially presented by the contractor who had built the massive site to the CEO of the New Tomorrow Foundation who had paid for it. She thought she knew where the deeds were, but she found herself passing old oak shelves that she’d never seen before.
         “What the hell are these files?” she wondered, bending her neck sideways to read the faded inkpen writing on the old box files. “ManMan? Goldeneyed? Troia? Exile? Infrequent Aardvark? Zemette?” None of it made any sense to her, and she suddenly felt a shudder as if a Little Sister of the Discipline had run over her grave. She backed off and stumbled over something that might have been furry and moving down in the darkness. In reaching out to prevent herself from falling she accidentally toppled one of the massive volumes from the top shelf.
         The tome bounced off the floor. It’s spine tore, scattering pages across the dark floorboards of the legal stack. Lisa swore.
         She quickly stooped to gather together the loose pages, but it was clear that she couldn’t easily reassemble the volume in the right order. Printed on the front in faded gold leaf was “The Booke of the Law,” and that told Lisa she was in trouble because any book that called itself a “booke” was probably very old and immensely valuable. She stuffed all the pages back in any old how, then hid the whole thing up her silk blouse and smuggled it back to her briefcase, hoping she could fix the thing up after the Twin Parody Towers ceremony.
         She was, mistakenly, rather looking forward to the reception afterwards.
         Or we could focus on that rather seedy looking, unshaven man in the trenchcoat down in the reporters enclosure in the marble-faced reception area of the Twin Parody Towers. He’s the one knocking back the free booze as if it was, well, free. Notice that all the experienced journalists and photogs who have gathered for the official opening give this guy a good ten foot clearance zone and avoid making eye contact with him. In fact only one person there is innocent and stupid enough to talk to him.
         “Excuse me,” asked spiffy, “is this where the reporters are supposed to be?”
         “Penned up like sheep being led to the slaughter, you mean, while the whore-hopping mayor and his faeces-licking cronies plan the further desecration of all this is good and leach the life out of the city like so many painted succubi?” the older pressman replied savagely.
         “I suppose so,” Mark Hopkins agreed carefully.
         The seasoned reporter pulled his hat further down to shadow his eyes and regarded the newcomer. “Perhaps you’re too young to have been tainted by the bitter pestilence of corruption that these flesh-eaters have wallowed in,” he decided. “How do you do. I’m Greg Burch, crime reporter on the Gothametropolis Times.”
         “spiffy. Trombone,” spiffy answered, and immediately wished he hadn’t.
         “Well, Trombone, look around you,” Burch advised. “What do you see?”
         “Conspiracy,” the man in the trenchcoat corrected. “Look over there at the VIP area. See the young Filipino in the tux talking with the Senator? That’s Jaimie Bautista, sole owner of Bautista Enterprises since the convenient death of his parents a year ago made him a multi-millionaire. Now all the papers reported that this guy was involved in a near-fatal car crash about six weeks ago, and that he lost all his limbs. Does he look quadriplegic to you?”
         “Well, you can’t believe everything you read in the papers,” reasoned spiffy, regarding the handsome, debonair businessman who according to the press packs had contributed the engineering of a unique new anti-earthquake shock system for the Towers.
         Burch snorted. “Well look over there then. Pieter Modonov of New Tomorrow Enterprises. They built this place at a cost of more than twice the estimate, and have it insured for twice as much again. You’re not telling me that half the erection costs and a fair amount of insurance commission haven’t wormed their way back into some corporate sleazeball’s pocket?”
         “Perhaps they just wanted to make it nice?” suggested spiffy.
         “Yeah, and that so-called king of the sea monkeys just wants peaceful co-existence with humans,” snorted Greg Burch, referring to the current national news topic, the discovery of a new sentient life-form and its aspirations to set up diplomatic ties with the USA. “Well what about those two then?” he demanded, gesturing to a man and woman whispering together by the doorway to the Mayor’s room. “You’re not going to tell me that they’re not nefarious, sin-eaten, bribe-whoring, soulless go-getters, are you?”
         “So… things look pretty grim then?” Visionary worried, tugging at the collar of his rented tux and wondering why that reporter in the grubby mac was glowering at him.
         “No, not grim,” his wife Cheryl told him. “Just slightly perturbing. I’m getting some funny readings for the Towers’ automated systems, that’s all. And I want everything to go just so, with no hitches.”
         Cheryl (she didn’t customarily use a second name, because she refused to be called Cheryl Visionary) was one of the engineers responsible to managing the computerised environmental controls of the new skyscrapers. She had been headhunted by New Tommorow about eight months earlier, although she had been put through the most comprehensive screening process she’d ever known to actually get the job. New Tomorrow Enterprises evidently took the welfare of their staff very seriously, judging by the amount of questions they had asked about her husband. They’d even insisted that he have a medical. They’d lost interest in him after the aptitude test, however. And she still had no clue why they should expect her to know a scientist named Dr Vizhnar.
         Visionary had come along today to support his wife in her big break, and because there was free food. It beat sitting around in the condo watching the Space Ghost Coast to Coast chat show anyway. “So do I worry a lot or a huge amount?” the no-idea-yet-he-might-possibly-be-a-fake-man asked his wife.
         Then every window in the front of the tower blew in.
         “Attention, pitiful fools limited by your lack of vision and your meagre grubbing for wealth and status in a world order which is now at an end!” the powerful-looking figure in the green cloak boomed to the shocked and screaming revellers at the opening ceremony. “I am Peter von Doom, although henceforth you may address me as master.” The villain appeared to be hovering in thin air, twenty feet above the ornamental lobby fountain. “You may now consider yourselves to be my hostages. Both this tower and its sister are now surrounded by dimensional force-fields of my devising…”
         “Ahem” came the deliberate cough of an unassuming little man dressed in a pinstriped suit that screamed accountant.
         “Well, technologies that I would have devised had I not been loaned them on a franchise basis,” Peter von Doom admitted, “but flaming good dimensional force fields all the same. You can all consider yourselves my prisoners, hostages until my demands for world rulership have been met.”
         “You cannot be serious!” Lisa Waltz argued scornfully, stepping out of a storage closet, smoothing down her linen jacket, and carefully shutting the door after her so as not to wake the security guard who was now sleeping the sleep of the happily exhausted. “You think they’re going to give you the planet because you take a bunch of prisoners? Hello? Reality check!”
         “Who’s she?” Visionary puzzled.
         “Somebody not too up on hostage negotiation techniques?” suggested Cheryl.
         “I have over a thousand of the richest, most powerful, businessmen, politicians, world leaders, and media stars in the world in my grasp,” Peter von Doom argued. “The ransoms alone would allow me to buy this planet!”
         “Who you tryin’ to ransom, foo’?!” objected Mr T.
         “We’ve got to do something,” whispered spiffy. “Perhaps we can throw something at that von Doom guy?”
         “Wouldn’t work,” Greg Burch replied, leaning back into a pool of shadow which the tower’s lighting designers had somehow overlooked. “That’s only a hologram. No shadow. The real von Doom’s obviously somewhere else.”
         “That is clearly a hologram.” Baron Heinrich Wilheim Wolfgang Groppler Zemo scowled, watching the crisis live as it unfolded on his TV set. Reception was quite bad here in his isolated castle, but he intended to fix that when he ruled the world by banning all television entirely, and crucifying Oprah Winfrey, David Letterman, Space Ghost, and anybody associated with the WWF.
         “The lack of shadow? Yes,” agreed his wife, the beautiful Baroness Heike von Zemo. “I suppose the real von Doom is down there disguised as Modonov, the CEO of New Tomorrow Enterprises, since Modonov’s an anagram of von Doom?”
         “Er, yes,” agreed the Baron. “It is very tedious of that ignorant amateur to try something like this just now when I am on the eve of my own brilliant plan to make you Empress of the World, leibling. Apart from anything else, people might discover the reason I had those twin towers actually built.”
         “They never suspected a thing,” the Man Who Wasn’t There didn’t smirk. “All those cost overruns, me slipping in to alter the builders’ plans by night, getting Bautista to install that so-called anti-earthquake technology. And they never suspected that what they’ve built is effectively a giant tuning fork, capable of shattering the very bedrock of their city and sending it plunging headlong into the sea.”
         “Well the vibrations are building up now,” the grating voice of the Grim Reaper snarled from the corner where he was pulling wings off flies. “If we don’t get that dimensional force-field thing of his down our own attempts to trigger the sinking of Paradopolis will come to naught.
         “Never fear,” the Baron told his allies. “I have sent the final member of our little cabal in there to deal with the situation. Peter von Doom is no match for the power of… Fin Fang Foom!”
         Lisa was in deep trouble. Peter von Doom’s killbots had just decloaked and now fully twenty of the clunky, weapon-laden machines were pointing dangerous-looking things that gave off ripples of black dots at the terrified crowd. Two of them were moving to flank the advocatrix.
         “Watch out,” the young inventor who was the creative as well as the financial heart of Bautista Enterprises warned her, stepping between Lisa and the approaching mechanoids. “Those things look to be carrying Mark VI vector proton accelerators, channelled through a quantium-four crystalling targeting grid and powered with a sub-ionic pulse generator – at first glance.”
         “That doesn’t sound good,” the young lawyer admitted. She wondered if the brave and handsome Dr Jaimie Bautista was attached.
         “I don’t need this many hostages anyway,” Peter von Doom decided. “Let’s give the world an example that we’re serious about our demands. Kill her.”
         A mark VI vector proton accelerators channelled through a quantium-four crystalling targeting grid and powered with a sub-ionic pulse generator whined as it targeted Lisa Waltz.
         “Someone’s got to do something,” repeated spiffy, helpless too far away from the VIP compound to even try to interfere just now. “Mr Burch, do you think…?” But the seedy crime reporter had somehow vanished.
         The lethal blast seemed to shimmer towards the brave lawyer in slow motion. Lisa could see death coming but knew she could never move fast enough to avoid it.
         Jaimie Bautista leaped in front of her, taking the blast full in his chest. He was hurled aside, and span off the dais with a bizarre clanking noise. Undaunted, the second killbot targeted the advocatrix.
         Lisa needed help. She needed a hero, and she’d never found one. She wanted a hero right then, and she was going to die if she didn’t get one. That one thought seemed to suffuse her whole being as she gripped tight to her briefcase (the one with the Booke of the Law in it, actually) with fear-whitened fingers. She needed to summon a hero.
         “Bring her corpse to me for display,” Peter von Doom ordered.
         There was a bright flash of light and the two killbots were melted into slag by energy beams from a handsome man in a tux who had just appeared beside the advocatrix. “Get it yourself!” shouted Jarvis.
         “Hey!” spiffy gasped, talking to no-one now from the refuge he’d taken behind a large aspidistra – he’s hidden behind plants for comfort since he was a tiny child, ever since that strange anonymous Christmas present book he’d got when he was four on The Fern, Our Friend. “That’s Jarvis the adventurer! The guy who went off exploring and discovered the secret city of Shangri-La, and a mysterious cave which granted him amazing powers beyond those of mortal man! I’ve gotta get a picture of this for old man Jerkson! Um, where did I leave my camera?”
         The Parodyverse’s first celebrity superhero since the disbanding of the Golden Age Matadors at the end of world war II shrugged off a blast from the second killbot and ripped a third and a fourth apart with his bare hands.
         “Hey, this guy’s pretty good!” admitted Visionary, but Cheryl was back in front of the building monitoring equipment.
         “Something strange is happening, and I don’t understand the readings,” she admitted. “In fact, there are bits of the system I’m getting readings from that I don’t think I’ve seen before. Come on, we need to check the basements.”
         “I, uh, I think we’re supposed to be hostages,” Vizh told his wife.
         “We can get killed later, dear. Right now all the killbots are busy shooting the butler-man over there. The service stairway is over here…”
         “Jarvis, you meddling fool,” Peter von Doom laughed as one of the hero’s energy-blasts passed right through his holographic image, “you cannot hope to defeat fully twenty of my killbots. They are the fruits of my greatest genius, unstoppable and indest…”
         “Ahem” the accountant accompanying the villain interrupted.
         “They are the sort of thing I would build given the time in my busy schedule, and are unstoppable and indestructible,” corrected von Doom. Damned licensing agreements with Thugos the extradimensional intergalactic tyrant!
         Jarvis certainly seemed to be having difficulties now they had caught him in their restraint coils. Two more of the machines laid wrecked and useless on the ground, but the remainder were dog-piling onto him and he was coming towards the end of the reserves of Jarvis-cosmic he could project into his field of invulnerability.
         Lisa had jumped off the dais to see how badly Jaimie Bautista was killed.
         “Don’t worry about me,” the Filipino genius groaned, sitting up slowly and painfully as the advocatrix tended to him. “My chestplate stopped the worst of the blast, as I hoped it would.”
         “Chestplate?” Lisa puzzled, seeing for the first time beneath the charred dinner jacket the glistening gold and red metal mesh of some kind of metallic vest.
         “I had a bad car crash recently that left me pretty much crippled,” Jaimie explained. “I had to rebuild myself with machine parts so I could survive. I’m a sort of cyborg, I suppose.”
         “Machine parts?” Lisa speculated with interest.
         “I’d prefer it if you could keep this kind of quiet. I don’t want everyone to know that the head of Bautista Enterprises is very nearly an iron man.” Dr Bautista painfully dragged himself to his feet. “Is that the adventurer Jarvis getting pounded by those killbots? We met once, back when he stopped the hordes of S.P.U.D. from stealing my prototype kitchen food dicer as a weapon of mass destruction a year or so back. Nice guy. Why doesn’t he just jam the killbots’ control frequencies and drop them where they stand?”
         Jarvis managed to get a final force blast off, taking the mid-section out of another of his robotic adversaries before stopping several of their blows with his head. The battling butler reflected that he’d be a lot happier dying here if he had the faintest clue how his teleportation had been diverted from its supposed destination into this war zone.
         “Perhaps Jarvis doesn’t know about the jamming frequency?” suggested Lisa diplomatically to Jaimie.
         The young man tried to move but all that happened was that black smoke started to rise up from his trousers. Lisa was fascinated. “That accelerated proton blast seems to have taken my main perambulatory grid off-line,” he groaned. “I’m going to have to redesign this suit with more offensive and defensive capabilities… and perhaps a helmet and faceplate. But right now someone’s got to get to the podium and use the PA system to generate a counter-frequency to take those automatons out!”
         “I’ll do it!” spiffy offered. The young man crawled out from beneath the podium, delighted to have found a much better vantage point to get his pictures for Jerkson. “What do I have to do?” Then he thought again. “It’s not going to hurt, is it?”
         “Of course not,” Lisa smiled like a shark. “Tell this fine young man what to do, Dr Bautista.”
         Jaimie rummaged in his trousers and detached a module from his armour. “Fasten this beside the microphone,” he instructed the cub reporter. “I’ll do the rest by remote control.”
         “Really?” admired Lisa. But it was just a reflex letch, because at the moment she was admiring the way Jarvis’ muscles rippled under that black formalwear and deciding that she had to save him because how else could she date him. It was time for a distraction.
         “Hey, von Doom!” the conquering villain heard the advocatrix shout. “I’m not dead yet!” Both the holographic intruder and Dr Modonov gawped as they realised that the young lawyer had slipped out of her linen business suit for ease of movement, and was now clad only in some sort of black leather fetishwear and a wicked grin.
         That was the distraction that spiffy needed. The youngster scrabbled towards the podium, ducking under the slightly-damaged killbot nearest to it, and locking Bautista’s device into place before the shockwave of one of Jarvis’ stray energy blasts knocked him backwards into the punch bowl.
         Jaimie activated the jamming frequency and the killbots dropped like stringless puppets.
         Peter von Doom was appalled. “Somebody has interfered with my minions’ control nipples – I mean frequencies!” he snarled, tearing his eyes away from Lisa. He glared at the accountant. “Do something!”
         “It is simply a matter of recalibrating the control harmonics in such a way as to prevent future jamming of any such…” the specialist advisor sent with the killbots by Dark Thugos explained, right before he fell over from the neuro-tranquiliser that had just entered his body via the blowdart from the shadows. The National Enquirer would run a story about it being tossed into him by the urban legend known as the Dark Knight, but the article ran right beside Elvis’ wedding to a sasquach and a feature about a woman who was impregnated by a talking racoon and was universally disbelieved.
         “It’s over, von Doom!” Jarvis warned, hurling the now-useless killbots off him and stalking towards the hovering villain.
         “Um, he’s not real,” Lisa diplomatically told the hero. “No shadow, see? The real von Doom is probably that guy there hiding behind the bad anagram there, Modonov.”
         “Erm…” the von Doom hologram and Dr Modonov both said simultaneously.
         Jarvis punched the real von Doom until the villain surrendered. “Well, that’s that,” he suggested, looking around at the devastation. People were climbing out from behind chairs and under tables. One young man was dragging himself sopping wet from the punchbowl. It didn’t take the butler too long to work out roughly the sequence of events. “So Dr Bautista worked out the frequencies to jam the ‘bots, young spiffy here set up the system, and Miss Waltz distracted the villain while the plan was put into operation. Sounds like a good piece of teamwork to me.”
         “Lisa,” Lisa told Jarvis. “Lisa Waltz. But you can call me tonight.”
         “It isn’t over yet!” a voice said dramatically. In fact if Visionary hadn’t skidded on the spilled punch, slid across the podium and fallen off the edge onto the memorial grand opening celebration cake it wouldn’t have been a bad entrance line.
         An unassuming and unnoticed old man began to walk over to the door by the stairwell.
         “It’s true,” Cheryl warned, pointing to the basement. “The dimensional force-field is off, but somehow that anti-earthquake system’s interacting with some other machineries that I never even knew were here. The Twin Parody Towers are becoming like a gigantic tuning fork, sending out massive vibrations designed to actually trigger a vast earthquake. All of Paradopolis could be in the bay in less than an hour.”
         “Von Doom’s back-up plan?” Jarvis wondered.
         “Possibly,” shrugged Lisa. “Let’s just switch it off. Then you can turn me on.”
         The unassuming and unnoticed old man who had been making his way across to the basement entrance arrived there and turned to block the door. “I don’t think I can allow you to interfere in the plans of my ally and rescuer Baron Heinrich Zemo,” he told the heroes. “So if you know what’s good for you, you will simply flee this doomed city before it is too late.”
         “Zemo!” spat Jarvis. He had met the murderous masked monarch before.
         “Zemo?” frowned the handcuffed and battered Peter von Doom. “He interfered with my buildings, adding his own designs to mine? He used Peter von Doom?”
         “Explains the cost overspends,” shrugged spiffy, wringing out his t-shirt.
         “He subverted my designs as well,” scowled Jaimie Bautista. “I won’t forget that. Let’s get this old man out of the way and shut those engines down.” The jury-rigged repairs he had been making to his life-preserving armour sparked into use and he dragged himself from the floor.
         “Jarvis,” the mayor ordered, “Arrest that old man!”
         “Technically, Jarvis doesn’t have powers of arrest unless the city agrees to depute its ad-hoc superheroes by reviving the wartime metahuman ordinances,” Lisa pointed out cleverly. “On Mayoral authority.”
         “Then do it,” snapped the Mayor. “Just get that codger out of the way and stop the city being destroyed.”
         “No problem,” Jarvis proclaimed. “Out of the way gramps, you can’t stop us, whoever you are.”
         “Oh, I think I can,” the old man disagreed, sloughing off the distasteful human form he had used and unfolding as he grew. “And my name is Fin Fang Foom!”
         Across the city, Andrew Dean was watching the crisis coverage on TV. He sprayed the mouthful of coffee he’d just taken all over his writing table and was out of the door before the great dragon had even reached its full growth.
         “Gah!” snarled Jarvis as he dragged himself from under the pile of debris in the Paradopolis Plaza where the dragon’s tail-swipe had hammered him. “Why is nothing ever simple?” He looked up at the huge monstrosity that was crouching in the marble-walled reception of the Parody Tower. “And why is that so damned big?”
         “It’s a Makluan dragon, Mister Jarvis,” the teenager who was helping to pull him out and dust him down explained. “They all crash-landed on our planet, like, back hundreds of years ago, but only Fin Fang Foom survived the crash. He went into this big sleep to heal himself and only woke up back in the 1950’s. Then he went on this big rampage until these mysterious people with a huge fat dog – some people say it was the Abhumans – managed to take him down and imprison him. It was in all the comics at the time, with some really great Kirby artwork in Tales to Infuriate #102 inked by…”
         “Thanks, kid, I get the idea,” Jarvis told him. “Big alien dragon – crashed – slept – imprisoned – and he said he’s been liberated by Zemo. Now I’ve got to stop him.”
         “Um, do you want my Lucozade?” Dreamcatcher Kokopelli Foxglove asked the hero.
         A third of the world away, (or two-thirds depending on the route you took) Gavan Carstensen put down the beer he was chugging and stared at his black and white TV screen as he saw the massive dragon unfurl its wings and hurl lethal nuclear fire at the butler hero. “Bloody hell,” the Australian breathed. This was too much like the dreams that sometimes came to him for comfort.
         He made his way to the fridge for another cold one, leaving the crushed and empty can on top of a mysterious, heavy package from some law firm in Paradopolis that had come a few days earlier and which he hadn’t yet got round to opening.
         “We’ve got to find a way past that dragon,” Cheryl shouted over the sound of Jarvis being slammed once again through one of the Parody Tower’s support structures. “According to the monitors we’re only a few minutes off a complete catastrophe.”
         “I’ve tried shutting down the power to the generators,” Jaime reported, “but Zemo’s put back-ups in place down in the cellars we can’t get into.”
         “Um, I’ve heard that dragons are often distracted by toothsome virgins,” ventured spiffy.
         “Sorry, kid, I don’t count,” Lisa told him. “How about you?”
         Gregory Burch slipped out of the shadows and came up behind Andrew Dean as he picked his way over the rubble outside the Twin Parody Towers, but Dean wasn’t surprised. If his old school friend had used the front doorbell, then he’d have been shocked. “I thought you’d be here about now,” Burch said.
         “How could I stay away, DK? This is the moment I’ve spend the last fourteen years training for,” Andrew Dean shrugged. “But first, somehow, they’ve got to get Finny to go into Comics Limbo. Then I go in there fourteen years ago as a seven year old, meet the Makluan who’s been there for literally ages from his perspective, agree to take over his draconic body so his personality can die, spend all the time since then journeying to the Silver Age dimension where I can train to use my dragon abilities for good, and finally once evil-Finny here is taken out of the game into Comics Limbo I can claim my right to become Fin Fang Foom here in the Parodyverse.”
         “Simple,” agreed Burch. “but first we have to get the Makluan into Comics Limbo.”
         “Why not have a word with one of the heroes who’s dealing with the crisis?” Andrew Dean suggested. “There’s one over there in a yellow coat.”
         Burch snorted. “I’d hardly count Visionary amongst the heroes,” objected the Dark Knight.
         “Cheryl, there’s a guy here who thinks that the way to deal with that big dragon would be to slip him into another dimension,” Visionary told his wife.
         “That’s nice dear,” Cheryl answered absently. “Now try and figure out a way we can get into those cellars.”
         “What about ducts?” spiffy wondered. “There are always ducts.”
         “And they’re always filled with lethal death-traps,” Lisa pointed out.
         “Could you guys please figure something out soon?” demanded Jarvis as he was bounced off another wall by the rampaging dragon.
         “Actually the other-dimension thing might just work,” Jamie Bautista considered. “Think about it. Von Doom’s got the equipment to set up dimensional force-fields, and there’s plenty of spare parts from those smashed killbots which also seem to come from another dimension. All we need to do is rig it up so that when Fin Fang Foom comes into contact with the energy grid there’s a transfer of…”
         “Just do it, huh?” Lisa suggested. “I want there to be something left of Jarvis for our date tonight.”
         “And how do we get the dragon into contact with the thingie grid?” Vizh asked sceptically.
         “Oh, you and spiffy can charge him,” Lisa told them brightly. “One of you will get through. Probably.”
         Far out across space, an improbable little planet wobbled round a pretty little sun in a Spirograph orbit that would send any sane astrophysicist into tears. There, amidst the happy thought-people and the fat, contented bunnies, the Council of the Nice summoned one of their subjects before them.
         “Hello, cute Council of the Nice,” Yo bade them
         “Hello, cute Yo. We are to be having an interesting mission for you to be missioning on.”
         “Oh? What is being the interesting mission, cute Council of the Nice?”
         “We have being to be detecting fascinating dimensional energies from a cute blue world called the Earth, the third planet from Sol in Mutter’s Spiral. You are to be going there and seeing what is to be happening.”
         “Yo will not be able to be staying there long if Yo is being pure thought energy,” Yo warned the Council.
         “Yo is permitted to merge with one of the peoples he finds there and be staying for some while,” the Council of the Nice replied.
         “Then Yo will be packing at once.”
         “What are they doing?” the Grim Reaper demanded. The Enemy of the World had little patience with humans anyway, and Zemo’s opening gambit in his plot to dominate humankind seemed to be spinning out of control.
         “Jarvis is cheating,” snarled the Baron, glowering at the video monitor. “He’s recruited allies. A team. They are using von Doom’s equipment to generate a dimensional vortex.”
         “I hate it when that happens,” the Man Who Wasn’t There didn’t say.
         One minute Jarvis was wrestling a hundred-foot long angry dragon. The next he was gripping nothing but thin air. He looked down to see the cub reported and one of the reception guests holding up exposed wires with their eyes screwed tight shut. “Nice going, spiffy and nonentity,” he approved. “So, um, where exactly did you put the dragon.”
         In the interdimensional crossroads a livid Makluan roared his rage.
         “If I might suggest,” a grey-cowled figure with glowing green eyes prompted. “You may choose to go that way.”
         It was tempting for the Hooded Hood to divert the dragon to some other destiny, but on the other hand things would be a lot less interesting if he robbed the Lair Legion of Fin Fang Foom.
         “Great going, team,” Jarvis enthused once the little birdies had stopped running round his head. “Now all we need to do is stop that earthquake generator.”
         “I don’t think that will be a problem,” Jaimie advised, looking at a scanner on his wrist. “I’m reading massive structural damage to this tower. I think it’s coming down.”
         “Wait a minute,” objected Visionary. “We’re in this tower.”
         “Yes.” Jaimie agreed.
         The tower crumbled down, shattering Zemo’s devices as the tallest building in the world became the most expensive insurance claim in the world.
         Jarvis and the others watched it from the top of the other tower. “Good job I have teleportation abilities,” the butler commented.
         “I hope you have liability insurance,” Lisa answered.
         It was three hours later. The police had led away Peter von Doom, who was already planning his escape and had sworn vengeance on those who had thwarted him. The municipal sanitation workers were starting to undertake the massive job of cleaning up the shattered Parody Tower. At the moment this kind of work was still a novelty for them. Cheryl had taken Visionary home and put him to bed with a warm drink. Greg Burch and his mysterious associate seemed to have vanished. Only Jarvis, Lisa, Bautista, and spiffy remained to watch.
         “You know, Baron Zemo is still out there,” Jarvis frowned. “I’m not going to rest until the world is safe from people like that.”
         “Stopping Zemo and his ilk is a pretty big job for one person,” sighed Lisa.
         “But we make a pretty good team you know,” Jaimie pointed out. “Or we could, given a bit of tinkering on my armour and some clothes for Lisa.”
         “Hey, I don’t need armour to be effective,” the advocatrix smirked.
         “We could meet regularly and be like, like a League… of Regulars…” suggested spiffy.
         “Well, it’s a working title,” conceded Jarvis. “We’ll need to think this through some more. Let’s get together tomorrow and sort something out.”
         “Where shall we meet?” Lisa asked.
         A grey-haired gentleman appeared at the door of the roof-stairs and rapped on the wall with his silver-tipped staff. “I believe I have the perfect headquarters for you, my friends,” Hollywood V announced to the new team. “A Lair, in fact.”
    In Lair Legion: Year One, part 2: The Regulars get a mansion, Zemo gets a Scourge, the Dark Knight strikes, the return of Fin Fang Foom, more mysteries at Coot, Coot, Wellfudge and Coot, Yo comes to Earth, Space Ghost gets cancelled, and Banjooooo declares war on the human race.

    It’s not going to be written any time soon.

    In a break from our regularly scheduled Untold Tales, the Hooded Hood presents this first draft of the origins of the Lair Legion for the comment of the BZL

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Lair Legion: Year One, part 1 – Why there is only one Twin Parody Tower in Paradopolis today (In a break from our regularly scheduled Untold Tales, the Hooded Hood presents this first draft of the origins of the Lair Legion for the comment of the BZL) (08-Jan-2000 11:26:49)

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