Birds Fly
Part Two: Attacks

by Russ Allbery and Jameel al Khafiz
© 1995

Occultism Kid was shaking his head as he entered the lobby of the LNHQ. This whole Ana Ng thing was really bizarre. He chuckled to himself as he walked past Trina, the receptionist on duty, into the LNHQ itself. Trina barely noticed him, looking up briefly to identify him. She nearly jumped out of her chair, however, when she saw the two packages that had been delivered for Particle Man and Occultism Kid were floating through the air, following the trenchcoat-wearing mage. Trina looked back to where the packages had lain. Then, she looked down the hallway at the packages defying several natural laws as they followed Occultism Kid onto the elevator.

"I guess Particle Man won't be needing that dolly after all," Trina muttered as she returned to her IRC conversation.

"Hey, boss!" Occultism Kid's door called as the mage approached his room. "Ya know, I'm really reconsidering this door ward thing."

"Why's that?" Occultism Kid asked as he opened the door. The lights automatically came on when he passed through the field that filled the doorway.

"At first, I thought that this'd be a nice, cushy job. You know: sit here in the door, screen people that shouldn't be comin' in here, simple stuff."

"Yes?" Occultism Kid pulled up a chair and sat down in a miraculously clear spot amidst the general clutter that was his room.

"This is really gettin' dangerous, though. I'm gettin' smashed in way too often. And that Leviathan thing..."

"Well, thing's have gotten a lot more magically active these days, door. Believe me, that Leviathan thing was a very, very one-time-only incident."

"Yeah, I guess..."

"What's this I hear about you insulting passers-by?" Occultism Kid asked.

"I dunno," the door responded weakly. "I could really use a vacation."

"I think I liked it better when you were just a magical field that shut out people I didn't want in here. Next thing, you'll be asking for a horseshoe over you for luck."

"It'd be nice," the door said, sounding like it would be grinning had it had a mouth. "And maybe some nice holly for the season..."

Occultism Kid sighed. "Now I know why I never summoned a familiar. You're a door. Doors generally don't go vacationing. Besides, what would you do, hop off to Malibu or something?"

"Well, maybe there's a dimension of doors out there somewhere? I could be with other doors for a while. I mean, try having your physical home shattered multiple times and see how you like it."

"Let's talk about this later, okay? I'll try to find a temporary replacement for you and a dimension of doors or something like that. For now, though, I want to see what's in this package."

"One of your millions of fans sent you that, eh?"

"For someone who wants a favor, you're sure smart-mouthed."


"That's better. Now, a simple spell to remove the wrapper and box and..."

A single instant before the package was opened, the door ward felt something... wrong about it. "Boss, look out!"

"No!" Occultism Kid exclaimed as the statue fired an eldritch beam into his eye. With a swiftness born of desperation, he launched his astral form free of his body. What kind of power could have done that? It had gotten past the security scanners in the reception area, and it has eluded Occultism Kid's own mystical senses. Sensing something amiss, Occultism Kid looked back at his body, only to see magical energies surging up through the silver cord that connected his astral and physical bodies. Scarcely believing that this was happening, Occultism Kid flew away from there at speeds that would have shredded his mortal form. Maybe if he could outrun this attack, he could find some way to reverse it. Maybe...

All conscious thought was wiped from Occultism Kid's mind as the attack caught up to his astral form and cruelly yanked him back into his physical body. Occultism Kid collapsed from his chair onto a pile of scrolls.

Drifter dumped his knapsack on the bed and collapsed into the hotel chair with a sigh. Deserts are great for the first couple of days, but after a week they get rather old. Face it, there simply isn't that much variety in the terrain.

==You were the one who wanted to thoroughly explore the Looniverse.==

--Yeah, I know. I think I changed my mind.-- Drifter glanced out the window and watched the late afternoon sun cast long shadows across the small Net.vada town. --All of a sudden, I want to be off. Exploring something totally different...wandering a bit more. There just isn't anything here that's really capturing my attention.--

Windrider sent a mental shrug. ==There are parts of this reality I want to explore further, but I'm sure we'll be back. I have no objections to a change of pace.==

--Well, I'm tired now. We can decide tomorrow. What are you doing, anyway?--

Drifter saw a momentary glimpse of the ground rushing toward him at extreme speed, felt the wind whip past his body, and heard the sharp crack of a spine beneath his talons. ==Eating.==

--Good idea. I guess I'll see if the hotel restaurant is halfway decent.-- Drifter stretched and then headed for the bathroom to take a shower, only to be stopped by a knock on the door.

"Who's there?"

"Package delivery."

"You must have the wrong room."

"Are you Drifter?"

"Yeah, that's me...." Drifter stepped over to the door to open it. "Funny, I didn't order anything."

The deliveryman in the hallway was making notes on a pad as the door opened. Next to him was a crate on a dolly.

"I've got this crate for you. Heavy thing."

"Huh. Okay, bring it inside. How did you know where I was?"

"Take a look at the crate...address is on it."

The address was stamped onto the side of the wooden crate and was indeed the address of the hotel room. Strangely there wasn't any return address. Drifter frowned and turned the crate, but the other side was blank.

"Who's it from?"

The deliveryman flipped a couple sheets and grunted. "Damned if I know. S'pose you could call the main office and find out. Here's the number."

"Do I need to sign anything?"

"Nope. S'all yours." The deliveryman pulled the dolly out from under the crate and headed for the door.

"Okay, thanks."

As the door closed, Drifter walked around the crate trying to figure out what it possibly could be.

--What do you make of this?--

==Hmm?== The reply was somewhat preoccupied, and Drifter sensed that Windrider was still in the middle of his dinner.

--Strangest thing just happened...someone just delivered a crate. Heavy one too. I'm about to open it up and find out what's inside.--

==Who is it from?==

Drifter pulled a lighter out of his pocket and flicked it open, igniting a small blade of flame, and started to burn through the side of the crate. --No idea.--

Swallowing the rest of the rabbit, Windrider took to the air and headed back towards the motel. He quickly probed Drifter's room from a distance, including the crate, but nothing seemed abnormal. There was something, though....

A man, walking away from the motel. In the uniform of Express.

==Wait! There's something wrong with that deliveryman!==

--There's a statue in here.... Why would someone send me a statue?--

Even from two blocks away, the surge was almost overwhelming. Windrider strengthened his external shields before he realized with a sickening jolt that most of the surge was coming through his link with Drifter. The glass of the second-story window shattered before him as he hurled into the room just in time to see the beam from the statue shut off.

Drifter was collapsed on the floor in front of the statue, motionless. Windrider pulled up short and landed on his arm, scattering several shards of broken glass, and immediately dove into his partner's mind.

The pressure was intense. A huge amount of energy was being forced into Drifter's mind from some external source. It had already overwhelmed most of his consciousness. Windrider tried to shield and isolate it, but with a foothold already, it would not be stopped. Desperately, Windrider isolated one corner of Drifter's mind and built the strongest shields he could around it, knowing as he did that they wouldn't hold.


A small bit of consciousness was still there. Just enough to respond.

--dizzy...can't focus....--

==I have to get you out of here now. You've got to open a portal.==


==I'll guide. Just concentrate on me.==

A green pinpoint appeared in the center of the room. Slowly, painfully, it began to expand, the prismatic green shifting and swirling. Windrider felt his shields begin to give and poured more energy into them. Finally, the portal reached man-sized and stabilized, and at that moment the shields collapsed.

Windrider pulled out as the wave of energy swept away what was left of Drifter's mind. He tried to keep the link open, but the surge found it and begin trying to follow it. For a moment, he considered trying to fight for the link, but it was hopeless. Reluctantly, he cut off the bond, and for the first time in years he was alone.

The gap in his mind where the link had been felt like an open wound.

Lifting Drifter telekinetically, he pushed the body through the portal and followed himself. The portal closed with a flash that sent green light dancing off shards of glass and a strange stone statue.

Within the outlet by the light switch in Person's room, Blue Canary floated, his senses deliberately dulled. Though he hadn't truly needed sleep in a very long time, he found it useful to allow himself a few hours a week for downtime in which to dream, organizing his thoughts and memories. It was understandable, then, that it took a few milliseconds for stimuli to wake him.

*Person?* Blue asked mentally as he sensed a faint mental scream. *Person?* When his second mental query received no response, Blue emerged from the outlet. As his senses adjusted to the 'real' world, Blue saw Person lying upon the floor amidst the clutter of clothing and books.

"Person!" he called loudly, hoping a physical voice would wake Person. Seeing this fail, Blue probed Person's mind through the link they shared and sensed strange energies there. Though the mental fog that this energy caused made probing difficult, Blue found a rapidly fading link to the statue that stood a few feet away. As he ceased his probing, Blue realized that tracing this attack would be difficult at best. He swiftly winged his way onto Person's desk, activating the commlink to the monitor room.

"Multi-Tasking Man here," came the response.

"Transmat Particle Man to the Peril Room," Blue said. "Immediately."

"What? Who is this?" Multi-Tasking Man asked.

"Never mind," Blue said as he flew into a nearby electrical outlet...

...and was swept into the flow of a massive pipe filled with pulses of light. Blue navigated the pipes with all possible speed, making turns at the necessary junctions until he saw, quite literally, the light at the end of the tunnel.

"I'll do it myself," Blue finished as he flew out of an electrical socket in the Legion monitor room.

"Whoa!" Multi-Tasking Man exclaimed as Blue perched atop the control panel. Less than a second had passed since Blue had said "never mind." "That was you?" Multi-Tasking Man asked as he checked up on rec.arts.comics.*, updated his budget for the new year, played the game of Doom that he always seemed to have up, and puzzled over Blue Canary's sudden appearance.

"Yes, that was me," Blue responded as he hopped from key to key, activating the transmat. "Now, if you'll excuse me..." Blue flew through the door and flew down the hallway to the Peril Room. After flying through the door to the Peril Room, Blue found that the room was presently occupied.

"What's wrong with the kid?" Master Blaster asked, slinging his BIGGUN(R) over his shoulder. "He just popped in here unconscious."

"You have to leave, Master Blaster," Blue said. "Please don't question me," he quickly added. Master Blaster shrugged and left.

"What's going on in there?" Sarcastic Lad asked from the Peril Room control room.

"Don't worry about it," Blue replied. "Just make sure that the Peril Room is sealed."

"Yeah, yeah," Sarc responded. "Pushy little bird," he muttered as he sealed the room. Upon seeing the display beside the door showing a positive seal, Blue dove into Person, disappearing as he passed into Person's body.

Torrential winds blasted into Blue as he flew over Person's mindscape. The glow of the energy was nearly overwhelming as Blue surveyed his surroundings. Memories, emotions, consciousness, everything was being assaulted by the mental firestorm that threatened to engulf everything that Person was. As Blue prepared to return to the outside, he saw something that was out of place. He turned toward the disturbance to investigate further.

Fire. Pain heat searing ending!

Catalyst Lass cried out briefly, feeling as though her mind had just burst into flames. She felt the room spinning about her, and she fought down a wave of nausea.

Pain burning help Blue!

Cat staggered to her bed and fell to her knees, leaning heavily on the bed.

"Person?" she asked weakly. It was Person, but what was happening, and why could she feel it? Whatever was happening, she couldn't shut it off. Cat winced, gritting her teeth at the pain. She was on the floor now, and she felt as though she were being dragged down into a pit of fire. She wanted to move, but her body was so heavy that she couldn't even cry out for help. Cat's breathing became shallow, and her vision rapidly began to dim before a flash of intense blue knocked her blissfully unconscious.

"This is weird, bird," Sarcastic Lad noted as he watched Person's insensate form floating a few feet from the ground.

"My name is Blue Canary," Blue corrected, "and, yes, this is rather odd."

"What's that noise in the background?" Sarc asked. "That low-pitched rumbling."

In a flash of light, a snowman with black rubber skin appeared near Person's floating body and began to slowly walk around him. A few moments later, a small, excitable shoehorn with teeth appeared and began to hop up and down, yipping as it joined the precession. An exact duplicate of Particle Man joined the group, and, as the wandering sped up, the background sound grew higher in pitch.

"All right, what's going on here, Canary?" Sarc asked as a man-shaped blackness appeared. A human skull appeared upon the ground. A domino appeared in mid-air and fell on different spots. A sledgehammer and a ball and chain appeared and wandered about the Peril Room of their own accord. The background noise increased pitch. A foot of water materialized in the room, sloshing about with some unknown purpose. A small child no older than two rode her tricycle down a toddler-scaled, two-lane road that wound itself around the Peril Room in insane patterns as a whirlpool moved itself about in the water. A giant spider heroically crawled on the wall as the background noise became fast enough to sound like slow words.

"I don't want to be first in line to see Mrs. Train," the song began.

Sarc ran every test he could think of, scarcely believing his eyes as the various... things began to shove and slam into each other in beat with the music.

"This is impossible," he said as the Peril Room displays told him that the Room wasn't running some insane program. "They're... moshing?"

"I expect that it doesn't matter to Mrs. Train..."

"This is disturbing," Blue noted as a lion flying a silver spaceship smashed into a train with 'Mrs.' painted upon the side. "I've never seen anything quite like this before."

"Being comfortable with yourself, and being patient, and taking your time are the things that Mrs. Train can understand..."

"No kidding this is disturbing!" Sarc shouted down. "I'm getting reports from nearby areas of the LNHQ. That music's audible outside the Peril Room, but it's supposed to be damn near soundproof!"

"I've never seen a train like this before, but, then again, there's never been a train like this before like Mrs. Train..."

Blue ignored Sarcastic Lad. After a few seconds of concentration, he felt that he was ready to do what he had to do.

"But I don't want to be the one to declare that he wants to be next in line to see Mrs. Train."

*Master?* Blue called mentally. He got no response. *MASTER!*

Instantly, Blue found himself... elsewhere, in a place that beggared any attempt at description. Looking around, he saw only the abstract, ever-changing ideas that comprised this place.


The voice/vision/thought came to Blue from everywhere at once and carried for what seemed an eternity. Finding no small pleasure in hearing his name, both mental concept and sound, pronounced correctly, Blue replied.

*Particle Man has fallen,* he explained. *His powers run rampant in a way that I've never seen before.*


*He is helpless,* Blue continued, almost pleading.


*Yes, master, it does, but ever do I abide by it.*


Even as Blue returned to the Peril Room, he was thinking of what he'd likely have to do. Though his own abilities were formidable, he knew that his opponent or opponents were likely more so. Without a single word to Sarcastic Lad, Blue flew through the Peril Room door and made his way toward Occultism Kid's room.

John Henry grabbed Lance by the collar of his coat and slammed him bodily into a crate. "WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON??"

"I DON'T KNOW!!" Lance screamed back at him. "All it was supposed to do was power the statues!" The sentence ended on a note of desperation.

Again, the flash of words and pictures echoed through everyone's mind: [Perfection! Circle completion; inevitability. Goal achievement!]

Whirling, John looked around the room wildly, but there was no one there other than Roger's burned and unmoving body. A second later, there was another flash, this one subtly different than the first.


"What WAS that?" John frantically scanned the room again. Nothing. He turned back to Lance and stopped.

Lance was staring at the new dirt bike.

" couldn't be..."

"It couldn't be WHAT?"

"There can't be more of them..." Lance's eyes widened in shock. "Is that what you are so happy about?! What did you DO?!" He headed for his own bike, still leaning against a box near the exit.

Only to be stopped short by an iron grip on the back of his coat.

"Look." John Henry's voice was a model of perfect calm. "Either you are going to tell me exactly what is going on or you are going to die. Got it?"

Lance gave his bike another long look and then let John pull him around. "Okay. have a right to know, since it looks like you're involved in this too. But I still don't understand what's happened."

"Then tell me what you do understand."

Lance collapsed into a chair.

"I've been a freelance mercenary for years, ever since I got out of the army. It was what I understood, what I was good at. It also pays pretty good, if you know what you're doing and who to do it for. There's always hazards, though, and probably the biggest one is that the people you're working for aren't exactly saints.

"It was about six years ago...a fairly standard mob hit. Just kill the target, pick up your money at an anonymous drop-off site, and disappear. No problem; I'd done it dozens of times. The guy was stupid too; he always took the same route to work, always parked in the same garage. I had it planned perfectly.

"Someone else got there first.

"I was all set up, he was getting out of his car, made a perfect target. And then there were gunshots and he just sunk to the ground. I changed directions and headed towards the nearest exit when I heard the shouts of his bodyguards behind me. I thought I was dead.

"I found out later that I was in the middle of mob politics. The people who hired me weren't the ones I normally worked for; I'd gotten a reputation for only working for one family. If I got caught, that family would be blamed. Someone had made an anonymous call to the bodyguards just minutes before the shooting. They must have followed me to the garage.

"I didn't know any of that at the time. All I knew was that the whole job was going to hell and I was right in the middle of it. The garage was almost empty, the guards behind me were already shooting, and I knew I was never going to make it to the exit in time.

"And then there was this black dirt bike in front of me. To this day, I have no idea where it came from. It was already running, and I was on it in a second. As I drove out of the parking garage, the only thing on my mind was that I would do anything if I could just get out of this one.

"It was like the bike was steering itself...I know now that it probably was. We went through streets that I didn't know existed. It took about five minutes, but we lost the bodyguards, and then we headed straight out of town.

"It was shortly after that that the bike started talking to me. You heard how it sounds just a minute ago. Not like speech at all...just strings of images and concepts. The concept it uses to describe itself...I guess Philosopher is the closest word. It took me a long time to get used to, but I started listening really close. Anything that I concentrated on, anything at all, the bike could show me how to get. I thought about pulling something big a few times, but getting too well known is what got me in trouble the first time, so I stuck to small things. I started taking search and retrieval jobs since Philosopher could find anything, no matter where it was. Even found a few lost kids; you'd be amazed at what frantic parents will pay.

"Just a few months ago, Philosopher started getting worried. Something about destroying it, interfering with something. Apparently it can't use its abilities on its own; it took me to activate them. Philosopher started suggesting that I concentrate on building this thing it wanted...that's what turned into those plans I gave you. And on getting rid of these three people: Particle Man, Occultism Kid, and Drifter. I was worried about losing my edge; I've done better since I found that bike than I ever did without it. Besides, even if I'd never heard of Drifter, I knew that Particle Man and Occultism Kid were both LNHers...powerful ones too. So I did what it said, and it lead me straight to Project: Serra and to you."

"That still doesn't explain what you meant by more of them."

Lance waved a hand in the direction of the new dirt bike. "Look at it! It looks almost identical to Philosopher. And that last thought — it sounded like Philosopher, but different...almost like a different voice."

[Difference affirmative. Another.]

Lance looked sharply up at John. "Did you get that?"

John shook his head.

"Back to talking privately, I guess. Philosopher says I'm right...the new bike is another one like him. And judging from how happy he is about it, that was the point of all this."

John Henry started pacing. "It must be from that other reality that we touched. The one Roger was tapping into for a power source. But both of the bikes must come from the same did Philosopher get here in the first place?"

This time, John heard it too. [Summoning. Travel, time. Waiting...years. Study. Understanding, reconstruction. Replication — summoning. Circle completion.]

Lance looked puzzled. "There were two summonings? But what caused the first one...and what does a circle have to do with this?"

John had stopped short when Philosopher started. Now, he turned to Lance, the wild look in his eyes making the merc want to hide under the nearest mountain.

"No, don't you see! There was only one summoning...Philosopher's. He was thrown back in time, appeared six years ago to meet you. And all this time he's been preparing to bring himself complete the circle. I don't think I would have dared to do it...the risk involved in playing with time like that..."

"Wait...if Philosopher was sent back in time...what if there were other bikes as well? Philosopher wasn't just back in time...he was in Net.ropolis. If they were scattered, they could be anywhere...there could be way more than two bikes."


John Henry stared at the dirt bike. "You mean there are twelve bikes, with incredible powers, scattered throughout the Looniverse, we have two of them right here, at least one of which is capable of finding anything it wants, and we're the only people who know about this?" A grin began to spread across his face.

After a second, Lance started grinning too.

In the corner, now letting the humans make their own plans, Philosopher hummed quietly to itself.

The cold hit him with almost physical force as he crossed the portal. He set Drifter's body down carefully in a snowbank and then landed on a rock outcropping for a moment to rest. Mentally lifting 200 pounds, even for a short period, took a lot out of him.

The mountain air was crisp and clear, but bitter cold. Sunlight danced off the snow covering the pass, casting shadows but failing to warm. Windrider pulled his wings in even tighter and wished for the extra layer of feathers he would have grown had he lived here through the fall. Scanning the sky, he picked out a circling black dot against the deep blue and screamed a call for help.

It took only moments for the other eagle, diving down from his patrol station, to reach the pass. He backwinged to land on a higher ledge, sending snow flying off of the bare rock. Half again as big as Windrider, he folded his wings and looked down at the stranger.

"Who are you, and what is your purpose in these mountains?"

"I am called Windrider, and I come seeking refuge from enemies. The Windlord knows of me." The feel of the Eagle's Tongue in his throat brought back a flood of memories, memories that Windrider pushed aside.

"And the human?"

"He is my companion."

"Very well. I will take your name to the Windlord." The other eagle took off, powerful strokes of his wings driving him higher, and turned towards the north. Some of the snow the takeoff disturbed settled on Drifter's unmoving body, covering part of his black trenchcoat.

Windrider tried again to touch Drifter's mind, but the seething energy reached for him again, and he had to turn away. Resisting a shiver, he pulled in tighter against the cold and looked out over the range. The once familiar mountains looked alien and intimidating. He looked up towards the north, but there was no sign of the sentry returning. The wind began to pick up, an icy touch on his feathers, and the world seemed horribly empty.

It was almost ten minutes before the sentry returned, flying behind and slightly to the side of an even larger eagle who Windrider immediately recognized.

"This is he, Windlord."

Gwaihir backwinged to a landing right above where Drifter lay, sending snow flying across the narrow path. "Windrider. I had not expected you to return so soon."

Windrider bowed his head momentarily to the larger eagle. "Nor did I, Windlord. I come seeking refuge from enemies."

"So I have been told. But it is not refuge for yourself that you seek, is it?"

"No. It is for my companion, Drifter." Windrider met Gwaihir's gaze, pain evident in his eyes. "He was attacked mentally, his mind taken over, and I was unable to stop it."

"They cannot reach him here."

"The original attack continues. The energy that is being forced into his consciousness is slowly destroying his mind. Unless I can find the cause and stop it, his mind will be burned away, but I cannot both guard him against further attack and find his attackers. So I come to you."

"It is unusual for the eagles to offer refuge to one not of our kind, but not unheard of. We can help."

Windrider allowed only the briefest flash of relief to show. "Thank you, Windlord."

"He will be safe with us; you may free your mind to concentrate on the hunt. Now I must attend to other things." With this, Gwaihir leaped into the sky, climbing upward and circling towards the north.

Windrider looked down at Drifter for a moment and then closed his eyes, systematically clearing his mind. His worries about Drifter, the memories always brought back by these mountains, even the cold was set aside. In the resulting calm, Windrider focused on the attack, the surge of power from the statue. Every memory of it was pulled back for inspection, for any clue as to the source or cause. Windrider felt his anger build and used it, turning it toward the hunt. And then he saw it — a flicker of energy before the overwhelming surge. It wasn't enough to even give a direction, but it was a place to start.

Windrider's eyes snapped open, a hint of that anger still burning deep within them. He nodded briefly to the sentry and then sprang into the mountain air. Twice he circled above the high mountain pass, and then he abruptly disappeared.

The sentry stood in silent guard over Drifter's body, looking out over the mountain range and waiting for help to move the man to a safer location.

Blue Canary peeked out of an electrical outlet in Occultism Kid's room and saw that the mage had already been struck down. What had Occultism Kid and Person had in common? As far as Blue knew, they didn't have any common enemies other than enemies of the LNH as a whole, and Person and Occultism Kid, powerful as they were, would hardly be the first ones struck in such an attack.

There was more than one statue. Seeing that, Blue decided to establish how many others had been struck down and who those other victims were. Familiar with the mental feel of the attack's effect, Blue expanded his telepathic senses, opening barriers that had been closed for far too long. A quick probing of the LNHQ showed that none of the other Legionnaires had been struck down. He would have to widen his search. Scanning as broad an area as he planned limited the depth to surface thoughts, but that would suffice. Once he found the general vicinity of another victim, he could rapidly probe one mind at a time until he'd found said victim. After a final check of his mental defenses, Blue damped his physical senses to minimal levels and expanded his mind.

Last spun 2013-07-01 from thread modified 2013-01-04