________ ____ _ _____ _ _ ____ _ | | | | | | | | | | | | BLiP | | | | | | -|-- | | o | | | | |--| |--| |---| | | |--~ |--| |--| |--- ---- | #40 | | | | | | | | | | | \ | | | | | | |___ | | | | | |~~~ | | | | _ | | | | | |~~~ | | ~~~~~~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~ ~ ~ ~~ ~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~ ~~~~ [The top of the cover is a picture of the galaxy. The lower half back of the postcard reads "Wish I was somewhere, Barry"] -------------------------------------------------------------------------- "What I Did On My Holidays" "The Net.Elementalist" "Come Undone" [net.food.drink.liquor: "Come on, gimme nudder one," Barry said, waving at his empty glass as best he could. The barman remained rubbing the same glass with his cloth, just as he had been when Barry first turned up, yet the glass before Barry filled up just the same. Barry turned his head right and left, taking in the large empty room, covered with cobwebs and dust. And no people. "Has ennyone ever posted here?" he asked the, as best he could make out, large blob behind the counter. "'Cos it dunnit look like ennyone bin here since it got created." The barman remained silent on the topic, continuing to rub his glass. "Ennyway, where waz I? That's right, the mall, me wife..."] I looked up from my tray of food as Alice took the seat opposite me, taking a moment to get lost in her eyes before tuning in to what she was saying. "-ember that Abby's going to Suzie's after school, and Molly will drop her off after dinner?" "Yes, I remember," I said, in that exasperated tone husbands always use when wives have just reminded them of something obvious they'd forgotten but didn't want the wife to realise. "Good," Alice replied. I could see her hiding a smirk behind her chow mein, but decided to let it go. "I managed to get in touch with Terry, from the San Fran.cis.co.ca Reporter, and he says there are some extremely strange reports coming out of the evidence of that bomb that they aren't allowed to talk about." "It definitely wasn't Marsha that caused it," I said, taking a bite out of my kofte kebab, trying hard not to let the yoghurt run all over my hands. "But I have no idea who would set her up like that-" ["Han on, it wazzent like that," Barry interrupted himself. "No, I waz mad at her."] "I'm mad at you," I said. ["See?"] "How could you do that Fox.net special?" "I'm a journalist," Alice replied. "I thought I could set a few details straight I knew they would get wrong." "But you know they would just take those comments out of context and use them in whatever way they could to make us look as bad as possible!" Alice shrugged. "Well, yeah." "So why'd you do it then?" "Look, they came around, asking questions. I've done the most reporting on you guys, so naturally they'd ask me a few questions." "But none of them know you're my wife, right?" Alice gave me a look then. "I *am* your wife. But they don't know the Net.Elementalist is my husband." I cast a quick furtive look around the foot court we were sitting at. "They will if you go on about it in public." "No-one's listening," Alice scoffed. "Besides, you've come and gone from home as the Net.Elementalist so often, the whole city probably knows it." "That's doesn't mean you had any right to talk to those documentary makers, though," I said, putting as much 'miffed' into my voice as I could. "Hey, they were going to air that show whether I said anything or not," Alice pointed out. "At least, this way we get some money out of it." "That's a point. Perhaps we could sue them..." Alice shook her head. "Just gives them something else to screen, and I think you've had enough exposure." I sighed, and took a sip of my low-fat, no-taste, may-as-well-be-water milkshake. "Yeah, well, they won't have any more chances soon, from the looks of it," I said. "No word from Rick or Peter, and what we've seen of Agent and Marsha, the more they stay out of sight, the better." "Agent was only insane, not murderous." "And then, boom, nothing from any of them." "I'm sure they're all right," Alice said, reaching across and squeezing my hand. "I..." I saw Alice look concerned. "What is it?" "I thought you said you didn't want anyone to know you're the Net.Elementalist?" "I don't" Alice merely pointed, and I raised my hand to feel the headband around my eyes. And then I noticed that my hand, and arm, were covered in my outfit. I closed my eyes to concentrate, and turned my outfit back to my normal clothes. Opening my eyes, I grinned at Alice, but she didn't look happier. Looking down, I saw that I was still the Net.Elementalist. "I...I can't..." I started to stammer, then saw blue begin to well up through the black of the outfit. "Get back," I whispered, half in shock from what was happening. Alice didn't move. "Barry, what's going on? I can help," she said. "No!" I yelled. I could feel power start to rise in me, and knew this wouldn't be good. "Get back!" I stood up, tried to move away, only to send the chair scattering across the floor, and me tumbling to the ground. "Get away!" I managed to get out before the power exploded through me. Pure Thread flowed through me, casting out cords in any and all directions, sticking to anything it hit, and binding everything together. If you've ever seen a spider's web, you might just have had the start of an inkling of what this place looked like after the power calmed down. Then the shouting and the screaming started, people trapped by the Thread were yelling, babies were crying, and there was quite possibly someone suffocating to death in there. I tried to help. Really. I kicked in the Flame, and started burning the Thread away. But then that went out of control too. I managed to stop myself from burning the entire mall down, but it was a close thing. When I had been first learning my abilities, I had done some damage, but nothing like this. This was the first time my power was exceeding anything I could do to control it. By this time, the sprinkler system had kicked in, from my Flame, and the Thread was melting under the rain of water. Interesting point, really, but now was not the time for diversions. As people were freed, they looked to me, some in fear, some in anger. I couldn't blame them, as parts of me were getting scared and angry at other parts of me as well. Changing to Net, I got the hells out of there, not even staying long enough to say goodbye to Alice. I had at least seen her, and she looked all right, as much as anyone was, but it was a shock to her as well. I had intended to only get out of the city, but after a few moments found myself floating in the upper atmosphere. The only reason I wasn't in space was because there weren't enough air particles to lag to get me there. Which also meant there weren't enough air particles around for me to breathe. Losing concentration (and consciousness) headed me back towards the Earth, with landing giving me no uncertain terms about survival. With all my other powers whacking out, I thought I'd give Keystroke a go, but, as I sure you can guess, that went spasmo too. I wanted to create a simple deep mattress to land on: /\__________________/\ |********************| |********************| |********************| +--------------------+ and ended up with something larger than a football field. Which was unfortunate for the football field it had materalised on. Fortunately, no one was using it, but the stands would never be the same again. As you can guess, I survived the landing, but I had no idea what to do next. Here I was proving to be as large a menace as any of the villains we had faced, but I had no idea what to do. I did consider going to the LNH. You'd think they would be able to help me, but getting there wasn't going to be easy, and I would as likely fry the place down, as fill it with Keystroke, or some other thing. For some reason, I got a brilliant idea to side-step the entire journey. Literally go around the problem. I could slip into some nearby newsgroup that wasn't getting any traffic, somewhere like alt.fan.phantom-menace.is.cool, and move around there safely before cross-posting myself back to a.c.lnh or r.a.c.c. Nice idea, works in theory, but hard to implement in reality. The first problem is that crossing the net.amensional barrier isn't easy, nor all that pleasant if you're unprotected. Think about moving through a mile of treacle. That's acid. And full of things trying to hit you. Not that crossing the barrier is like that, of course, but after crossing the barrier you'd wish you'd been through that pleasant an experience. The second problem is targeting. I can aim for a newsgroup, but actually getting there is just as much luck as it is ability. Which is why things really started to go wrong. _-~-_ [net.food.drink.liquor: "Now, don get me wrong," Barry slurred. "I like it here. I really do." He put down his empty glass, which refilled itself before he could say anything. Picking it up again (on his third try), he added, "Good service. Like that. But I am trying to get home." Waving his hand about to indicate the entire net (or he had possibly lost control of that hand), Barry said, "I vishited a fair few newshgroups before ending up here. It wash all the same. Arrive shomewhere, start a few flamewarshes, drown people in cross-posts, lag servers behind, fill the newshgroup with spham, then leave again before I really got my bearingsings." Leaning forward, Barry said in a low voice, "Jush between you and me, a lot of what I did washn't even notishable. There're tons of other bashtids already flaming, crossh-posting and sphamming that I wash jush anudder drop inna bucket." Straightening up, he lent back too far, and fell off the stool to land on his back on the barroom floor. It took him a few moments to realise something was wrong, but he couldn't work out what it was. "Anyway," he continued from the floor, sipping from his glass which had already emptied itself when he fell, "it washn't until a few newshgroups later that I started to get a handle on the isshue."] sci.math: I arrive in a flash of blue, or so I've been told. Understandable, as blue is the colour of Thread. It's a whole net.elemental thing, I can't explain it, I just use it. (Just for your information, Flame is red, Net is white and Keystroke is brown.) I didn't know immediately that I was in sci.math. All I knew was that people were arguing about mathematical constructs I hadn't a clue about, someone was ranting about how omega isn't constructible while at the same time writing down every conceivable number on a blackboard, and elsewhere there was a black hole. In a way, the black hole was the useful thing. Most my out of control power was being siphoned off and sucked into the hole where it did no damage whatsoever. It was helpfully labeled "JSH", but what that meant, I have no idea. Anyway, as I said, it was sucking all my power off, leaving me with only myself to worry about. I found myself a seat in the audience of the latest Monty Hall discussion, and finally managed to catch my breath. There was one person I knew of who could tell me exactly what was happening, but unfortunately Missy was back on her home planet. (Did I tell you that? Oh well, just assume I did.) Another person would be someone like Doctor Stomper, or Organic Lass, but they were back in the Looniverse, and that's where I was trying to get to. Calling up the Keystroke power, I tried to create a scanner that could tell me what was wrong. However, this wasn't some Star Trek newsgroup, but sci.math, and so that influenced the final shape: +-------------------------+ + _______________________ + + |_____________________| + + + + /\ /\ /\ /\ /\ /\ /\ /\ + + \/ \/ \/ \/ \/ \/ \/ \/ + + + + /\ /\ /\ /\ /\ /\ /\ /\ + + \/ \/ \/ \/ \/ \/ \/ \/ + + + + /\ /\ /\ /\ /\ /\ /\ /\ + + \/ \/ \/ \/ \/ \/ \/ \/ + +_________________________+ And so I ended up with some kind of demented calculator. Still, it managed to do its job, and I could scan myself and get basic readouts (those being the kind of readouts I could understand). What I found out was that there was a strange substance in my body. Now, this is of course relative. When you're a superhero, you get all kinds of weird chemicals in your system to help explain the whacked out powers you end up with, although this can vary from author to author, depending on their level of scientific knowledge, or ability to technobabble. But I had seen some scans of myself Missy had done, and I knew there was something else in there that wasn't normal. And there was only one way I could think of that would explain all this. I was poisoned. [net.food.drink.liquor: Barry finally realised he was lying on the floor, and after a long and epic struggle, managed to crawl back up to the bar proper, where he quickly proceeded to down a large number of drinks to make up for not having done so over the past few minutes. "Now," he gasped, only managing to stay vertical by the sheer force of effort it took to hold onto the bar with both hands. "Thish nex bit is compresshed. Took me a while to understand it all, not being ushed to people poishoning me." He picked up the glass in his teeth to down the latest refill, then blinked a few times. "How many hav I had? I should be paralyt...perilyt...unconschiouiou... out cold by now, hey? Either this is one of those deals where you have so much licker that it doesn't effect any more, which would be disappointing, or this is just water, or sommink..." This line of thought proved too much, and Barry collapsed backwards again, asleep before his head bounced off the floor.] _-~-_ [net.food.drink.liquor: Barry slowly roused as he felt heat against his cheek. The crackle was extremely loud in his ears, but this was overwhelmed by pounding in his head. "Ooooo..." he moaned, rolling over on the floor, but this merely resulted in fresh pains coming to light. Opening his eyes, he saw wood, and flame dancing on it. Wincing as he leapt to a wild guess, he looked down to see that his outfit was now red. Sitting up, very gently, he saw that the barroom was now on fire. "My fau," he said, through a clogged tongue, and instantly regretted it. Very, very slowly, Barry pulled himself up onto the stool, and, while everything burned around him, he asked the bartender, "Do you hav anny wader?" A glass of clear liquid was placed before him, which Barry happily grabbed and downed. Unfortunately, it was then Barry realised that in net.food.drink.liquor, they were unlikely to have anything that wasn't at least 20% proof, so his next few moments were spent in painful wheezing. "There's the hair of the dog," he gasped, "and then there's its entire coat!" He rested his forehead against the bar for a moment, then blearily looked around again. "Sorry abou this," he said. "My fau. Sure id'll be fine once the flames die down. Just as well no-one comes here, eh?" The bartender didn't look particularly amused by this, but did continue to clean the glass without seeming to worry about the fire consuming everything, so Barry took that as being all right. "Now, where was I? Something about poison, wannit?" He stared at the glass before him gloomily. "There's something ironic in that, but don ask me what."] I had been poisoned. Someone actually poisoned me. *Me*! Who? Why? How? The last I could possibly answer. Most likely in something I ate or drank, which meant that the lunch I had had been spiked in some way. Perhaps I should go back and demand a refund? But, on the other hand, consider for the moment the scale of the operation needed to poison me. Someone would need to be at the mall, at the particular food court serverie I decided to buy something from, and be able to slip in a poison that presumably wasn't in anyone else's meal. Unless it was. So either someone specifically slipped me a poison, or they designed a poison they could give to everyone, and it only effected me. Unless it didn't. Oh gods, Alice! (Yes, I admit it. It took me that long to think of my wife, but you get poisoned and see how orderly your thinking is.) Quite possibly somewhere my wife was now dying, killed by whichever bastards had tried to kill me. They would pay, oh yes, they would pay. Although, if it did turn out that they had only poisoned me, then I might not kill them as much. We'll have to wait and see. But that only answered how, not who or why. Nor did that answer how to get rid of it. One option was 'wait and see', and hope my body would deal with it on its own. But based on my hopping and popping around the net so far, it didn't look like my body was going to cope with it any time soon. Time for Plan B. Not that I had a Plan B. But after a lot of thinking, I did come up with one solution. Fight fire with fire. Or, in this case, fight poison with poison. [net.food.drink.liquor: "Which brings me here," Barry concluded. "Well, not 'here' exactly. This was merely the first place I could get a drink. Drown my sorrows, you could say, and my problems." He looked around the bar and sighed. "Don't look like it worked though. Got any other ideas? Or do you reckon I'm cursed forever to wander the newsgroups, leaping from post to post, hoping each time that the next Thread might be the post home?" Barry thought about what he just said. "On second thoughts, better not answer that, there's could be copyright issues." With that, Barry flashed blue then disappeared...] _-~-_ rec.humor.funny: A nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to stay here, Barry decided. For one thing, it was moderated. And it wasn't the nice moderation of rec.arts.comics.creative, but a far more heavy-handed version of no unallowable posts at all. The only reason he could stay here was because... well, he wasn't exactly sure, but he thought it had something to do with his Thread ability. This newsgroup consisted of a very large hall (to pack in the audience) and a stage with a microphone on it. People (that is, those who were allowed to) occasionally walked up to the microphone, and told a joke. Generally, a good joke, but just the one, and then they were off. Barry was currently sitting in the middle of a lot of smaller jokes that would soon make up a digest of one-liner jokes about mediums. The recent show on Net.BC had unearthed a pile of them, and now they were waiting for a few more before they were posted. But Barry didn't feel like laughing, and the sound of hilarity that echoed in this newsgroup was really getting on his nerves (that he was still largely hungover didn't help). In fact, he felt like he was going to be violently ill, which would only turn these digest jokes into something R18, no doubt. Raising a hand to his forehead, he felt sweat pouring off him. He needed water, anything to help his severely dehydrated system, but couldn't summon up enough energy to transport himself to another newsgroup. Now that was funny, running rampant with power, but he couldn't tap into it. What had he been thinking? Drinking never went well for him, and now he was paying dearly for it. Gasping, he fell to his knees, and felt Flame pouring from him, setting the newsgroup alight. Unlike the previous newsgroup, the Moderator acted quickly, stamping out the Flames, and quickly located Barry as the source. Using Moderator power, he placed a filter on Barry, blocking him from the newsgroup. Which didn't mean much to the Net.Elementalist, wielder of Thread, but it did seal him in a small box, which was quickly filled with Flame, then slowed to nothingness by lagging Net. Barry thrashed in delirium, trapped in a newsgroup far from his own, trapped away from his wife and child, from his friends, from his team mates, from anyone who could help him, who might care about what was happening to him. Trapped with only himself, and his power, which was building up and threatening to overwhelm him. His body, exhausted, finally quit, and lay still, as the filter finally ejected him into the ether of nothingness. _-~-_ net.general: The newsgroup existed before there was a USEnet, when there was only ARPAnet. It had always been around since then, despite the deluge of groups that had come after it. It wasn't used anymore, but it was there. A background to everything that had come since. Barry regained consciousness here, merely able to open his eyes and breathe through his mouth. The weight of the net pressed heavy here, time had done damage, and this newsgroup bore the weight only just. He felt that everything was brittle here, and didn't dare move, fearing it would all fall apart, and send him spiraling away into nothingness again. But it had been built well. It wasn't going to collapse any time soon, despite its age. Barry managed to sit upright, and gingerly looked down at himself. He was still the Net.Elementalist, but his suit was black, with no hint of other colours in there. It had worked! He still felt woozy, but there was no threat of power overload. He had worked the poison from his body, and could operate his own abilities properly now. Barry stood, just stood, and let the atmosphere of the newsgroup sink into him. This was a Mecca for the Net.Elementalist, a place that was the beginning, where everything that was essential to him was created. The first flame, the first spham, the first cross-post, the first lag, all happened in either this newsgroup or one just next door. But Barry wasn't the Net.Elementalist. Not completely. He was Barry Knewbee, and he had a wife and daughter to get back to. Not entirely sure why, he bowed to the newsgroup. "Thread." As blue flooded his suit, Barry concentrated on home and Threaded... _-~-_ talk.politics.theory talk.politics.tibet ukr.politics za.politics alt.shared-reality.sf-and-fantasy soc.sexuality.spanking soc.genealogy.italian alt.games.whitewolf clari.world.gov.politics.personalities soc.genealogy.surnames.britain es.humanidades.literatura es.tecnica.arquitectura es.rec.musica.partituras relcom.fido.ru.military uk.community.social-housing uk.community.voluntary .... _-~-_ A flash of blue light announced Barry's arrival, on all fours, in what he instinctively felt was the right newsgroup. He gasped for breath, then started panicking as he realised that there was no breath to be gotten. Looking up, he saw that he was on a barren stretch of ground, desolate and dark. Further up he saw the stars and other planets. Other planets that were much clearer to see than they were on Earth. Trying to activate his Thread abilities again, he found that his remaining air left him no choice but to flop onto the surface. As he wheezed out his last moments, he saw a sign someone had helpfully erected, large, with friendly writing for anyone who happened by: WELCOME TO PLUTO, GATEWAY TO THE SOL SYSTEM -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Next week on Fox.net: "What you need to understand is that even though, yes, they have super powers, they are not inately superior beings. They are, in essence, still human, but with added responsibilities that no-one has ever before been expected to handle. This is bound to have an effect, and, unfortunate as it may be, the most common effect is mental brakedown. "The Alt.Riders are a perfect example of this effect in action. They have been a team now for many years, and we already have evidence that they are coming apart at the seams. The incident that lead them into jail is just one tip of the iceburg of the explosion that is waiting to happen. "And when it happens, none of us will be safe." -- Donald Cohen, writer of best seller _I'm Okay, You're A Super Hero Freak_. How can we trust them ever again? The Alt.Riders Exposed... -------------------------------------------------------------------------- %What I Did On My Holidays% %Missy% %Fear for the Future% The creature came into existence inside a...laboratory? What that it? Experience was confused still, but should settle in time. Was this what there is? Before her...her? Was her a her? Or rather, she a her? After consideration, she decided that her was as good as anything else. Before her was another creature. Experience suggested %Mole%, %cross%, %Zinkenite% and %Kula Bocca%, but context was absent and therefore data was meaningless. She stretched her hand...how odd to have a body, limbs, a corporeal existence. She moved her body about, tentatively seeing what it was capable of. Shifting through senses she saw that it would do, and that it was carbon-based. Until now, she didn't even know what carbon was, or that there was a carbon to know about. Clearly, it would take time to orient herself to this reality. Until then- %Who...what are you?% The creature before her was talking. Communication through vibration of air particles. Was that how it worked here? Yes, she believed it was. Now, the creature...its name was Kula Bocca, that was it. %You are Kula Bocca,% she said, before realising she was capable of speech. %What happened to Missy?% Missy? That name...her host...her...was %mother% the right word? Missy brought her into this reality. Accepted her for what she was. Yes, %mother% would do for now. She looked at Kula Bocca, recalling more. This was a cross, a cross-breed between a Mole and a Chub, the two races of this planet. He led the Zinkenite movement to establish a new Mole nation without the Chub power base. To do this, he had used a band called the Big Bubble to create unrest in the populace. This was inefficient. She could show him a better... Something in her told her that Missy would not do it that way. For now, she should be careful. Missy would guide her. She would wait and see what happened. %What will you do?% she asked Kula. Kula took a step back, surprised. %What...who are you? What did you do to Missy?% %She created me,% she said. %I came from her body.% %Her body...it's gone!% %She created me from her body,% she repeated. Was this creature mentally deficient? Perhaps she should try elsewhere. %Are you...her daughter?% She considered this. %Yes. That term is appropriate.% %But...% She took a breath...a highly unusual sensation...then explained as best she was able to. %I am a co-spatial-temporal para-reality creature, bonded with an entity from this quantum state to give a quasi-stability in cosmic significance.% Kula didn't say anything for a minute. %Are you a Chub?% %Am I?% %I think it best I go.% %Maybe. Your revolution awaits.% This made Kula pause. %You know of our movement?% %The Zinkenite movement is looking to establish a sovereign nation under their own law, currently using political social engineering to achieve its aims.% %Er, yes. Will you be all right?% She looked long and hard at Kula. %Will you be?% %What do you mean?% %Missy felt for this cause. She would want you to be all right.% %Yes, I will be fine. I'll catch up with Frankie, and we'll sort things out.% %Where will this end?% %What do you mean? We will have our own nation.% %At any expense?% %Yes.% %At any outcome?% %If we must.% She knew how to help. She couldn't interfere, Missy wouldn't want her to, but she could show. %Is this where you want to end up?% She raised a hand and- -Kula Bocca stood in the city, all around him quiet and a sense of loneliness. He wandered, coming across bodies every few steps, some Moles, some Chubs, but none alive. He started running, chasing through streets. There must be someone alive, but he couldn't find them. Faster and faster, but still only more bodies. The city was dead, everyone dead, peace at any cost- -Kula jerked back. %No!% %How about?%- -Kula Bocca stood at the edge of the field, knowing he wasn't welcome here, but he wasn't really here either. He could only watch, as across the field one casket after another was lowered into the ground. He could now see into them, Moles and crosses, one or two Chubs. He recognised his friends, the others in the movements. And all around Chubs laughed, as Zinkenites were lowered into the ground, Chubs laughed at peace arrived at by any cost- -%Stop that!% Kula yelled, unable to resist the images she made him see. %What about?%- -Kula Bocca stood, triumphant but bloody. Before him lay the body of the Chub leader, the highest of the high. He was the last one. Turning around, he saw the other Zinkenites, Chubs at their feet. At last the city was theirs. The price had been paid, and peace had been achieved. One nation, theirs, the only one left- -%No,% Kula sobbed, tears running down his feet. %I don't want...% %Then don't make it happen. Seek peaceful solutions. Make any expense be too expensive.% Kula nodded, the point made. She closed her eyes. She was sure Missy would approve of that. Now she could go. She didn't belong here, and knew of some place else she could try. As she left, she let her mind wander, see what else there was to offer on the planet. As she did so, she picked up a thought. It fit. It suited. She decided to claim it. It was properly the first thing that was hers. The new Lillie left, leaving Kula Bocca to make the future his own. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- NEXT ISSUE: Holidays are such peaceful things, never a care in the world. In some cases, it might even be called 'the final rest'. CREDITS: All mine. NOTES: Okay, the Lillie story is a lot of cop-out, but aside from another civil war, I have no idea what the Residents had in mind for their story. There is a non-zero (although probably infinitesimal) chance that the Residents will continue to story line, so I'm leaving it open ended.Back to the Index.