Blue Light Productions presents: ______ _________ _____ ____ ____ _______ _____ ___ ___ | | | | / _ \ | \| | | /\ \ / _ \ \ \ / / |BLiP| | |~~~~~ / / \ \ | | | | \/ | / / \ \ \ | / | | | ~~~~~| | ~~~ | | | ____ | / | | | | | | |#16 | | |~~~~~ | ___ | | | | | | | /\ ~| \ \ / / | | | | | | | | | | | |\ | | | | ~~ / \ ~ / | | ~~~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ [Cover shows the sprawling city of Net.ropolis seen from on high. On the right, we see the left half of Fan.Boy, his cape flowing behind him, and his body strangely glowing with power.] -------------------------------------------------------------------------- "I'm gonna show you that good guys don't always win, I'm gonna show you the brighter side of living in sin." -- Madonna, Back In Business Hell is a place on earth, and its name is Misery Ridge. But that isn't the most dangerous. That distinction is currently held by the Peril Room which resides in the Legion of Net.Heroes Headquarters, in Net.ropolis. But that is only due to the occupants. There are two people in the Peril Room at the moment. One has had his body altered by outside forces he can't understand for a cruel and twisted purpose, becoming a tool for someone else, a plaything to dance for a master. The other is an energy being from the future called Dreck. _-~-_ Dreck looked in horror at the figure Barry had become. Although he still wore a spandex outfit and a cape, Barry Knewbee had become something more. And Dreck was afraid for him. "Oh, Barry. What has happened to you?" Dreck asked, knowing he wouldn't receive an answer. Barry didn't answer, but squeezed his fists. He brought them up in front of his face, and watched in fascination as the energy tendrils played around them, crackling with power. Barry threw back his head, his mouth twisted in evil pleasure. The energy flared, then surrounded his entire body. Barry rose in the air. "Oh, Barry," whispered Dreck, tears starting to run down his face. He ran from the Peril Room, partly to seek help, but also to get away from the specter before him. Above, Barry's aura grew. _-~-_ Outside the LNHHQ the air smelled of spring, of growing things sweating under the heat of the sun, giving off a scent of warm vegetation that permeated the LNH grounds. Most of the windows were closed, as various net.heroes took advantage of the air conditioning systems available to them. One third-floor window, however, was open, if only a little bit. Just enough to fit a pair of ankles through, to be exact. Brittany decided she rather enjoyed being upside down. It was cooler outside the building as opposed to her room, especially with the breeze one tended to get when one was three stories up. She couldn't figure out how to get her air conditioning on, and had been sweltering in her room for at least an hour before realizing that hanging outside her bedroom window would probably be cooler, and quite a bit more interesting. The blood did have a nasty tendency to rush to her head, though. The only thing she could figure was that someone had _stolen_ her air conditioning dial. Either that or she had covered it when she built Binky's altar. If you looked at it right, then the sky was growing trees, and dripping massive skyscraper stalactites toward the blue ground. It certainly made the cars interesting. A butterfly had landed on her nose, too, a while back. It was a little windy, up on the third floor of the HQ, but beyond that - Someone hurled the window open, and for a split instant she could feel her feet begin to slide off the sill, the space between her and the ground suddenly feeling very, very real. Then something wrapped their hands around her ankles and began to haul her inside. Brittany frowned. As a rule she disliked near-death experiences. Or near-near-death experiences. Especially when they didn't warn you first. Her shoulders jounced painfully on the sill, then she landed in a sitting position inside, glaring grumpily at the young man who had pulled her out of her meditation. "You know," she said, "if you drop someone out of a window they're likely to hit the ground really hard. Unless it's first story, of course. But this wasn't. What do you want?!" The young man gave her a look full of despair and fear. "You have to help Barry!" "Barry? Fan.Boy? Who are you?" asked Brittany, getting to her feet, one eyebrow raised. Evidently this wasn't your normal juvenile delinquent going around giving poor unsuspecting people near-near-death experiences. The young man leaped up, gripping the neck of Brit's T-shirt in his fists. "Dreck! I'm Dreck! You have to help Barry!" he cried. Brittany considered that for approximately 1.3 seconds. "Okey-doke. I'm Weirdness Girl. Barry's dimensional twin is harassing my friend, so I suppose we have a bond, of sorts. just lemme get Binky!" chirped the net.heroine, as she carefully disattached Dreck's hands from her T-shirt, and bounded across the room. _-~-_ Paytan stood in her room, eyes closed, concentrating. Concentrating on the sword in her hand and the whispering in her mind. Feeling her energy flowing with the sword, enhancing it. Feeling her power reaching out and enveloping, molding. Paytan opened her eyes, and cut a streak through the air. Green energy glowed in the wake, slowly fading. Paytan studied it critically. Better, whispered Dirmarw in her mind. It has to be better. It has to be more powerful. It has to stop whatever takes advantage of your vulnerability after you strike. That wouldn't stop a dormouse. Paytan glared at Dirmarw, but closed her eyes again, focusing her anger into energy, channeling her aggression. Good, the sword told her. Use your emotions, don't let them use you. A knock on her door threw her concentration off. "Go away," she snarled, struggling to maintain her mental balance. "Paytan," came a voice. "It's me. Allen. Can I talk to you?" "Leave me alone," she said vehemently. This was not a distraction she wanted right now. The door handle jiggled, then turned, and door started to open. Damn, thought Paytan. She was sure she had locked it. Maybe he has a key, she thought paranoidly. Allen stepped into the room just as Paytan tried another cut in the air, testing herself despite being distracted. The energy trail was barely noticeable. Allen stood carefully, the sword now pointing directly at him. "Was it something I said?" he asked. Damn. She hadn't meant to do that. He just flustered her so. She didn't know what her feelings were towards him yet, and Dirmarw's insistence that she concentrate on her spell casting was not a help. Send this fool away, Dirmarw ordered her. "What do you want?" Paytan asked hotly. "I just wanted to see how you were. I know you've been to Hell again recently, and that can't have been pleasant." Allen's naivete shocked Paytan. "'Can't have been pleasant'? You don't have any idea, do you? You just haven't been dragged through sheer torture, where what doesn't want to take you apart piece by piece merely wants to kill you." This time, Paytan could still remember her trip. Usually.. In fact every other time, Dirmarw hid her memories, so that she could still look at herself in the mirror. But this time, thanks to Jinx, she had survived without destroying her soul. And she wasn't going to give that bond she had formed up that easily. She owned Jinx at least that much. "What happened to you?" asked Allen. She could see the need to understand on Allen's face, but the pain was too personal to share with him. "Couldn't your little stoolie tell you?" "What? Oh, you mean Barry? No. Something's happened to him. He's been lost inside that damn Peril Room." Paytan could hear concern in his voice. At that moment, she didn't care. She only wanted to hurt him like he hurt her. "Lost your little puppy. Aww, what a shame." Anger flashed across Allen's face. "Don't you dare bring him into this. He has nothing to do with us." Paytan leapt across the room and faced him, her eyes only a few centimeters from his. "What us? There is only you. You come in here and think you can have me whenever you want. You already know my life like you read it out of a book. Or he did. I'm just some toy to you!" Paytan's room was on the fourth floor, and, as it happened, positioned right beside the thick walls that made up the Peril Room. When she had started practicing, her back had been up against this wall, but when she moved to Allen, she distanced herself from it. Which was why she wasn't killed when the wall exploded. _-~-_ It was nice up on the roof. Kismet smiled and threw back her head, letting the breeze tangle her hair a little, smelling of spring heat and green growing things. She was enjoying this weather. It reminded her of home, and of catching one of the warm tradewinds that could take one for miles, sailing across an empty azure sky. She closed her eyes, and took in a deep breath, filling her lungs with the air and doing her best to ignore the ever-present smells of concrete, gasoline, and humans. She could almost see it, almost. The arc of the endless blue above her, and the green plains so far below, flat and smooth for hundreds of miles. The stone columns, tens and tens of them scattered across the landscape, miles high. Even, in the distance, the occasional flash of sun against another's wings. Perhaps, she thought, if the people here took more time to breath they would be a little calmer. Always rushing about on little errands, or destroying things. At that she frowned. Always destroying things was right. So many of them that there were always at least a few willing to cause trouble or breakage. Of course, some of them _were_ nice, she acknowledged. Like Savannah, who came up and talked to her, more than anyone else did. If only she could go _down_, and visit her... Kismet shuddered. Tiny little hallways and tiny little rooms filled her mind, and she took another breath to dispel the unsettling image. It was then she realized that the roof was vibrating beneath her hand. Kismet frowned. Funny, she hadn't realized the human's buildings could move, too - One of the roof's four corners disintegrated with a sound like a thunderclap, the force of the displaced air hurling her off the building. Bricks and chunks of plaster rained down around her, and she snarled as a large metal plate ricocheted off her left wing. If she had been sitting on that corner when it had exploded, she would have been killed. As it was, she was still negotiating massive showers of junk and bits of building as it hurtled towards her through the air. The air smelled of dust, now, and oil. What was left of spring was gone, and she was surrounded by the wailing sound of siren bells going off inside the building. She could see a single figure, rising up out of the massive hole it had made in the roof and the side of the building, staring away distantly as if it didn't even care what it had done. Humans. Always destroying things. Uncaring, stupid little bugs. Kismet growled. _-~-_ Harry stood outside the LNHQ, staring, not at the building, although that was impressive in its own way, but at a tree. He couldn't exactly say he had fond memories of that tree, but it definitely meant something. It was that tree that brought him and Melanie back together again. Well, it was more complicated that that, but wasn't everything? Doc Medulla. That was a name that was associated with that tree. Harry wasn't schizophrenic, but when he was Doc Medulla, sitting up in that tree, and staring at the LNHQ through a pair of binoculars, he certainly felt like someone else. Except that someone thought he was trying to commit suicide, and called the cops in. They had brought Melanie, his then ex-girlfriend, and faced with love or being a Mad Scientist, Doc Medulla had been thrown out the window. For now. And now, at Melanie's request, Harry was seeing a psychiatrist. In fact, Harry was on his way to see him, but had stopped here for a moment to reminiscence. He still hadn't told the psychiatrist about Doc Medulla, and wasn't sure he was going to either. Harry finally turned and took the LNHQ in. Which was how someone actually saw the top corner being blown off. _-~-_ Barry contracted his force bubble, which he had used to push the offending walls and ceiling out of his way. He rose into the atmosphere like an avenging angel, power crackling around him, giving him an unearthly glow. Mentally extending his own senses, Barry scanned for the other that would help him in the execution of his duties. Part of him noticed the movement below, but such things were too menial to be considered. And that's when a humanoid bullet crashed into him. Barry was so surprised that something actually had the audacity to attack him that Kismet was able to get in a few lucky blows before Barry struck back. And struck hard. He grabbed both of her claws, one in each hand, and let power flow. Pain coursed through Kismet's body as the claws became heat conductors, burning her hands and firing her nerves. A scowl settled on Barry's face as he increased the energy. Eventually the claws melted under the pressure, releasing Kismet, who moved away, giving Barry a look of pain and hatred. Barry didn't even look at her twice. _-~-_ The Ultimate Ninja exited the stairwell onto the roof. He stared up at the brightly glowing figure of Fan.Boy, and at the departing body of Kismet. Joining him after a few moments were a collection of LNHers including Dreck, Brittany, Faq Boy, Paytan and Retcon Lad. Ultimate Ninja waved Retcon Lad over. "You know anything about this?" he asked. Retcon Lad shook his head. "He's never mentioned anything like this to me. Although," Retcon Lad scratched his head for a moment, "He has been having problems with continuity recently. Perhaps that's to blame." Then again, thought the Ultimate Ninja to himself, Cosmic plot lines seem to be the order of the day. Something distracted his attention, and he and Retcon Lad looked up to see another brightly glowing figure appear. "Halt!" the new figure boomed. "Kid Kirby shall not have such a powerful presence near his friends." Ultimate Ninja saw Fan.Boy flick an arm almost negligently. A burst of energy reached out and smashed into Kid Kirby. The Kirbian exploded into a million fragments. "Kid," gasped Retcon Lad. "Not likely," said the Ultimate Ninja. "More like a very poorly constructed KirbyBot." Kismet touched down a few meters away, cradling her arms. Brittany and Paytan broke away from the crowd and moved over to her. "Kismet!" yelled Brittany, Binky's fishbowl sloshing water onto the roof as she ran, "are you okay?" Paytan cursed under her breath, keeping an eye on the area of sky Fan.Boy had disappeared into she ran. She wanted to have a word with him about exploding walls, as soon as possible. A very firm word. Meanwhile Kismet fumed, doing her best to ignore the wisps of smoke still rising from the burnt flesh of her hands. "I am all right, Brittany," she growled. Inside, she raged. Did these insect people never stay to finish a fight!? A need for revenge coiled in her gut, fueling her anger until it seemed she would smoke and burn from within as well as without. "Who was that?" "Fan.Boy, I think," said Brit, glancing cautiously upwards, as if by saying his name Barry would be summoned instantly to the scene. Paytan had a considerably louder reaction. "Fan.Boy!? HEY!" she glared at the slowly growing crowd of LNHers on the remains of the roof, "ALLEN! FAQ BOY! What the hell is your dimensional twin DOING, huh!? Did you know about this!?" She spun, Dirmarw balanced carefully over her shoulder, and stormed back to the crowd. Brittany watched Allen wince away from Paytan and try to creep stealthily behind the Ultimate Ninja, while Kismet stared upwards at the sky balefully. "Fan.Boy," she hissed, one fist clenching. Burnt flesh cracked painfully on the back of her hand, continuing to bleed. She would remember this name. Dreck watched hopelessly as everyone around him continued to talk. They didn't know what to do. No one could help Barry. Finding the only friendly face in the crowd, he headed towards Weirdness Girl. Even she looked like she wasn't quite sure what to do. "Hi Dreck," said Weirdness Girl quietly when he was close enough to hear her. She did look lost, undecided, and he began to feel sick, in the very pit of his stomach. Behind them both, Kismet walked to the edge of the roof, glaring up at the spot in the sky Fan.Boy had disappeared into, and threw herself from the roof. The sun flashed for an instant on golden wings, and then she was airborne, heading away after him. "You can't help, can you?" Dreck asked, staring steadily at the gravel beneath his feet. Brittany winced. "I don't know what's wrong with him," she said, "Maybe if I had time..." "There isn't any time!" yelled Dreck, panic beginning to creep through him. If they didn't hurry Barry would be gone. And he didn't know what he would do if Barry was gone. Without Barry... "Look," said Weirdness Girl, grabbing his arm, "We'll go snag a flight.thingee and go after him. Maybe if we talk to him he'll snap out of - " "NO! There isn't time! There isn't time!" cried Dreck. He looked up then, his features settling into a look of unhappy determination. "I'll have to do it," he whispered. Then he was gone, a bolt of electricity arcing across the city. Brittany watched him go, brows creased. "Good luck, Dreck," she whispered. _-~-_ Explosion Boy sat looking worriedly at their new... well, friend wasn't exactly the word, and neither was ally. Certainly she had helped them escape from the clutches of justice, but... he wasn't quite sure if _this_ Censor Girl was _that_ Censor Girl. Yes, physically they were the same, but mentally... well, and no disrespect intended here, it was like comparing Janey to Mr. Fossavellus. One had no idea how her powers worked, and the other was supremely confident. Looking away from the frightened cyborg, he concentrated on what the other members of the Junior Brotherhood of Net.Villains were saying. "...there's no way we're taking on a free loader," Kid Camouflage was saying. "And yet she may yet be able to aid us," Mr. Exposition exposited. "Back in the jewelry store, she came to our aid in a way that suggests that she has far more power available than the rest of us combined." "And she was really good," put in Hooded Ho-od Win, Jr. "Pah," was Mr. Fossavellus's comment. "You expect us to believe that this sniveling creature is capable of acts of such destruction?" He strode too close to Censor Girl, and her arm snagged him. "I want Mr. Killfile," she cried. Mr. Fossavellus extracted his arm, and sneered at her. Dust had been keeping an eye on events outside, and now she turned around urgently. "Guys, there's something heading our way, and it doesn't look like a social visit." Explosion Boy threw his arms up as cover as the wall exploded outwards. As the dust settled, he made out powerful figure, incongruously dressed in a spandex outfit. The man turned his gaze on them one at a time. Explosion Boy wondered how he could see through such dirty glasses. When the man came to Censor Girl, he snatched something out of his belt. Censor Girl cringed away, almost on instinct. The man's hand caught fire, and Explosion Boy saw something gleam in the remains. The man held the object out to Censor Girl, who slowly stood up and took it. As she did so, her whole manner changed. Gone was the scared child, the frightened innocence. Here was the person that could have kicked their butts if she wanted to. "Interface," the man said. "Interface," Censor Girl replied. She gripped the device in her organic hand, and slipped her fingers through the holes provided. Explosion Boy saw the device fit snuggly in her palm. And then it expanded as if air was pumped into it. When it reached a certain size, it burst, splattering Censor Girl with parts or itself. Where the shining substance contacted skin, it pulsed and grew. Soon, all traces of Censor Girl's previous humanity had been covered, leaving only a robotic menace. "Perhaps you're right," Explosion Boy heard Mr. Fossavellus say. "Perhaps we can use her." Censor Girl grinned, a shiny metallic smile. The strange man glowed brighter, head thrown back in exultation. _-~-_ In the newsgroup alt.1d, Barry Knewbee's eyes glowed, although none of the other members noticed. His mind became swamped with another purpose, to watch, to guard, to post in ways that would control... In the newsgroup alt.2600, Barry Knewbee's eyes glowed, although none of the other members noticed. His mind became swamped with another purpose, to watch, to guard, to post in ways that would control... In the newsgroup alt.3d, Barry Knewbee's eyes glowed, although none of the other members noticed. His mind became swamped with another purpose, to watch, to guard, to post in ways that would control... In the newsgroup alt.3d.studio, Barry Knewbee's eyes glowed, although none of the other members noticed. In the newsgroup alt.abortion, Barry Knewbee's eyes glowed, although none of the other members noticed. In the newsgroup alt.abortion.inequity, Barry Knewbee's eyes glowed, although none of the other members noticed. In the newsgroup alt.abuse.recovery, Barry Knewbee In the newsgroup alt.abuse.transcendence, Barry Knewbee In the newsgroup alt.activism In the newsgroup alt.activism.d alt.activism.death-penalty alt.adoption alt.adoption.agency _-~-_ A piece of cement fell from the edge of the hole in the wall, hitting the ground with a tiny chink. The air was thick with dust, drifting and whirling around the heads of the JBoNV where they sat, frozen. Sunlight poured through the man-sized hole in one wall, turning the dirty brown air into a cloud of sparkling gold. Which contrasted nicely against the silver body of Censor Girl, gleaming darkly in the very same sunlight that seemed to set the dust afire, that backlit Fan.Boy as he stood looming off to the side, tiny bolts of energy arcing around his body. Mr.Fossavellus smiled, and stepped forward, to where Censor Girl stood, and inclined his head to her. She turned and regarded him coldly. One eye glowed blood red, blinking on and off, shuttering from side to side as if scanning the area. The other was nothing but a silver orb, replacing the eye that had been real only moments ago. It was distant and inattentive, watching places that no one but she could see. Something whirred within her quietly, some system turning over, or a set of gears turning into motion. There was nothing human left in her, only smooth and uncaring metal. Fan.Boy smiled for a brief second, satisfied. Then he took one step back, out of the building, out of the air of swirling liquid gold, and into the plain sunlight beyond. His feet left the pavement and he soared upwards, out of sight. A brief silence followed in his wake, broken by Censor Girl's voice. "It is imperative that I receive some form of protection," she whirred, a single strand of sunlit dust drifting past her silver eyes. Fossavellus tilted his head slightly, silently. He could have been watching her. Or he could have been staring beyond her, thinking. The ever-present dark sunglasses cloaked his eyes, and the large black hat he wore shadowed his face, wiped out the creases and shapes that made it recognizable, and turned it into something so averagely human that no one would have been able to identify him again, even after hours of study. "And we must give it to you then, with no return offered?" asked Fossavellus, as the JBoNV shifted uncomfortably behind him. Janey stepped backwards, into the shadows, and disappeared into her idea of safety. Explosion Boy, Kid Camouflage, and Rebecca were tense, watching Censor Girl, waiting for an attack or some form of explanation. Mr.Exposition leaned heavily on top of one of the crates in the background, mouth hanging wide open, trying not to breathe too loudly. Dust leaned sat with her back braced against another crate, knees drawn up to her chest with her arms wrapped around them, shivering. She could feel the tiny particles swirling around Censor Girl's silvered body, each one of them swerving away about an inch above the surface of her skin. The once-cyborg had a shield of some sort around her, invisible and very hard to detect. "No return?" whispered Censor Girl, "No return!?" Then she laughed, hollow and metallic, taking a slow step towards the hole in the wall. She swung one arm out in a sweeping gesture that encompassed the entire city. "I can give you your every desire!" "By what authority?" sneered Fossavellus. "That spandexed super-hero gone bad?" "By a higher authority than that, human," hissed Censor Girl. "Come outside with me." She stepped into the light, sun flashing off her metal skin, and the man in the black trenchcoat followed. Far above, unnoticed, the sun flashed against another metallic surface, this one gold as honey. "When we are finished," said the creature of circuits and silver, "You can have anything you want. Money. Power. I am the key to it all. But first you will protect me, from any forces that come this way. There may be many. There may be none. The tides of war will decide. Stay by me, and your wildest dreams will be realized." Fossavellus watched her carefully. She smiled back at him, confident and cold, and he nodded slowly. "All right then," he said,"It seems we have a deal." High above them Kismet snarled. She had followed Fan.Boy to the building, and she had seen him leave, far too fast for her to catch. But beneath her was a woman made of metal. A different looking metal than that she had previously seen, thought Kismet. But she had met only one metal woman during her stay in this world. And she and Censor Girl had some fighting left to finish. But the cyborg had too many people with her for Kismet to try to take her on alone. Kismet swung back, thrusting upwards through sky towards the LNH. She would have to get Brittany, and Paytan. _-~-_ alt.appalachian alt.aquaria alt.archery alt.architecture alt.architecture.alternative alt.architecture.int-design alt.arts.storytelling alt.ascii-art alt.asian-movies alt.astrology _-~-_ Brittany was on her back, letting her head hang off the edge of the LNHHQ roof when she saw Kismet flying towards them again. Paytan was sitting crosslegged beside her, Dirmarw laid carefully across her lap. Faq Boy had made a strategic retreat a little while ago, disappearing into the depths of the HQ like a rabbit down its burrow. The rest off the roof had pretty much cleared of superheroes, as everyone went off on tasks of their own. The winged girl came in fast and low, landing with an angry flip of the wings that sent gravel flying. She spun to face them, wings still outstretched, showering Brittany with gravel as she sat up. "I have found her!" said Kismet emphatically. Paytan sighed. Brittany raised an eyebrow and stood. "Found who? I thought you were heading out after Fan.Boy," she asked, stooping again to pick up Binky, who was burbling away unconcernedly. "The metal woman, the Censor Girl, who took my throat in her hands and tried to crush it! But she is with the group of people who she was with last time. Fan.Boy led me to her and them." "The Junior Brotherhood?" asked Paytan, standing and hefting Dirmarw experimentally. She had only tangled with them once, the first time they'd shown themselves as a villain group, when they'd tried to steal a flight.thingee. The second time everybody had fought them she'd been in hell. With Jynx. "Yes! The Junior Brotherhood!" said Kismet, hopping from one foot to the other eagerly," So now we'll go to fight them, yes?" "I suppose we have to," said Brit, cocking her head to one side. "If Fan.Boy was over there then they must have something to do with this whole mess." And maybe, she thought, we'll find Dreck there, too. Paytan stood too, and smiled. "Well then," she hissed, swinging Dirmarw up over her shoulder," Let's go see what's up with the JBoNV." _-~-_ alt.lifestyle.barefoot alt.locksmithing alt.lwaxana-troi.die.die.die alt.lycra alt.mag.playboy alt.magic alt.magick alt.magick.sex alt.make.money.fast alt.manga _-~-_ Ultimate Ninja looked across his desk at Doctor Stomper. He wasn't really sure if he'd be able to keep up with the amount of babble the doctor could produce, but if there was an explanation to be given, Doctor Stomper could make one up to fit the situation. "Well, UN," Stomper started. "And Retcon Lad," he added. Retcon Lad was also there because he was about the only friend Barry had, and therefore might be able to provide some form of insight. "It looks like another attempt to control the net." The ninja sighed. "Again?" "But, this time, it's rather subtle. Instead of any overt control, a display of "Do this or else", the newsgroups are being altered as, as it was, in situ. Barry Knewbee has counterparts in all the newsgroups," Retcon Lad nodded at this, "we're still not sure how, but, now those other selves are acting as a kind of guidance for the newsgroups. They are being used as eyes and ears, and sometimes mouths, to guide and shape certain posts and threads." "How?" asked the ninja. "Speaking out on a newsgroup never ensured being listened to. We've seen far too much of that sort of thing here." "Well, yes, but there's something else happening. Things are being listened to, or being made to seem as if they are being listened to." Ultimate Ninja considered this. "What?" "Using another account I have overseas, I have found out that posts here are slightly different, sometimes drastically different, to posts overseas. Statements are changed. Meanings are altered. In some cases, entire parts of posts have been erased." "To what purpose?" "I'm not sure. No real pattern has been established. It might take some time to work out." "And how are these changes being made?" "I'm not sure about that either," Doctor Stomper admitted. "There must be something between here and there, some device that can trap the posts and stop them." "Doctor, what newsgroups have been affected?" This question was from Retcon Lad, and the Ultimate Ninja turned to see a suspicion growing on his face. Doctor Stomper shrugged. "So far, only early alt groups, but it's spreading." "What is it?" the ninja asked Retcon Lad. "A while ago, Barry and I set out to find out more about Barry's other selves," Retcon Lad explained. "Borrowing a net.thingee," Retcon Lad didn't look to see the ninja's grim expression at the memory, "we traveled to other newsgroups. "While there, we came across something else happening. People were vanishing from the newsgroups, but only in the alt groups. The split was Ame.rec.an vs. everyone else. We traced down the problem to Firewall, from the Order. She had installed firewalls, and was slowing going through the alt groups firewalling them. We stopped her and got her to promise not to use the machines again. It sounds like it those machines are back in use." "The Order," said the ninja. "They're starting to get a lot out of hand. Very well, I'll get onto them and see if Firewall is doing it again. Doctor, see if you can find some way of stopping it." _-~-_ alt.yoga alt.zines alt.znet alt.znet.aeo alt.znet.pc aus aus.aarnet aus.acs aus.acsnet aus.ads _-~-_ Barry soared above Net.ropolis, considering. The Legion of Net.Heroes would soon be finding an answer to him, but he didn't want to answer to anyone. He just wanted to sit back and watch, only making a statement when he had to. He needed a diversion. Something grandiose, that would occupy their time, and giving his other selves more time to complete the take over. Something on a large scale. Some from of.. destruction. That was it. Cause a large enough mess and they would be tied up, forced to help. 'Collateral damage' was the optimum phrase here. Barry scanned the city, looking for the worst place to exploded, and the Net.ropolis Power Station came under consideration. That would be perfect. It was just a pity the power source was geothermal, not nuclear. Still, it was the best he could find. Easily flying over there, Barry landed in the middle of the plant, and concentrated on finding the weakest link. While he did so, something formed behind him. "Hello, Barry," said Dreck. Barry didn't acknowledge him. "Oh, Barry. What happened to you? Did that little thing really mean so much? I tried to help you, you know I tried." Dreck gazed longingly at Barry's back, hoping for any sign of recognition. "You are not you. And now, even though it breaks my heart, I have to stop you, because no one else can. "Barry, please forgive me!" Dreck cried, launching himself at Barry. The two of them collided, and they went down. Dreck let himself become energy, and tried to overpower Barry's nervous system, but Barry wasn't having any of that. He flung Dreck from him like he was a rag doll. Dreck slowly stood up, the disinterest hurting more than any physical pain. Tears rolling down his cheeks, Dreck wrapped cords of electricity around Barry, holding him. Barry finally faced Dreck, but the look of anger of his face was more than Dreck could stand. Barry waved his arms, and the electricity washed off him. Barry snarled, then waved his hand, and Dreck was brushed aside. Barry launched himself back into the air, and then turned and fired. Dreck understood immediately what Barry had done. Having been inside the system, Dreck knew that the most vulnerable part was the converter regulator. If that failed, then every thing would be pumped far more power that it could handle, and everything would explode. Transforming himself back into energy, Dreck plunged inside the system, hoping to stop it from inside. Once there, Dreck raced along the wires, trying to cut off the regulator before any damage got to it, but arrived to see it a smoking wreck. Already he could feel power building, and parts were shaking as too much energy was forced through them. Dreck considered his only option. Take the excess energy into himself, and hope to survive it. Dreck pounded along the wires, going from system to system, bleeding off extraneous energy as fast as he could contain it. But it hurt, it hurt. To hold that much power, and remain so inactive with it. With a burst of speed as loud as a howl, Dreck upped the pace, trying to keep track with the build-up before something gave out. But he knew he would be far too late. The explosion was as much pure force as it was light and sound. In an expanding radius, windows exploded away from the station as pressure shattered everything. People were knocked over, and cars were lifted off the road. In one case, a bus that had just entered the city near the power station careened to one side, and slid along the road before toppling onto its side and smashing into a concrete building, all in ponderous silence. Splash page: A far distance shot, taken from a point far away Net.ropolis. The city is sprawled out below, but overshadowing it is the mushroom cloud that grows from the power station. In front of it can be seen, Christ-like, a figure in a yellow outfit and a blue cape. Etched on the cloud is the last image anyone will ever see of an energy being from a divergent future who laid down his life, in vain: a face screaming out in silent pain. "The good guys don't always win." Written by Jamas Enright and Jennifer Whitson. Plot by Jamas Enright. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- NEXT ISSUE: We're in a crossover here, so check out Misfits #20 to see if there is any hope for the net, and what part, exactly, Censor Girl plays in this. Then, come back to see life in a newsgroup ruled by Fan.Boy, as the author picks up on something he left off in Fan.Boy #12. Be here for _Fan.Boy #17_: "The first Itstar I see tonight." Credits: -------- Fan.Boy, Dreck and Faq Boy are mine. Brittany, Paytan, Kismet and the JBoNV belong to Jennifer. Censor Girl belongs to Jennifer, but I'm using her anyway, as I have been for a while. :) Harry was created by Abhay Khosla, used with permission. Ultimate Ninja was created by wReam. Retcon Lad was created by Saxon Brenton, used with permission. The KirbyBot was created by Kid Kirby, who was created by Harith Jameel al Khafiz. Notes: ------ Phew. Finally got there. The penultimate plot line has begun! Any cries of "You heartless bastard!" shall be met with "Aha! So you _do_ read my comic." :)Back to the Index.