[LNH][Contest] Legion of Net.Heroes Volume 2 #36: HCC10 ___ ___________________________ | |-| \ | |-|  / #36 | | |  egion of \ 'Being There' | | | __     / (Part of High Concept Challenge #10) | | | [___][ \et.__eroes \ | | | \ ] [ __ ] / written by and copyright 2010 | |-|     \ Saxon Brenton | |-|___________________________/ | | | | | | Cover shows a worm's eye perspective of a giant robot looking | | resolutely upwards at a shining tower that itself climbs away | | until it fades into the blue of the sky. | | | | | | |_| "Super happy fun powers ACTIVATE! Form of a GIANT ASS-KICKING ROBOT!" With that Shen Cheong transformed into the three metre tall mecha known as the Titanium Swordsman and took to the early morning skies. Not for the first time Shen experienced a moment of 'what the Hell am I doing?' double take. He was an engineer by profession. That was what had brought him halfway around the world to work in Kenya on the Chinese built Heavenly Fulcrum space elevator. However unforseen circumstances had brought him to putting most of his work into the net.ahuman security that protected the megastructure. It was all very strange if you stopped to think about it. What was the phrase that the Americans used? 'Being bitten by an origin'? Still, he was a net.ahuman now, looked up to as a hero by many, and had obligations to protect and serve. In the darkness and at this range the incoming neo-meteors would be invisible to the naked eye, so he consulted the radar telemetry that the people monitoring the security perimeter were forwarding to him. At first glance the four incoming bogeys looked like they were moving slowly, even lazily. This was particularly so if you only took into account the ETA - they weren't due to arrive at Mount Kenya for another seventeen minutes. However that impression was catastrophically short sighted. Like almost all the rocks fired at the Heavenly Fulcrum over the past week or so they had been launched from across the border of the neighbouring state of Ethiopia and where approaching from the north at something in excess of Mach 3. As he listened to the radio chatter from his colleagues as they angled into position the Titanium Swordsman briefly flickered part of his attention away to check the recordings of previous incursions. As expected they were on a different flight path (significantly different in the one case when the attack had been from Somalia in the north-east). That was a disappointment, since it confirmed that whoever had it in for the Heavenly Fulcrum - whether rival mining groups, enemy nations, or plain old lunatic religious insurgents - they were using a mobile base of operations. Shen enjoyed machine speeds in his empowered state, but he did not bother taking time to analyse this data. Instead the Swordsman turned his attention to the upcoming interception. Of course, this was not one of his rostered patrol shifts, and he and the contingent of jet fighters had been scrambled to act as backup should one or more of the rocks get past Sublime Weave. It was possible. Not because of any weakness on Sublime Weave's part, of course. Normally the Weave's spirographic force fields would be neither big enough or robust enough to stop a rock travelled at more than a thousand kilometres per hour. However the man had been using plotdevicum to boost the range of his powers and so far had a perfect catch rate. Between the efforts of Weave and the others members of the Fulcrum's net.ahuman security contingent no rocks had made it through the elevator's exclusion zone yet. No, instead what everybody was acutely aware of was the possibility of the neo-meteors might suddenly decide to dodge. It was obvious that the was some net.ahuman involvement in launching these attacks. No matter what speed they were propelled at, mundane rocks with no apparent source of thrust were not capable of flying many hundreds of kilometres on a non-ballistic trajectory. And if something still had enough control of them even after launch to make them fly that way, when would the autumn mist lift and reveal some other unusual flight behaviour? Out on point the Sublime Weave raised a large force wall across the path of the intruders. It showed on the Swordsman's distance sensors as the sudden appearance of a solid barrier. At this scale the image looked paper thin, but he knew that up close the wall would be several metres thick and made of a pulsing network of constantly renewing patterns, like an old raster graphics computer screen. And speak of the devil. The rocks dodged! The barrier was several hundred metres wide and high, but two of the neo-meteors dodged around it - one skipping upwards and another to the left. "I'm on the leftwards one," radioed the closest of the fighters, and then peeled off to intercept. Titanium Swordsman recalled that this was Lt. Li, a young go-getter originally from the Southern Provinces. The Swordsman himself indicated he was in position for the other and gained altitude to intercept. The jet's rocket propelled missiles arrived first, and mercifully the rock did not try to dodge a second time. The Swordsman took longer to destroy his target because his signature weapon, the most powerful item in his arsenal, required close range - but when he was on top of the final neo-meteor he used his plasma sword to smite the rock, obliterating it with a satisfying explosion of light and debris. After that bit of excitement The Swordsman returned to base and powered down. As ever there was about half a minute's worth of disorientation followed by a slightly longer period of mental fatigue as Shen's thought processed dropped down to merely human levels. But he was fine by the time that the preliminary debriefing was organised. In fact several hours after the stand down from red alert Shen found that he could not get back to sleep and spent some time composing an email to his wife instead. She was still back in China, working part time as a maths tutor in Anyang and raising their daughter Xiang. He missed them, of course. But the opportunity to work on a project like this had been too great to turn down. It still was - despite the strange turns that Shen's path had taken. He absently wandered over to a window and looked up. It was still more than an hour until dawn, and down here the land was still in the darkness of the Earth's shadow. But higher up the sunlight had started to reflect from length of the Heavenly Fulcrum. Shen's living quarters were some way from the base of the elevator, but compared to the length of a many thousands of kilometres tall tower the perspective meant he was looking straight up at what seemed like a glowing point as bright as a full moon. The space elevators were roads into the sky. Where would they lead? There was already mining of the asteroids and talk of lunar colonies. What else? Terraforming of Mars? The prospects thrilled Shen, and scared him more than a little. And what then for the next generation, and then one after that. Only last week he'd been informed that little Xiang was had announced at her twelfth birthday that she wanted to be an astro engineer, just like her father. That had made Shen smile, and not in any wistful way at childish impulsiveness. His little girl had always been stubborn, and good at maths, and more interested in boys toys for some reason. He did not doubt that she would carry through with her intention, and if he didn't get to start work on Martian terraforming then it was a good bet that Xiang would. All of which meant protecting this asset from whatever villains wanted to tear it down. He hoped the implementation of the force field defences would be ready soon. In a way Shen envied the setup that the Americans had for their space elevator in Brazil. Whatever else you could say about the turmoil of South American politics at least it was more stable than the situation in sub-Saharan Africa! His reverie was broken by a warning klaxon. Now what? Shen rushed outside and powered up, taking advantage of the Titanium swordsman's ability to process data at speed. There was some form of monster rampaging through the off-site complex on the other side of Thika. Knowing he was the fastest combat effective who could get there he took to the skies while radioing his intentions. Then he patched into security feeds and examined the incoming visuals. A humanoid monster. Made of rock! He zoomed in on the imagery. Ha! They looked like the same types of rocks as the neo-meteors. Further details were coming through... The creature had emerged from the laboratory where the neo-meteors were being examined. Yesss, that made a nasty sort of sense. The Titanium Swordsman began to see a pattern forming. From the looks of it the neo-meteors were some type of Trojan Horse gambit: attack with the rocks in a more-or-less passive form, let them be captured and taken back to base to be examined, and then once inside the security perimeter reactivate them for a final attack against the space elevator. It was a pity for whoever was behind this that the rocks had been taken for examination to a lab almost 100 km down the mountain from the Fulcrum. What, did they think the Fulcrum's defenders were stupid? Unless it was a feint. The Thika complex was on the southern side of Mount Kenya, away from the direction of the rock launches. Sigh. The sooner they could get that force field built, the better. Frustratingly none of the ordinance that Captain Xu's men were using against the creature seemed to be doing any good. While he wasn't particularly thrilled by the prospect of having the efforts of himself or his men overshadowed, this was looking more and more like a case where he would need the intercession of one of the net.ahumans stationed up the mountain. "Sir, look!" came a cry, and Xu had just enough time to see Titanium Swordsman's final half second of approach before the mecha crashed into and carried off the hostile. The Titanium Swordsman slammed the rock creature into the tarmac and began ripping into it. The creature retaliated with a powerful punch that sent the Swordsman staggering backwards. The Swordsman circled warily. How had the creature managed that? It seemed to be a lot more powerful than he had been expecting from the forces involved during the capture of the neo-meteors by Sublime Weave, Auspicious Dawn, and the others. Had it been underpresenting its strength in order to be captured and smuggled in? Or was it that its parts were stronger when combined into a gestalt? Could be either, or something else entirely. He decided to work on the latter notion, since the obvious solution involved dismembering the rock creature. Even if were wrong in his basic supposition, he'd still have the advantage of having hindered the monster's ability to move and attack. He radioed his intentions back to Captain Xu's security squad and put them on standby for this plan both succeeding and failing. Then the Swordsman drew his plasma sword, feinted to one side, and sliced through his enemy's arm. The arm fell to the ground. And began to crawl back to rejoin its body. Titanium Swordsman wasn't particularly surprised, but in a way was relieved that the pieces didn't levitate with independent flight. As the creature ducked backwards to get away from the plasma sword and pick up its arm, the Swordsman made a sudden jump forward to cut loose its other limb. The creature seemed prepared for this and used its remaining fist to smack a punch into the Swordsman's right shoulder, critically damaging the joint and almost tearing his arm off. Aarrgh! Fsk! Titanium Swordsman dialled down his pain receptors, but even so that would need major repairs before he could transform back to human. They circled each other, each looking for an opening. The rock creature also continued to move backwards a bit, seemingly hoping for another instant of respite during which it could pick up and reattach its severed limb. The Swordsman let him start, then feinted forward again. The rock creature lunged in defence, but had fallen for the Swordsman's feint, leaving it undefended on its left flank and unable to prevent the Swordsman from severing the remaining arm. Titanium Swordsman did not wait to see what the creature's reaction would be. Instead he pressed his advantage with a flurry of blows to continue to whittle away the animated pile of rocks, although he did keep a careful watch out for kicks. He kept chopping even after the pieces stopped moving, since he had seen enough zombie movies to realise that a limb with even one joint still intact - even just a finger - would be capable of independent movement. Of course, if this thing had been able to assemble itself out of rocks it would almost certainly be able to move about without jointed limbs in any case, but hopefully this would significantly slow it down. Soon security forces began to pull up in trucks and jeeps, and began sealing each piece of debris they could find into separate containers reinforced with steel. With the fight over Titanium Swordsman started running a more comprehensive diagnostic on the damage his arm had taken. As he did so he stared up the mountain towards the Heavenly Fulcrum. .oO( I've travelled a long way and put up with an awful lot of crap for your sake, ) thought Shen wryly. However he knew that like all big engineering projects the Fulcrum was merely a symbol of something far bigger than it's physical presence - which was saying a lot for a tether up to a launch platform in geosynchronous orbit. And for that reason he knew he'd willingly put up with even more if it was thrown his way. ========= Author's notes: Written for the 10th high Concept Challenge: the immigrant experience. I waffled even more than usual in choosing a story to tell for this one. In the end I decided to simply hang a character piece/fight scene combo on the existence of one of the space elevators that I have used occasionally as part of the background of the Legion of Net.Heroes setting.Back to the Index.