[NTB/LNH/ELSEWHIRL/HCC11/M-O-U-S-E-] Legion of Net.Heroes Volume 2 #38 This issue of   egion of __     [___][ \et.__eroes Volume 2 #38 \ ] [ __ ]     has *once again* been highjacked to present another of the MISANTHROPIC TALES OF THE NET.TRENCHCOAT BRIGADE 'Are You Feeling Lucky, Punks?' written by and copyright 2010 Saxon Brenton for the 11th High Concept Challenge [Acraphobe content warning: This story is has a Net.Trenchcoat Brigade label and is therefore implied Acraphobe. It contains mature content.] [Elsewhirls content warning: Not a dream, not a hoax, not an imaginary story. It's just not in mainstream continuity, that's all.] John Munlop was only a year away from his long planned retirement when he heard about his son's death. It was that piece of news that sent him over the edge into madness, and that madness from which the death trap that slaughtered so many emerged more than a decade later. It happened like this: The day of Aaron Munlop's death started out much the same as any other for his father, who was employed in magical research and development in the Thaumaturgy Department at Net.ropolis University. Specifically in applications of magical defences. John had spent most of his working life developing the psychic equivalent of bullet-proof vests and protection from trespassers, and he was good at his job. Now, it must be said that most of the applications of the various magical R&D units were low level. As with all things if you wanted superhuman levels of effect then you either had to put a *lot* of engineering into it (think of all the purely mundane effort and organisation needed to sent rockets to the moon) or actually have super- humans - such as the members of the Legion of Net.Heroes - involved to give the endeavour extra oomph. There *were* incredibly sophisticated and powerful magical defences available, but they tended to be expensive and therefore used by big businesses or government departments like the Pentagon. For small businesses and private homes the price range involved meant that you were getting the equivalent of a good mundane security system. They were useful as long as they were installed properly, used sensibly and not overestimated, but they were hardly a panacea. The problem was that after decades of having magic depicted sloppily in popular culture (such as with Harry Potter) or worse, for comical effect in sitcoms (such as with Bewitched) the general public had a vastly inflated idea of what magic could do. (Then again the general public had a vastly inflated idea of what a car's cruise control could do as well. As was so often the case it was a problem with the public, not with the product.) So on that Thursday morning thirteen years ago John Munlop was investigating ways of increasing the effectiveness, or reducing the costs, or both, for the curse protections of public buildings. There was a knock on the door, and John looked up to see his supervisor, Alanna. She looked grim. Behind her were two police officers. "John, I'm afraid there's some bad news," she said. And they told him. Officer Aaron Munlop of the Detroit police force had been called out to what seemed like a domestic dispute and had been mown down by a militia member wielding an automatic rifle. Of course, assault weapons were illegal in the state of Mich.sig.an. This did not stop them from making their way north from states with more relaxed gun control laws. After that John Munlop kind of went into shock. The next moment that he could recall with any sort of clarity was at Aaron's funeral. At the time he couldn't have told you how many days later it was, but checking things like the printed schedule of the funeral service indicated that it was Tuesday. It was a clear and chilly autumn day, and John was suddenly struck by how *ordinary* it was. It should have been raining, at least. The heavens should have opened and wept in a show of grief, even if a full eclipse of the sun was out of the question. Instead he could hear the distant sounds of city traffic as people went about their business, as though Aaron's funeral *didn't matter*. It was at that moment that John Munlop started to grow mad. What's that? Why, both meanings of the word 'mad', of course. John made it through the funeral and through the flight back to Net.ropolis on automatic. He returned to the empty house that had been too big for him ever since his wife had died of cancer some years back. And he thought, .oO( This is *not* right. ) A few days later he took some of his accumulated sick leave, and his co-workers as the Thaumaturgy Dept thought nothing of it. He must be under a lot of strain at the moment, they said to each other. Everybody goes through the five stages of grieving in their own order and in their own way. Best not to push him forward before he's ready. Then he returned to work and made some very impressive discoveries, almost as if he was driven. And this too made sense, and his co-workers sadly noted the irony that some of the best work being done for the benefit of humanity was being fuelled by grief. Then John retired right on schedule and by rights that should have been the end of things. It wasn't. Truth be known, after his retirement it was a very long time before John Munlop would get out much at all. It was one of the reasons he was able to keep the family home that was too big for him. You don't have a particularly expensive lifestyle when you don't go out much, instead staying indoors working on your hobby/obsession/psychosis. His biggest expense was continuing his subscription to a number of professional journals on applied magic, and even that did not amount to much. The object of his research was a way to make use of the magical truism 'malice rebounds on the caster sevenfold'. Also, how to make the rebound effect work on purely kinetic force. And how to make the defensive warding big. How big? Well, you're aware that the continental Usenetted States sort of shaped like a block some 4-and-a-half thousand kilometres long east to west and 2-and-a-half thousand kilometres tall north to south? Yes. That big. In the end he couldn't do it. Even with years of preparation he found that he couldn't thaumat- urgically engineer a magical lever powerful enough to run a ward that would protect an entire continent. Not even using the truism of malice rebounding, plus material and verbal and somatic components, and phases of the moon, and making use of the power of ley lines, and crap only knew what else. So, after nearly six years of research he scrapped the lot and started working on something smaller in scale. More time passed. Just before the eleventh anniversary of Aaron's death John realised that his spell crafting would soon be ready for casting (for a given value of 'soon') and that as part of the price for getting his project up and running he would need to get fit. It would not be an easy task for a man in his early seventies to walk back and forth across Ame.rec.a. True, there were certain potions and philtres that could imbue stamina (mainly magical equivalents of Viagra(tm), actually; yes, some things never change), but John had enough practical knowledge of magic to know that it would be best to actually have some fitness to start with. So he started exercising. Going on walks. His neighbours, who had long since relegated the figure of John Munlop to that of an eccentric recluse, began to see more of him about the streets - although this did not extend to actually becoming properly sociable, since he always politely but firmly turned down any requests to become reinvolved with parents and citizens associations, church charity raffles, or neighbourhood watch. Then, two years later, John Munlop set out on his hiking tour. He had an itinerary of the country, where he wanted to go and what he wanted to see, carefully mapped out so that he would be walking a gigantic grid of triangles just over 500 kilometres along each side. He started out in Troughton, Virgi.net.a, by performing a small ritual for the starting node. Then he walked over 500 kilometres up the coast to Load Island. At Load Island he performed another small ritual, before heading northwest to Buffa.load in upstate Net.York and repeating the procedure. Finally he hiked back to his starting node in Troughton and performed the ritual of closing. All up it took him several months to set up all the nodes. He was bone tired, but his zeal for his project was undiminished. As he did every evening he checked himself into a reasonable hotel - neither a dump nor an overpriced tourist trap - and watched the evening news. John Munlop was no longer given to exhibiting strong emotions. Nevertheless he was quite pleased, in a cold and detached way, that his ward had kicked in and started doing its work immediately. The news was full of the epidemic of peoples' heads exploding. All over the eastern seaboard there were reports of people who had attacked other people with guns, whereupon the kinetic force had bounced back upon them, causing their heads to detonate, laminating their brains across nearby walls and peppering the area with high velocity bone shrapnel. And there were scores of them! Even within the few short hours since late afternoon when John had completed the closing ritual for the first triangle. The deaths did not worry him. For every action there was a reaction, and this was the new consequence for using firearms for criminal assault. He was still unworried an hour later when he saw a report of two police who became involved in a shootout with drug gangs and who had also had their heads to detonate, laminating their brains across nearby walls and peppering the area with high velocity bone shrapnel. Nor the demise of the Legionnaire MasterBlaster, who had been in life or death struggle with the Injoker when his head had also detonated, laminating his brains across nearby walls and peppering the area with high velocity bone shrapnel as well. Or perhaps not so life and death. Among all the hysteria being put out by the talking heads about what impact this might have on their second amendment right to bear arms, no one seemed to have noticed that it was only affecting those who were attacking other humans. Not those who were defending themselves. Nor those who were killing animals. Malice rebounds sevenfold. This did not surprise Munlop. As was so often the case it was a problem with the public, not with the product, and the ones making the loudest noise were the ones who treated their right to firearms as a fetish rather than as a responsibility. What changes would this bring about?, he wondered as he stared at his map. He didn't know, but was willing to admit that the results might surprise him. Up until a few years ago he would have said that the first amendment rights would have remained inviolate thanks to the noise made by free speech fetishists. But then the Westbo.org Baptist Church had made themselves so obnoxious that the government had passed laws prohibiting protests at military funerals. And a conservative administration at that. What Munlop was prepared to bet on was that the most hysterical fringe of the gun rights lobby were going to die, en masse. They would not be able to understand, let alone accept, that this was a trap that they couldn't fight or scream their way out of. They would walk into the trap of their own free will, blinded to the danger they were in by their own self-righteousness. Then they'd try to use their phallic symbol substitutes in a way that was no longer permitted, at which point they would inevitably became eligible for the Darwin Awards... Which was to say their heads would detonate, laminating his brains across nearby walls and peppering the area with high velocity bone shrapnel. Munlop traced his finger across the map, contemplating his next journey out to Charleston and before hiking back to Buffa.load. Now that he only had to complete two sides to a triangle in order to set up the nodes, things would proceed more quickly. Still, he had a lot of walking ahead of him, and a nagging doubt returned as to whether he would live long enough to complete his mission. He put on his night clothes and retired to bed early. He had another long walk ahead of him tomorrow. ========== Author's note: Written for the 11th High Concept Challenge: death traps. You know, one of these days I should probably just create a sibling anthology title to _LNHv2_ called _Misanthropic Tales of the Net.Trenchcoat Brigade_ and be done with it. This is the third time an NTB story has shouldered its way into this LNH series. On the other hand, not only is it funnier to have the running joke where they do that, but its thematically appropriate for those disreputable Trenchcoaters to take what they need from the Legion as circumstances dictate. The 500 kilometres to a side triangle pattern is ripped off from the old Torg roleplaying game - although I only used Baruk Kaah's stelae pattern as a rough guideline, shifting locations and making up the name of one of the towns. I procrastinated with getting this written up until the last few days, and then caught the flu. And just like George Orwell writing _Animal Farm_ while suffering from cancer - only, you know, on a much lesser scale - I find that writing while in pain is a wonderful incentive for composing snarky text.Back to the Index.