[ASH] ASH #52 - Journey To The East

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at haven.eyrie.org
Sat Oct 9 21:04:39 PDT 2004

    //||  //^^\\  ||   ||   .|.   COHERENT COMICS UNINCORPORATED PRESENTS
   // ||  \\      ||   ||  --X---------------------------------------------
  //======================= '|`        ACADEMY OF SUPER-HEROES #52
 //   ||      \\  ||   ||                 "Journey To The East"
//    ||  \\__//  ||   ||          Copyright 2004 by Dave Van Domelen

     [cover is done to look like an old Chinese woodcut illustration.
      Breaker, Lightfoot and Grind are on foot, helping lead a bald
      Chinese monk down a wooded hillside on his donkey.  Breaker is
      in the front, holding a staff, Lightfoot is carrying a rake and
      Grind an odd-looking poleaxe of some sort.  Demons lurk in the
      trees surrounding them.]

                       ACADEMY OF SUPER-HEROES ROLL CALL

CODENAME       REAL NAME                POWERS                   STATUS
--------       ---------                ------                   ------
Solar Max      Jonathan Zachary         Spacetime Control        ACTIVE
                 "JakZak" Taylor
Comet          Sarah Grant-Taylor       Superspeed, Ice Body     ACTIVE
Green Knight   Salvatore Napier         Strength, Regeneration   ACTIVE
Contact        Aaron Zander             Psi, Mind-over-Body      ACTIVE
Scorch         Scott Handleman          Pyrokinetic              ACTIVE
Beacon         George Sylvester         Living Light             ACTIVE
Essay          Sara Ana Rodriguez       Gadgeteer                ACTIVE
Peregryn       Howard Henderson Jr.     Elemental Mage           MISSING
Lightfoot      Tom Dodson               Velocity Control         RESERVE
Breaker        Christina Li             Telekinesis              RESERVE
Fury           Arin Kelsey              Concussion Blasts        ACTIVE

[September 21, 2025 - Guam, Pacific State]

     Guam is one of those places you can just vanish, George mused.  Not
because of its size (it's tiny) or its jungles (modern technology can track
you pretty well through those).  No, it would have to be the numerous
disguised or outright hidden military bases on the island.  Being at the far
western end of the Pacific State of the Combine had a number of advantages,
not the least being relative proximity to China.  Oh, the NAC military still
had a presence on Okinawa near Japan's AstroDrome, but since Japan was
nominally allied to the Eurasian Union, that base had to be squeaky clean.
     No so little Guam.
     And it was in one of those secret underground bunkers that George now
found himself, along with Major Rosa Padilla and the crystalline woman who
had once been a member of the Righteous Flame under the name Base of the
     "Yes, government knew I was human," she explained in English that was
slowly getting smoother and less strongly accented.  George empathized with
her...she was probably still learning how to make stone talk in the first
place.  "But official story was...Allah made stone walk.  Illegal to be an
abomination in my country.  People would stone to death for being one.  Yes,
I do see irony there.  Also stone family, they are not so hard to kill," she
     "Couldn't the cover story still hold?" Major Padilla asked.  
     "It wouldn't wash," George interrupted.  "A common interpretation of one
of Islam's tenets is that any sort of representation of a person is sinful.
As long as she was an almost formless lump, no problem.  But I'm sure some
people would have trouble accepting that Allah would create a graven image so
clearly like a person.  Oh, many would accept it...He's Allah, after all,
it's fine for Him.  But the more reactionary types would get suspicious.
Especially those who cling to the old tribal sexism.  They'd be actively
looking for reasons to destroy a female supernormal."
     Base just nodded agreement, looking relieved that she hadn't had to
explain it all.  "If I am thought destroyed by the great serpent, my family
is safe.  If someone makes connection..." she trailed off sadly.
     "So," Major Padilla pulled a chair over and straddled it backwards.
"You don't really need asylum."
     "No?" Base cocked her head.
     "No," the Major replied.  "Asylum includes making it clear who you are
and why we're protecting you.  But letting people know who you are would
defeat the purpose.  Your family would still be in danger...more danger, in
fact, since you're not only an 'abomination,' you're also a tr...abandoning
your nation," she hastily corrected herself.  "You'll need a new identity,
new history."
     "Well, she already has a new identity," George gestured at the faintly
rose-colored quartz that made up most of her body.  "The stone's been cracked
open to reveal the crystal inside, like a geode."
     "Geode..." the woman repeated to herself.  "Yes, I am Geode now," she

               *              *              *              *

[September 25, 2025 - Lhasa, Tibet]

     "The roof of the world," muttered one of the diplomatic staffers as the
group debarked the small jet that had carried them from Japan.  It was a long
flight for anyone to be cramped in a plane of that size, but at least
everyone had had a window seat on one of the world's most impressive views.
     "The roof is high, but few live on it," Dr. Shen noted wryly.  Like most
of what had been known as Western China until recently, Tibet had a great
deal of land, but very little that could support its populace.  Most agreed
that China had only really wanted it to make sure no one else could have it.
It made a most excellent buffer against short and medium range missiles,
after all. 
     Tina followed Dr. Shen from the jet, still picking nervously at the
impact fabric bodysuit she wore under her pants suit.  The black fabric was
sheer, and anyone catching a glimpse of it behind the pale rose cloth of her
suit would likely presume it was simply a thermal suit, rather than a last
line of defense against an assassin's bullet.  But she hadn't gotten used to
it yet, and felt self-concious whenever she wore it.
     A youngish man in elaborate silk robes and his hair pulled back into a
ponytail stepped from the small airport's terminal and approached the plane,
flanked by a pair of soldiers in clearly ceremonial uniforms.  Tina was quite
sure that the equally ceremonial rifles fired purely practical bullets.
     "The Central Asian Confederation extends its warmest welcome to the
United World's envoys," the man proclaimed as he got close enough to be heard
over the sounds of construction.  It was not going to be a small airport for
long, now that Lhasa had been chosen as the capital of the CAC.  The man
stopped and bowed.  "I am Resplendent Phoenix, the Confederation's Minister
of State."
     Dr. Shen raised an eyebrow.  The minister caught the motion and
     "Oh, I know you must have many questions...aren't I young for such a
position, how did I acquire such an outlandish name, and so forth,"
Resplendent Phoenix nodded.  "But let us get out of the wind first.  It may
only be Autumn on the official calendar, but winter comes early to the
     The group was led to a shuttle bus parked nearby, and got settled while
their baggage was loaded on board.
     "I will save you the awkwardness of wondering how much of your basic
intelligence on our alliance to reveal," Resplendent Phoenix smiled.  It was
a comfortable, natural smile.  Not the practiced mask of a career diplomat.
Not that he looked old enough to be one of those.  "Yes, choosing Lhasa as
our capital is a rebuke to the People's Republic.  A reminder that they could
not hold all of Tibet in their grasp, even though they still hold some of our
lands.  Less dangerous, however, than siting our capital in Xinjiang, which
still holds some of their nuclear arsenal.  Constantly reminding them of THAT
point would be...reckless.
     "In lesser matters," he continued, "I was born with the name Deng
Xiaoping 2478, and I am sure you are familiar with the oh so creative naming
scheme implemented by the State.  But it has become the fashion, especially
among those of us with political ambitions, to follow the lead of the Western
Dragon and choose for ourselves new names.  This way, we cast off the rule of
the People's Republic over our lives in a symbolic fashion, just as we have
done so in a very real fashion with this new polity of ours."
     And so Malcolm Little becomes Malcolm X, Tina mused.
     "As for my age?  Rebellion is a game for the young, no offense intended
to the Ambassador Doctor Shen," Phoenix nodded deferentially.
     "None taken," Wade chuckled.  "And you are right.  You will find very
few old men in the governments of breakaway republics such as yours...if only
because it is very hard to live to be an old man if your heart burns with the
fire of freedom in a country like the People's Republic of China."
     Tina considered that point.  She could think of some older
revolutionaries, but most of the famous ones were pretty young at the time of
the actual revolutions.  For every Benjamin Franklin or Ho Chi Minh, you had
a dozen Che Guevaras or Lenins or Marats.  Not to mention all the young men
and women who never got to be famous because they fell before the revolution
was even fully underway.
     The bus had started moving by this point, and was heading away from the
airport and towards the city proper.
     "But the Dalai Lama supports you, yes?" asked a staffer Tina hadn't yet
memorized the name of.  Carl...something.
     Resplendent Phoenix nodded.  "The monks in general support the idea of
the Confederacy, although they are of course restrained in their actions.
The Dalai Lama himself has endorsed the Western Dragon, but he is a young man
himself in this incarnation, and given to the same burning fires as myself
and my peers."
     Tina looked out the window and noticed a rather strong Western influence
on the people walking the streets of the ancient city.  Some people were
wearing clothing that had been fashionable back home last year, but was
totally inappropriate to the temperature.  "Does the Dalai Lama approve of
all of this," she gestured at a neon sign advertising...hamburgers, she
thought.  The implants gave her a good grasp of spoken languages, but she had
to fall back on her own learning for written.
     Resplendent Phoenix shrugged.  "It is the official position of the
government of Tibet that this surge of Western influence is mostly a
backlash, after decades of official discouragement.  While not strictly
illegal under the People's Republic, excessive interest in Western culture
and products would tend to get one transferred to an exciting new career in
desert reclamation in the Gobi.  Once the initial enthusiasm fades and we
start establishing our own culture as a Confederation, this is all expected
to die down."
     Good luck with that, Tina thought.  But she kept the thought quiet...
this was a diplomatic mission, after all.
     "Ironically, most of those involuntary career changers are now citizens
of the Central Asian Confederation," Resplendent Phoenix added with a smile.
"And much happier for the change."

               *              *              *              *

[September 26, 2025 - The Academy, Wisconsin Sector]

     "...and that's the essence of John Stuart Mill's Principle of Utility,"
Robert Coulter told the class.  "That which generates more happiness than
unhappiness is ethically correct."  He'd gotten better at not spending so
much time looking at his borrowed notes, Tom realized, although he was still
pretty obviously putting off getting to any personal and practical
information in this ethics course.  "Of course, there's a lot of holes that
can be poked in Utilitarianism, but if there was an ethical system without
flaw, I think we'd probably all be using it now," he chuckled.
     A few of the other students joined the mirth.  Most of them were
suckups, as far as Tom had determined from previous meetings of the class.
But a few just shared Coulter's sense of humor.  Or, at least, the sense of
humor of the person who had written the notes.
     Tamika Dupree raised her hand in a jangle of silver-plated charms.  One
of those charms on her bracelet was a stylized letter psi, an affectation of
some of the telepathically talented students at the Academy.  "Mister
     "I know John Stuart Mill didn't have to consider this, but what about
mind control?  How does the Principle of Utility apply when there are people
who can simply *make* you be happy?"
     Tom smirked.  If Tamika hadn't brought it up, he certainly would have.
     "That was the theme of Para back in, oh...March 2022, I think.  A friend
of mine did the research for the cover piece, and he told me that there's two
main schools of thought on that," he stepped out from behind the podium.  He
was much more comfortable speaking without notes, Tom noticed.  "One is that
happiness is happiness, it is a Good on its own.  Using a telepathic power,
or superscience invention, or whatever...doesn't matter.  Happiness is its
own reward.  A big problem with this is that totally short-circuiting
someone's brain makes it less likely they will survive very long.  If they
can't be unhappy, they will tend to starve to death, cheerfully walk into
traffic, and so forth.  There's also the drug issue, which Mill *did* have to
think about.  Mental domination is no more 'true' happiness than the effects
of drinking to excess, and most philosophers don't consider living a life of
drugged out bliss to be in keeping with the spirit of Utilitarianism.
     "The other take comes from this observation.  While mind control doesn't
usually have the physical side effects of drug use, it still can't grant true
happiness.  Proponents of the first view call this BS, that it's just an
attempt to try to make something commonly taken to be bad...negating the free
will of others...shoehorn into Utilitarianism.  In fact, many serious
proponents of the first view use it as an argument that Mill was wrong, not
that mind control is a good thing."
     Tom raised his hand.  Coulter suppressed a sigh.  "Yes, Mr. Dodson?"
     "What about the use of mind control to manipulate the ruling class into
treating people better?  If a bunch of warring tyrants could be forced to
make peace and start devoting their combined resources to improving the lot
of the people, wouldn't that result in an overall increase of true happiness,
at the expense of the happiness of a few people who everyone agrees are jerks
     There was a pause, as Coulter considered his answer and the class waited
for one.  "That's a very dangerous line of thought," Coulter finally replied.
"I think Utilitarianism would support this...it is the greatest happiness for
the greatest number.  A lot of ethical systems allow this sort of 'damn the
few to save the many' behavior.  And perhaps, that's another argument against
Utility being the best ethical system to use, because it tempts us to do bad
things in the name of good...."

               *              *              *              *

[September 28, 2025 - Lhasa, Tibet]

     The applause was slowly dying down, and Tina stopped her "polite for
appearances" clapping.  She caught Grind's eye and gave him a curt nod,
acknowledging that his theory had been right: the Western Dragon clearly had
some level of psi power that boosted her charisma.  That speech had been
pretty standard "Welcome to our fair land, honored guests" boilerplate, and
while the delivery had been professional, that was it.  Western Dragon's
oratory simply didn't justify the wildly enthusiastic response that even came
from members of the UW team who lacked defenses against telepathic intrusion.
     Tina, Grind, Wade and a couple of upper level attaches (Felicity Carella
and Jorge Bermudez) had varying levels of anti-telepathy training or
implanted defenses, mostly stemming from the whole Mr. Strings affair of the
previous year.  Even the three with significant diplomatic training looked
out of place in their lack of enthusiasm, among the cheering throngs.
Meanwhile Carl, who Tina had seen over the past few days to be a hardcore
cynic, was behaving as if this was the finest piece of public speaking he'd
ever seen.
     Interestingly, the speech had not been recorded for public broadcast,
which made Tina think back on the conversation she'd had with Grind at the
hotel earlier in the day....

     "She's a real stump politician," Tina remarked, nodding to the
television screen where she'd been replaying some tapes of the Western
     "Did you notice something odd about those?" Grind asked.
     Tina thought for a moment.  "Not really.  Standard political soundbites,
nothing too strange about those.  Why?  Is there weirdness in the full
     Grind's face briefly flickered into an expression of dark amusement.
"There are no full records, Tina.  That's what's odd.  The cameramen get
their cue, record the snippet, then stop.  SOP for newsmen, I'll grant, but
there aren't even any archival tapes that I can find."
     "Wait...she doesn't want anyone having a solid record of the entire
speech?  Why not?  From all reports, she gives a damn good stump speech, I'd
think they'd sell like concert videos."
     "Exactly, Tina," Grind tapped the playback deck with his index finger.
"But what if those are impressions that are only possible if you're there in
person?  If she's a psi talent, her speeches might seem astounding in person,
but play back as hum-drum on tape.  To maintain the illusion that she's
merely brilliant and not mentally manipulating people, she'd want to limit
access to objective accounts of her appearances.  People who she's convinced
of something in person might have second thoughts if it looked like it was
more than her words that swayed them."
     That made a certain amount of sense.  She'd met a lot of public
officials from the various member nations of the Confederacy over the past
few days, and it didn't seem possible that they could work together as
smoothly as was clearly the case.  A few telepathic nudges here and there
from the Western Dragon would certainly smooth out petty rivalries, though.
     Tina shrugged.  "Maybe.  Not every mystery is solved by invoking the
supernatural, though.  She might also just be really paranoid about
controlling her public image.  Remember Airik Portre, when he got really big
in the late teens?  He got pretty insane about making sure he controlled
every piece of media involving him, not just the music."
     "His music stank anyway," Grind shrugged.

     Looking back, Tina decided Grind was probably right.  About the Dragon,
that is.  Airik was pretty good, if pretentious.  Slightly less pretentious
than the decor of the banquet hall, mind you.  The silver and gold dragon
sculptures twined together to make centerpieces at the tables were a bit
ostentatious, as was the holographic ceiling display of a summer sky in a
peach grove.
     The applause had died down, and it was time for Wade to take the podium.
     "Well, I can't compete with our host in oratory, so I'll keep it short
so as to bore you for as little time as possible," Wade opened, drawing a few
     The chuckles turned to gasps as the dragon sculptures suddenly untwined
and came to life!  Their eyes glowed green, and a faint "neeeeem" sound
emanated from what were probably heavily-shielded power sources.
     "Down!" Grind shouted in Chinese, echoed by several more or less
unobtrusive security men scattered around the hall.  Most of the dignitaries
present hit the floor, but a few tried to run for the exits.
     The tiny mecha-dragons targeted the runners first, firing strange,
rippling waves of energy from their antlers that knocked their targets flat
but didn't seem to be immediately fatal.
     Tina thanked the STRAFE tailors who had designed her dress to be
breakaway, so she could get free of it without having to destroy what was,
after all, a rather attractive outfit.  The dragons were now targeting anyone
who seemed to be trying to fight, and she hoped that her impact suit would
be enough to stop anything that got past TK shields.
     One dragon let out a tinny roar and flew at Tina like an arrow, only to
be stopped by a golden aura around it.  
     "Try to save one, Tina!" Grind shouted as he threw a pair of table
knives at two of the robots.  He was no Teller, but at this range he was
still pretty accurate.  One shattered, the other managed to ride with the
impact and seemed okay.  "We'll want to look at it later!"
     She nodded and kept a firm grip on her catch without crushing it.  A few
force blasts emanated from its antlers, but she was able to hold on despite
the dragon's efforts to escape.
     "The rest of you are fair game," she smirked, sending out a wave of
golden force to smash several mini-drakes into pieces.  A few more had fallen
to the gunfire of various bodyguards, and Grind had managed to pick up and
table and use it as a fairly effective flyswatter.  Like most paranormals,
Grind was a lot stronger than he looked, although he still had to worry about
the physics of swinging a table around.
     In a few moments, it was all over.  The floor was littered with bits of
robot, and the room was silent.  At some point, the holo-display on the
ceiling had been turned off or simply destroyed by a stray shot.  Tina looked
at the robot she held in her TK grip and sighed.  Smoke was coming from
several seams.
     "Self-destructed, Grind.  Sorry."
     He shook his head.  "Don't worry about it too much.  I'm just glad this
wasn't a serious assassination attempt."
     "It wasn't?" Carl asked incredulously from under the table.  "I mean, it
was maybe a little silly, but they did seem to be trying."
     Grind put down the heavily damaged table and shook his head.  "No,
Mr. Canto.  They could have smuggled bombs in here as easily as they did
robot assassins, or equipped the robots with more lethal weaponry such as
nerve gas dispensers.  A serious attempt would have ended with at least the
Western Dragon dead, and," he gestured as the stunningly beautiful woman was
helped up from the floor, "she's not even scratched.  No, this was a feint,
or a message, or something else.  It was *not* an attempt to kill anyone."
     Tina could think of an obvious message, even if it wasn't the one the
robot-makers had meant to send: it's not that hard to get an assassin next to
the Western Dragon, and without her psi talents holding everything together,
the CAC would fall apart pretty quickly.

               *              *              *              *

[September 30, 2025 - Internet Relay Chat]

* Now talking in #HornyBastards
* Topic is 'Load from the Bull'
* Set by PipeLayer on Tue Sep 30 02:23:01
<PumpkinEater> Hey, guys, sorry I'm late.  Did I miss anything?
<CrookedLegMan> nah were still wating on pipelayer to get back from stuff
<oldgoat> You still hanging around with those heroes, Pete?
<PumpkinEater> Yep.  The ladies dig sidekick types, whodathunk? }->
<BigHoof25> WTF is that thing supposed to be? ---------------^^^
* PumpkinEater sighs.  "It's a satyr smiley, dummy.  See the horns and beard
and stuff?
<BigHoof25> Oh.
* PipeLayer has quit IRC (connection reset by peer)
<CrookedLegMan> ah crap
<oldgoat> Idleout, looks like.  Guess who went back for seconds?
* PipeLayer has joined #HornyBastards
<PipeLayer> Sorry, everyone.  Stupid piece of junk connection dropped.  Back
* beardboy snickers.  Didn't take him long, did it, oldgoat?
* beardboy is now known as BeardBoy
* PipeLayer calls this meeting to as much order as is gonna happen.
<CrookedLegMan> hear ye hear ye
<PipeLayer> Right.  Anyway, Polykaon couldn't get to a machine.  Q'Nos's
vizier guy Simon Smith is doing a big accounting thing, inventorying
resources and that sort of thing.  Net connections are being watched, if I
didn't have this old Blueberry thing I wouldn't be able to get on either.
<PumpkinEater> Couldn't ol' PK just say he needs to get online for pr0n?
* PipeLayer shakes his head.  "He tried.  Simon says wait until everything
gets sorted out.  I don't *think* he suspects, though.
<CrookedLegMan> no pr0n? damn thats cold
<PipeLayer> Yeah.  Still, it seems to be distracting Simple Simon from
putting the screws to us satyrs.  Unless he's thinking of using net access
as a carrot.
<BeardBoy> Dude, I'd like to use a carrot on HIM.  Prig.
<PumpkinEater> I wish, PL.  He's still trying to blackmail me into spying
on ASH for him.  I've been giving him the runaeaound, but....
<oldgoat> How in Hades's name can he be blackmailing you?  What could he
possibly know about you that isn't common knowledge to anyone with a 
<PumpkinEater> Let's just say I didn't know MIssouri Sector had changed their
age of consent to 19 when I met those triplets, and leave it at that, okay?
I'm too pretty for jail.
<PipeLayer> Wait...if Q'Nos can sniff that out about you, why does he need
a spy in the first place?
* PumpkinEater shrugs.  "I think Howie put some kind of wards up on the ASH
bases or something.  Or maybe he doesn't need me as a spy, just wants to 
get me spying so he has even worse threats to hang over my head later.
<PumpkinEater> "
<Fuzzbuster> Hi guys, sorry I was idle.  Peter, I think that Missouri thing
can be challenged under the Full Faith clause of the Constitution.  Or 
whatever the NAC is using in its place...been a few decades since I really
had to study American law. }:/
<PipeLayer> Yeah, maybe ask ASH's legal people to look into it for you.
Heck, you're so old that it's all cradle-robbing, one year shouldn't make
an ethical difference.  If you can get that cleared up, it's one less lever
bull-head has over you.  And us in general.  Hell, there's some countries
with overly broad bestiality laws I'd like to see overturned.
<oldgoat> Are you sure about that, Fuzz?  I don't think Full Faith applies to
age of consent laws.
<Fuzzbuster> Well, I said I was rusty.  I wish ageofconsent.com was still up.
<PumpkinEater> Thanks for the advice, guys.  I'll bring it up next time I'm
at one of the bases.  Maybe lawyers can be good for *something*.
<PipeLayer> NP.  BTW, could you look into getting some palmtops smuggled 
into Greece for us?  Preferably with satellite hookups?  
<CrookedLegMan> and pr0n1
<oldgoat> ... You're typing with one hand again, aren'y you?
<CrookedLegMan> hehehehee

               *              *              *              *

[October 1, 2025 - Lhasa, Tibet]

     Grind set a box down on the table in front of Tina and opened it to
reveal several pieces of the mecha-dragons that had attacked the other day.
     "Ah, finally managed to pry loose some of the physical evidence?" Tina
peered into the box.
     He nodded.  "They reluctantly agreed that the target might have been a
member of the UW delegation, and that we should have access to the raw
material as well, not just to their analyses.  Once I give this a look
myself, I'll send it to Canberra for a closer examination, although I doubt
they'll find anything the local forensics didn't.  These things are pretty
     "Right," Tina agreed.  "A lot of offworld tech, but you don't have to be
Khadam or the PRoCcies to get that.  Both of those nations are officially
denying having anything to do with this, but they'd deny the sky is blue if
it seemed to their advantage.  The systems that let them hide from sensors
were supertech, but that no longer rules out the People's Republic."  She
paused for a moment.  "Do you seriously think one of us may be the target?
An attempt to derail the negotiations by killing the delegates?"
     "No," was his emphatic and too-quick response.  "Sorry, been a long
day.  I just used that as a lever to pry loose the evidence.  I don't think
it was intended to kill *anyone*, as I said the other day.  Someone wants us
to know they unofficially disapprove of things, with China being the main
suspect.  And we can probably expect more of these nuisance level attacks in
Ulaan Baatar next week."
     Whatever Tina was going to say in response was cut off by the dragon
pieces detonating in a violent explosion....


Next Issue:

     The tour of the Central Asian Confederation continues (possibly minus
one or two members of the delegation!), and so do the attacks on the Western
Dragon!  Be here for "Angolmois Energy" in ASH #53!


Author's Notes:

     Yay, a cliffhanger!  Wasn't originally planned that way, but then I saw
a clear opportunity staring me in the face and neeeming softly.  :)

     The cover is based on a page from an illustrated copy of "Monkey King
vs. the White Bone Demon" that I got as a kid.  It's a story from "Journey to
the West", which one might call China's equivalent of the Canterbury Tales,
except that it was written a long time before Chaucer.  :) I draw a LOT of
story inspiration from Journey to the West, as anyone who's read much of my
work probably already knows.  Anyway, I'd scan in the page, but that book is
already on its second binding, and I don't want to stress it further by
putting it on the scanner plate.

     Yes, IRC still exists in 2025, just like Ham Radio still exists in the
real world in 2004.  Very few use it, but it's useful when you DON'T want
people just dropping in on an online conversation.  It's also insanely low
bandwidth by 2025 standards, so it's easier to hide it from detection or use
forgotten old equipment.  Like the sort that would have been abandoned in
Greece in the late 90s and snarfed up by one of the more tech-savvy satyrs.
Thanks to the users of #allspark for providing me with some sample logs so I
could get the right formatting.  (Oh, and before anyone wonders why none of
them used the ID "goatse", A: I'm pretty sure that didn't exist prior to
1998, and B: even satyrs have *some* taste.)  All spelling and grammar errors
in the IRC scene are intentional on my part, to add authenticity.  :)

     Angolmois, in case you're curious, is the "pig French" name that
Nostradamus used for the Mongols.  Angolmois Energy was a plot device in the
Japanese Transformers cartoon "Beast Wars II", but next issue will not
feature a Transformers crossover or anything.  It's all about the Mongols.
     Finally, Ulan Bator is the old romanization of the capital of Outer
Mongolia, modern maps tend to use the spelling Ulaan Baatar.


     For all the back issues, plus additional background information, art,
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