LNH/ACRA: The Alt.Riders #40
thad at eyrie.org
Fri Sep 16 17:20:45 PDT 2005
Blue Light Productions presents:
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[The top of the cover is a picture of the galaxy. The lower half
back of the postcard reads "Wish I was somewhere, Barry"]
"What I Did On My Holidays"
"Come on, gimme nudder one," Barry said, waving at his empty glass as
best he could.
The barman remained rubbing the same glass with his cloth, just as he
had been when Barry first turned up, yet the glass before Barry filled up
just the same.
Barry turned his head right and left, taking in the large empty room,
covered with cobwebs and dust. And no people. "Has ennyone ever posted
here?" he asked the, as best he could make out, large blob behind the
counter. "'Cos it dunnit look like ennyone bin here since it got created."
The barman remained silent on the topic, continuing to rub his glass.
"Ennyway, where waz I? That's right, the mall, me wife..."]
I looked up from my tray of food as Alice took the seat opposite me,
taking a moment to get lost in her eyes before tuning in to what she was
saying. "-ember that Abby's going to Suzie's after school, and Molly will
drop her off after dinner?"
"Yes, I remember," I said, in that exasperated tone husbands always
use when wives have just reminded them of something obvious they'd
forgotten but didn't want the wife to realise.
"Good," Alice replied. I could see her hiding a smirk behind her chow
mein, but decided to let it go. "I managed to get in touch with Terry,
from the San Fran.cis.co.ca Reporter, and he says there are some extremely
strange reports coming out of the evidence of that bomb that they aren't
allowed to talk about."
"It definitely wasn't Marsha that caused it," I said, taking a bite
out of my kofte kebab, trying hard not to let the yoghurt run all over my
hands. "But I have no idea who would set her up like that-"
["Han on, it wazzent like that," Barry interrupted himself. "No, I
waz mad at her."]
"I'm mad at you," I said. ["See?"] "How could you do that Fox.net
"I'm a journalist," Alice replied. "I thought I could set a few
details straight I knew they would get wrong."
"But you know they would just take those comments out of context and
use them in whatever way they could to make us look as bad as possible!"
Alice shrugged. "Well, yeah."
"So why'd you do it then?"
"Look, they came around, asking questions. I've done the most
reporting on you guys, so naturally they'd ask me a few questions."
"But none of them know you're my wife, right?"
Alice gave me a look then. "I *am* your wife. But they don't know the
Net.Elementalist is my husband."
I cast a quick furtive look around the foot court we were sitting at.
"They will if you go on about it in public."
"No-one's listening," Alice scoffed. "Besides, you've come and gone
from home as the Net.Elementalist so often, the whole city probably knows
"That's doesn't mean you had any right to talk to those documentary
makers, though," I said, putting as much 'miffed' into my voice as I
"Hey, they were going to air that show whether I said anything or
not," Alice pointed out. "At least, this way we get some money out of it."
"That's a point. Perhaps we could sue them..."
Alice shook her head. "Just gives them something else to screen, and
I think you've had enough exposure."
I sighed, and took a sip of my low-fat, no-taste,
may-as-well-be-water milkshake. "Yeah, well, they won't have any more
chances soon, from the looks of it," I said. "No word from Rick or Peter,
and what we've seen of Agent and Marsha, the more they stay out of sight,
"Agent was only insane, not murderous."
"And then, boom, nothing from any of them."
"I'm sure they're all right," Alice said, reaching across and
squeezing my hand. "I..."
I saw Alice look concerned. "What is it?"
"I thought you said you didn't want anyone to know you're the
Alice merely pointed, and I raised my hand to feel the headband
around my eyes. And then I noticed that my hand, and arm, were covered in
I closed my eyes to concentrate, and turned my outfit back to my
normal clothes. Opening my eyes, I grinned at Alice, but she didn't look
happier. Looking down, I saw that I was still the Net.Elementalist.
"I...I can't..." I started to stammer, then saw blue begin to well up
through the black of the outfit.
"Get back," I whispered, half in shock from what was happening.
Alice didn't move. "Barry, what's going on? I can help," she said.
"No!" I yelled. I could feel power start to rise in me, and knew this
wouldn't be good. "Get back!" I stood up, tried to move away, only to send
the chair scattering across the floor, and me tumbling to the ground.
"Get away!" I managed to get out before the power exploded through
Pure Thread flowed through me, casting out cords in any and all
directions, sticking to anything it hit, and binding everything together.
If you've ever seen a spider's web, you might just have had the start of
an inkling of what this place looked like after the power calmed down.
Then the shouting and the screaming started, people trapped by the
Thread were yelling, babies were crying, and there was quite possibly
someone suffocating to death in there.
I tried to help. Really. I kicked in the Flame, and started burning
the Thread away. But then that went out of control too. I managed to stop
myself from burning the entire mall down, but it was a close thing.
When I had been first learning my abilities, I had done some damage,
but nothing like this. This was the first time my power was exceeding
anything I could do to control it.
By this time, the sprinkler system had kicked in, from my Flame, and
the Thread was melting under the rain of water. Interesting point, really,
but now was not the time for diversions.
As people were freed, they looked to me, some in fear, some in anger.
I couldn't blame them, as parts of me were getting scared and angry at
other parts of me as well.
Changing to Net, I got the hells out of there, not even staying long
enough to say goodbye to Alice. I had at least seen her, and she looked
all right, as much as anyone was, but it was a shock to her as well.
I had intended to only get out of the city, but after a few moments
found myself floating in the upper atmosphere. The only reason I wasn't in
space was because there weren't enough air particles to lag to get me
there. Which also meant there weren't enough air particles around for me
Losing concentration (and consciousness) headed me back towards the
Earth, with landing giving me no uncertain terms about survival.
With all my other powers whacking out, I thought I'd give Keystroke a
go, but, as I sure you can guess, that went spasmo too. I wanted to create
a simple deep mattress to land on:
and ended up with something larger than a football field. Which was
unfortunate for the football field it had materalised on. Fortunately, no
one was using it, but the stands would never be the same again.
As you can guess, I survived the landing, but I had no idea what to
do next. Here I was proving to be as large a menace as any of the villains
we had faced, but I had no idea what to do.
I did consider going to the LNH. You'd think they would be able to
help me, but getting there wasn't going to be easy, and I would as likely
fry the place down, as fill it with Keystroke, or some other thing.
For some reason, I got a brilliant idea to side-step the entire
journey. Literally go around the problem. I could slip into some nearby
newsgroup that wasn't getting any traffic, somewhere like
alt.fan.phantom-menace.is.cool, and move around there safely before
cross-posting myself back to a.c.lnh or r.a.c.c.
Nice idea, works in theory, but hard to implement in reality.
The first problem is that crossing the net.amensional barrier isn't
easy, nor all that pleasant if you're unprotected. Think about moving
through a mile of treacle. That's acid. And full of things trying to hit
you. Not that crossing the barrier is like that, of course, but after
crossing the barrier you'd wish you'd been through that pleasant an
The second problem is targeting. I can aim for a newsgroup, but
actually getting there is just as much luck as it is ability.
Which is why things really started to go wrong.
"Now, don get me wrong," Barry slurred. "I like it here. I really
do." He put down his empty glass, which refilled itself before he could
say anything. Picking it up again (on his third try), he added, "Good
service. Like that. But I am trying to get home."
Waving his hand about to indicate the entire net (or he had possibly
lost control of that hand), Barry said, "I vishited a fair few newshgroups
before ending up here. It wash all the same. Arrive shomewhere, start a
few flamewarshes, drown people in cross-posts, lag servers behind, fill
the newshgroup with spham, then leave again before I really got my
Leaning forward, Barry said in a low voice, "Jush between you and me,
a lot of what I did washn't even notishable. There're tons of other
bashtids already flaming, crossh-posting and sphamming that I wash jush
anudder drop inna bucket."
Straightening up, he lent back too far, and fell off the stool to
land on his back on the barroom floor. It took him a few moments to
realise something was wrong, but he couldn't work out what it was.
"Anyway," he continued from the floor, sipping from his glass which
had already emptied itself when he fell, "it washn't until a few
newshgroups later that I started to get a handle on the isshue."]
I arrive in a flash of blue, or so I've been told. Understandable, as
blue is the colour of Thread. It's a whole net.elemental thing, I can't
explain it, I just use it. (Just for your information, Flame is red, Net
is white and Keystroke is brown.)
I didn't know immediately that I was in sci.math. All I knew was that
people were arguing about mathematical constructs I hadn't a clue about,
someone was ranting about how omega isn't constructible while at the same
time writing down every conceivable number on a blackboard, and elsewhere
there was a black hole.
In a way, the black hole was the useful thing. Most my out of control
power was being siphoned off and sucked into the hole where it did no
damage whatsoever. It was helpfully labeled "JSH", but what that meant, I
have no idea.
Anyway, as I said, it was sucking all my power off, leaving me with
only myself to worry about. I found myself a seat in the audience of the
latest Monty Hall discussion, and finally managed to catch my breath.
There was one person I knew of who could tell me exactly what was
happening, but unfortunately Missy was back on her home planet. (Did I
tell you that? Oh well, just assume I did.)
Another person would be someone like Doctor Stomper, or Organic Lass,
but they were back in the Looniverse, and that's where I was trying to get
Calling up the Keystroke power, I tried to create a scanner that
could tell me what was wrong. However, this wasn't some Star Trek
newsgroup, but sci.math, and so that influenced the final shape:
+ _______________________ +
+ |_____________________| +
+ /\ /\ /\ /\ /\ /\ /\ /\ +
+ \/ \/ \/ \/ \/ \/ \/ \/ +
+ /\ /\ /\ /\ /\ /\ /\ /\ +
+ \/ \/ \/ \/ \/ \/ \/ \/ +
+ /\ /\ /\ /\ /\ /\ /\ /\ +
+ \/ \/ \/ \/ \/ \/ \/ \/ +
And so I ended up with some kind of demented calculator. Still, it managed
to do its job, and I could scan myself and get basic readouts (those being
the kind of readouts I could understand).
What I found out was that there was a strange substance in my body.
Now, this is of course relative. When you're a superhero, you get all
kinds of weird chemicals in your system to help explain the whacked out
powers you end up with, although this can vary from author to author,
depending on their level of scientific knowledge, or ability to
But I had seen some scans of myself Missy had done, and I knew there
was something else in there that wasn't normal. And there was only one way
I could think of that would explain all this.
I was poisoned.
Barry finally realised he was lying on the floor, and after a long
and epic struggle, managed to crawl back up to the bar proper, where he
quickly proceeded to down a large number of drinks to make up for not
having done so over the past few minutes.
"Now," he gasped, only managing to stay vertical by the sheer force
of effort it took to hold onto the bar with both hands. "Thish nex bit is
compresshed. Took me a while to understand it all, not being ushed to
people poishoning me."
He picked up the glass in his teeth to down the latest refill, then
blinked a few times.
"How many hav I had? I should be
paralyt...perilyt...unconschiouiou... out cold by now, hey? Either this is
one of those deals where you have so much licker that it doesn't effect
any more, which would be disappointing, or this is just water, or
This line of thought proved too much, and Barry collapsed backwards
again, asleep before his head bounced off the floor.]
Barry slowly roused as he felt heat against his cheek. The crackle
was extremely loud in his ears, but this was overwhelmed by pounding in
"Ooooo..." he moaned, rolling over on the floor, but this merely
resulted in fresh pains coming to light. Opening his eyes, he saw wood,
and flame dancing on it.
Wincing as he leapt to a wild guess, he looked down to see that his
outfit was now red. Sitting up, very gently, he saw that the barroom was
now on fire.
"My fau," he said, through a clogged tongue, and instantly regretted
it. Very, very slowly, Barry pulled himself up onto the stool, and, while
everything burned around him, he asked the bartender, "Do you hav anny
A glass of clear liquid was placed before him, which Barry happily
grabbed and downed. Unfortunately, it was then Barry realised that in
net.food.drink.liquor, they were unlikely to have anything that wasn't at
least 20% proof, so his next few moments were spent in painful wheezing.
"There's the hair of the dog," he gasped, "and then there's its entire
He rested his forehead against the bar for a moment, then blearily
looked around again. "Sorry abou this," he said. "My fau. Sure id'll be
fine once the flames die down. Just as well no-one comes here, eh?"
The bartender didn't look particularly amused by this, but did
continue to clean the glass without seeming to worry about the fire
consuming everything, so Barry took that as being all right.
"Now, where was I? Something about poison, wannit?" He stared at the
glass before him gloomily. "There's something ironic in that, but don ask
I had been poisoned. Someone actually poisoned me. *Me*! Who? Why?
The last I could possibly answer. Most likely in something I ate or
drank, which meant that the lunch I had had been spiked in some way.
Perhaps I should go back and demand a refund?
But, on the other hand, consider for the moment the scale of the
operation needed to poison me. Someone would need to be at the mall, at
the particular food court serverie I decided to buy something from, and be
able to slip in a poison that presumably wasn't in anyone else's meal.
Unless it was. So either someone specifically slipped me a poison, or
they designed a poison they could give to everyone, and it only effected
Unless it didn't. Oh gods, Alice!
(Yes, I admit it. It took me that long to think of my wife, but you
get poisoned and see how orderly your thinking is.)
Quite possibly somewhere my wife was now dying, killed by whichever
bastards had tried to kill me. They would pay, oh yes, they would pay.
Although, if it did turn out that they had only poisoned me, then I might
not kill them as much. We'll have to wait and see.
But that only answered how, not who or why. Nor did that answer how
to get rid of it.
One option was 'wait and see', and hope my body would deal with it on
its own. But based on my hopping and popping around the net so far, it
didn't look like my body was going to cope with it any time soon. Time for
Not that I had a Plan B. But after a lot of thinking, I did come up
with one solution. Fight fire with fire. Or, in this case, fight poison
"Which brings me here," Barry concluded. "Well, not 'here' exactly.
This was merely the first place I could get a drink. Drown my sorrows, you
could say, and my problems."
He looked around the bar and sighed. "Don't look like it worked
though. Got any other ideas? Or do you reckon I'm cursed forever to wander
the newsgroups, leaping from post to post, hoping each time that the next
Thread might be the post home?"
Barry thought about what he just said. "On second thoughts, better
not answer that, there's could be copyright issues." With that, Barry
flashed blue then disappeared...]
A nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to stay here, Barry
decided. For one thing, it was moderated. And it wasn't the nice
moderation of rec.arts.comics.creative, but a far more heavy-handed
version of no unallowable posts at all. The only reason he could stay here
was because... well, he wasn't exactly sure, but he thought it had
something to do with his Thread ability.
This newsgroup consisted of a very large hall (to pack in the
audience) and a stage with a microphone on it. People (that is, those who
were allowed to) occasionally walked up to the microphone, and told a
joke. Generally, a good joke, but just the one, and then they were off.
Barry was currently sitting in the middle of a lot of smaller jokes
that would soon make up a digest of one-liner jokes about mediums. The
recent show on Net.BC had unearthed a pile of them, and now they were
waiting for a few more before they were posted.
But Barry didn't feel like laughing, and the sound of hilarity that
echoed in this newsgroup was really getting on his nerves (that he was
still largely hungover didn't help). In fact, he felt like he was going to
be violently ill, which would only turn these digest jokes into something
R18, no doubt.
Raising a hand to his forehead, he felt sweat pouring off him. He
needed water, anything to help his severely dehydrated system, but
couldn't summon up enough energy to transport himself to another
newsgroup. Now that was funny, running rampant with power, but he couldn't
tap into it.
What had he been thinking? Drinking never went well for him, and now
he was paying dearly for it. Gasping, he fell to his knees, and felt Flame
pouring from him, setting the newsgroup alight.
Unlike the previous newsgroup, the Moderator acted quickly, stamping
out the Flames, and quickly located Barry as the source. Using Moderator
power, he placed a filter on Barry, blocking him from the newsgroup.
Which didn't mean much to the Net.Elementalist, wielder of Thread,
but it did seal him in a small box, which was quickly filled with Flame,
then slowed to nothingness by lagging Net.
Barry thrashed in delirium, trapped in a newsgroup far from his own,
trapped away from his wife and child, from his friends, from his team
mates, from anyone who could help him, who might care about what was
happening to him. Trapped with only himself, and his power, which was
building up and threatening to overwhelm him.
His body, exhausted, finally quit, and lay still, as the filter
finally ejected him into the ether of nothingness.
The newsgroup existed before there was a USEnet, when there was only
ARPAnet. It had always been around since then, despite the deluge of
groups that had come after it. It wasn't used anymore, but it was there. A
background to everything that had come since.
Barry regained consciousness here, merely able to open his eyes and
breathe through his mouth. The weight of the net pressed heavy here, time
had done damage, and this newsgroup bore the weight only just. He felt
that everything was brittle here, and didn't dare move, fearing it would
all fall apart, and send him spiraling away into nothingness again.
But it had been built well. It wasn't going to collapse any time
soon, despite its age.
Barry managed to sit upright, and gingerly looked down at himself. He
was still the Net.Elementalist, but his suit was black, with no hint of
other colours in there.
It had worked! He still felt woozy, but there was no threat of power
overload. He had worked the poison from his body, and could operate his
own abilities properly now.
Barry stood, just stood, and let the atmosphere of the newsgroup sink
into him. This was a Mecca for the Net.Elementalist, a place that was the
beginning, where everything that was essential to him was created. The
first flame, the first spham, the first cross-post, the first lag, all
happened in either this newsgroup or one just next door.
But Barry wasn't the Net.Elementalist. Not completely. He was Barry
Knewbee, and he had a wife and daughter to get back to.
Not entirely sure why, he bowed to the newsgroup.
As blue flooded his suit, Barry concentrated on home and Threaded...
A flash of blue light announced Barry's arrival, on all fours, in what he
instinctively felt was the right newsgroup. He gasped for breath, then
started panicking as he realised that there was no breath to be gotten.
Looking up, he saw that he was on a barren stretch of ground,
desolate and dark. Further up he saw the stars and other planets. Other
planets that were much clearer to see than they were on Earth.
Trying to activate his Thread abilities again, he found that his
remaining air left him no choice but to flop onto the surface.
As he wheezed out his last moments, he saw a sign someone had
helpfully erected, large, with friendly writing for anyone who happened
WELCOME TO PLUTO,
GATEWAY TO THE SOL SYSTEM
Next week on Fox.net:
"What you need to understand is that even though, yes, they have
super powers, they are not inately superior beings. They are, in essence,
still human, but with added responsibilities that no-one has ever before
been expected to handle. This is bound to have an effect, and,
unfortunate as it may be, the most common effect is mental brakedown.
"The Alt.Riders are a perfect example of this effect in action. They
have been a team now for many years, and we already have evidence that
they are coming apart at the seams. The incident that lead them into jail
is just one tip of the iceburg of the explosion that is waiting to happen.
"And when it happens, none of us will be safe."
-- Donald Cohen, writer of best seller _I'm Okay, You're A Super Hero
How can we trust them ever again?
The Alt.Riders Exposed...
%What I Did On My Holidays%
%Fear for the Future%
The creature came into existence inside a...laboratory? What that it?
Experience was confused still, but should settle in time.
Was this what there is? Before her...her? Was her a her? Or rather,
she a her? After consideration, she decided that her was as good as
Before her was another creature. Experience suggested %Mole%,
%cross%, %Zinkenite% and %Kula Bocca%, but context was absent and
therefore data was meaningless.
She stretched her hand...how odd to have a body, limbs, a corporeal
existence. She moved her body about, tentatively seeing what it was
capable of. Shifting through senses she saw that it would do, and that it
was carbon-based. Until now, she didn't even know what carbon was, or that
there was a carbon to know about.
Clearly, it would take time to orient herself to this reality. Until
%Who...what are you?%
The creature before her was talking. Communication through vibration
of air particles. Was that how it worked here? Yes, she believed it was.
Now, the creature...its name was Kula Bocca, that was it.
%You are Kula Bocca,% she said, before realising she was capable of
%What happened to Missy?%
Missy? That name...her host...her...was %mother% the right word?
Missy brought her into this reality. Accepted her for what she was. Yes,
%mother% would do for now.
She looked at Kula Bocca, recalling more. This was a cross, a
cross-breed between a Mole and a Chub, the two races of this planet. He
led the Zinkenite movement to establish a new Mole nation without the Chub
power base. To do this, he had used a band called the Big Bubble to create
unrest in the populace.
This was inefficient. She could show him a better...
Something in her told her that Missy would not do it that way. For
now, she should be careful. Missy would guide her. She would wait and see
%What will you do?% she asked Kula.
Kula took a step back, surprised. %What...who are you? What did you
do to Missy?%
%She created me,% she said. %I came from her body.%
%Her body...it's gone!%
%She created me from her body,% she repeated. Was this creature
mentally deficient? Perhaps she should try elsewhere.
%Are you...her daughter?%
She considered this. %Yes. That term is appropriate.%
She took a breath...a highly unusual sensation...then explained as
best she was able to. %I am a co-spatial-temporal para-reality creature,
bonded with an entity from this quantum state to give a quasi-stability in
Kula didn't say anything for a minute. %Are you a Chub?%
%I think it best I go.%
%Maybe. Your revolution awaits.%
This made Kula pause. %You know of our movement?%
%The Zinkenite movement is looking to establish a sovereign nation
under their own law, currently using political social engineering to
achieve its aims.%
%Er, yes. Will you be all right?%
She looked long and hard at Kula. %Will you be?%
%What do you mean?%
%Missy felt for this cause. She would want you to be all right.%
%Yes, I will be fine. I'll catch up with Frankie, and we'll sort
%Where will this end?%
%What do you mean? We will have our own nation.%
%At any expense?%
%At any outcome?%
%If we must.%
She knew how to help. She couldn't interfere, Missy wouldn't want her
to, but she could show. %Is this where you want to end up?%
She raised a hand and-
-Kula Bocca stood in the city, all around him
quiet and a sense of loneliness. He wandered, coming across bodies every
few steps, some Moles, some Chubs, but none alive. He started running,
chasing through streets. There must be someone alive, but he couldn't find
them. Faster and faster, but still only more bodies. The city was dead,
everyone dead, peace at any cost-
-Kula jerked back. %No!%
-Kula Bocca stood at the edge of the field, knowing he
wasn't welcome here, but he wasn't really here either. He could only
watch, as across the field one casket after another was lowered into the
ground. He could now see into them, Moles and crosses, one or two Chubs.
He recognised his friends, the others in the movements. And all around
Chubs laughed, as Zinkenites were lowered into the ground, Chubs laughed
at peace arrived at by any cost-
-%Stop that!% Kula yelled, unable to
resist the images she made him see.
-Kula Bocca stood, triumphant but bloody. Before him
lay the body of the Chub leader, the highest of the high. He was the last
one. Turning around, he saw the other Zinkenites, Chubs at their feet. At
last the city was theirs. The price had been paid, and peace had been
achieved. One nation, theirs, the only one left-
-%No,% Kula sobbed, tears
running down his feet. %I don't want...%
%Then don't make it happen. Seek peaceful solutions. Make any expense
be too expensive.% Kula nodded, the point made.
She closed her eyes. She was sure Missy would approve of that. Now
she could go. She didn't belong here, and knew of some place else she
As she left, she let her mind wander, see what else there was to
offer on the planet. As she did so, she picked up a thought. It fit. It
suited. She decided to claim it. It was properly the first thing that was
The new Lillie left, leaving Kula Bocca to make the future his own.
NEXT ISSUE: Holidays are such peaceful things, never a care in the world.
In some cases, it might even be called 'the final rest'.
CREDITS: All mine.
NOTES: Okay, the Lillie story is a lot of cop-out, but aside from another
civil war, I have no idea what the Residents had in mind for their story.
There is a non-zero (although probably infinitesimal) chance that the
Residents will continue to story line, so I'm leaving it open ended.
"Answers answered and questions questioned."
Blue Light Productions homepage: http://www.eyrie.org/~thad/blip/
"If a great state has decided by law that twice two is five, it would be
foolish to allow mathematicians to testify." - Comment during the Scopes
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