[REPOST/LNH] Saviors of the Net #8: Things Fall Apart. It's Scientific.

Arthur Spitzer arspitzer at earthlink.net
Tue Apr 25 18:20:16 PDT 2006

                              T H E
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Author:    Steven Howard
Email:     blore at ibm.net
Date:      1998/11/08
Forums:    rec.arts.comics.creative

[Note:  this issue takes place after the events in Saviors of the
Net #6, and assumes that issues 6, 6 2/7, and 7 all happen more
or less simultaneously. It also assumes that the events of #6 2/7
were mostly undone by the Retcon war in #7 -- Footnote Girl,
stocking up on aspirin]

The Alt.er.Net Universe.  A completely alien and unfathomable
place, where mundane concepts like time and place have no

Saturday afternoon.

Alt.Lord sat sulkily in his throne made of bad ideas and
forgotten phone numbers, with his chin in his left hand, his left
elbow on his right knee, and his legs crossed at the ankles,
scratching idly at his left eyebrow with his right pinkie finger.
"Bah!" he exclaimed, abandoning this rather affected pose for a
slightly more comfortable one, with his chin in both hands and
each elbow on its corresponding knee.  "I was so close.  I had
the Looniverse itself in my grasp.  I really could have done it
that time.  Why does this keep happening to me?"

* * * * * *

LNH: Saviors of the Net #8 "Things fall apart. It's scientific."

* * * * * *

Doctor Stomper suddenly became aware of the presence of cold
metal against his face.  He opened his eyes to find himself
sprawled across an outdoor table at a trendy coffee
establishment.  Hastily he sat up, ashamed at what everyone must
think.  Looking around, he realized that his condition had caused
no concern amongst his fellow patrons, given that they were busy
rioting and looting in the streets.  He tried to recall where he
was and how he had gotten there, but the last thing he could
remember was talking to Irony Man at the LNHHQ.  He looked down
at the shattered coffee mug he'd evidently dropped when he passed
out.  Suddenly, exactly as if he were watching a film in reverse,
the tiny fragments of china reformed themselves into their
original mug configuration, with the coffee inside, and flew into
his hand.  With a thoughtful "hmmm" he reached into his jacket
pocket for a calculator and a handful of coins.

* * * * * *

"But if the attack was staged, wouldn't that mean that Captain
Killfile didn't really kill the Seven Deadly Sphammers*?"
Librarian Lady asked Deductive Logic Man.

[*all the way back in issue #1 -- Footnote Girl]

The pair were sitting in the LNH Library, researching the life
and work of Dr. Vivian Net.ropolis, the most prominent member of
the new superhero team who had recently appeared to challenge the
Legion of net.Heroes.  Deductive Logic Man considered the
question for a moment.  "It's difficult to say.  On the one hand,
the Sphammers would be extremely foolish to participate in such a
scheme without some assurance that they would survive their
apparent deaths.  On the other hand, the Saviors would be equally
foolish to trust seven known villains with the secret of their

Librarian Lady nodded.  "Unless the Saviors had some way of
ensuring that the Sphammers would be unable to tell anyone."

They considered this for a second, then looked at each other and
said, in unison, "Retcon RACCoon!"

"Exactly," Deductive Logic Man said, smiling.  "With his --
assuming it's a male -- with his ability to alter history, he
could effectively erase any incriminating memories the Sphammers

* * * * * *

"Would you like another complimentary champagne cocktail, Mr.

Make Money Fast Mo (or rather, the villain formerly known as Make
Money Fast Mo) looked up from his first-class seat and said,
"Thank you," as the stewardess refilled his glass.  Life was

He patted the pocket of his new suit, which held his new
passport.  Nobody had ever called Morris Savetrees "Mr.
Savetrees."  The Spham King had been right.  One last job, then
out with enough cold, hard cash that he'd never have to run
another scam for the rest of his life.  All they had to do was
pretend to attack some lame superheroes, get "killed," then pick
up their hundred large each, along with new identities and

Now, according to the weird little floating raccoon guy, he was
-- and always had been -- Thaddeus G. Hotmail, citizen.  There
was no more Morris Savetrees.  Morris Savetrees died in front of
half a million viewers on the McLaughlin Man show.

* * * * * *

"However," Deductive Logic Man said, "we know that Retcon
RACCoon's powers must be limited in some way.  Otherwise, he
could just retcon the entire LNH out of existence -- or make us
all into evil impostor robot clones from outer space, and the
Saviors into the true Legion."

"Doctor Stomper's the authority on retcons, continuity and
causality.  Did he say when he'd be back?"

Deductive Logic Man shook his head.  "Irony Man said he got a
phone call and bolted for the door like a . . . man running very
fast out of a building."

* * * * * *

Lucinda Ponzi, better known by the nom du guerre "Lucky Chain
Letter Lucy," ran for her life down a back street in Accidental
Self-Immolation Alley, one of Net.ropolis' least desirable
neighborhoods.  They were only a few hundred feet behind her.
She had to find someplace to hide, someplace to sit still for a
few minutes and figure out what to do next.  She spied an open
third story window, about twenty feet away from a fire escape
landing.  She leapt up and grabbed the broken ladder on the first
floor landing, hoping that she wasn't making enough noise to
alert her pursuers.  She scrambled quickly to the third floor and
realized there was no way she'd manage to walk along the narrow
ledge to the open window.

Luckily, she hadn't completely changed out of her costume when
she'd had to flee her apartment, and now she removed a length of
chain from around her waist.  She climbed part way up to the next
landing and fastened the chain to a rung of the ladder.  Then she
quickly slid back down to the third level landing, took a firm
grip on the free end of the chain, shut her eyes, whispered a
prayer to whatever gods, saints or angels might be listening, and

* * * * * *

Jesse Cashew, aka Adler Stim, aka Ultimate Savior, leader of the
Saviors of the Net, had seen better days.  There had been days,
for example, when he didn't get blinding headaches when trying to
remember details from his own past.  There had been days when he
didn't look and feel ten years older than he had the day before.
Most significantly at this point, there had been days during
which he was not lying helpless on a roof in Net.ropolis'
extensive abandoned warehouse district, with the Satanically
reanimated corpse of Self-Righteous Preacher standing over him,
one hand holding him down by the throat, the other holding a
flaming cigarette lighter a few inches from his left eye.

"I gave you a choice.  We could have done this the easy way."
The grating, guttural voice of Ole Scratch emanated from the
Preacher's dead lips.  "But now --"

The Preacher's body was thrown back against a nearby wall, pinned
there by half a dozen shuriken sticking through his jacket and
jeans.  "This is where I'd normally demand your surrender," a
voice whispered from the shadows.  "But I think we can skip that
and go straight to the part where you die."

Ole Scratch grinned.  "Well, if it isn't the Untimely Ninny.  In
case you hadn't noticed, this body's already dead.  Maybe I'll
take yours instead."  He wrenched his right arm free just in time
to catch an arrow inches away from his forehead.

"I'm using it."  The Ultimate Ninja unleashed another volley in
the fiend's direction.

Ole Scratch leapt to his feet, tearing loose from the wall, and
belched forth a gout of fiery liquid, incinerating the incoming
arrows.  He turned quickly and directed the blast toward the
shadows where he'd heard the ninja's voice.

"You're not very bright, are you?" that same voice asked from
just behind him.  Ole Scratch felt the pressure of the famous
Ginsu blade against his -- or rather, the Preacher's -- throat.
Grabbing the sword, which bit deeply into his fingers and palms,
he bent forward suddenly, sending the ninja flying over his head.

The Ultimate Ninja, surprised not by the maneuver but by the
strength of his foe, tucked into a somersault position and landed
safely a few feet from where the Ultimate Savior was just now
sitting up and catching his breath.  The SotN leader stared at
the LNH leader in disbelief.  "You!  But --"

"Don't start believing your own press, kid," Ultimate Ninja said.
"Grab your weapon and wait for my signal."

Ole Scratch cackled and held up his bloody hands.  "Hey, look!
Stigmata!"  He advanced toward the reluctant allies, who simply
looked back at him silently.  "Don't you get it?  Look -- my
palms are bleeding!  I think that's hilarious!"  Still getting no
response, he reached into his jacket, muttering, "Aw, joke 'em if
they can't take a --"

"Now!" Ultimate Ninja yelled, launching himself toward the
possessed corpse of his teammate.

Ole Scratch jumped out of the way, only to be ensnared in the
Ultimate Savior's Holy Hoop.  His flesh began to bubble
grotesquely and he screamed out in anguish, "It burns!  It burns!
Make it stop!  Oh, please, make it stop!"

"That sounded like Self-Righteous Preacher," the Ultimate Ninja

Suddenly the screaming stopped.  "Didn't it just?" Ole Scratch
asked brightly.  "I'm so cheeky I could just pinch myself!"

"Keep making jokes, Anti-Christ Lad," Ultimate Ninja said.  "I
notice the rioting just stopped."

"Maybe so.  Maybe you've beaten me.  Or maybe I'm just bored with
this little dance."  He tried to shrug off the hoop, but found
himself unable to move it.  "Oh look, my ride's here."

On the street below, a badly dented taxicab with a shattered
windshield screeched to a stop as Very Disturbed Scary Creature
Man leapt out.  "Hang on, kid, I'm coming," he called out, and
began scaling the fire escape.

While the Ultimate Savior was distracted by his teammate's
bizarre arrival, Ole Scratch ducked under the hoop and jumped up
to the ledge.  "Say, did you know that 'Adler Stim' is an anagram
of 'Lidmaster'?" he asked, diving off the roof.

Ultimate Ninja and Ultimate Savior rushed to the edge and watched
him plummet toward the street below.  He landed, apparently
unharmed, on the roof of the taxicab Very Disturbed Scary
Creature Man had just vacated.  "Home, James," he said to the
terrified cabby, leaning back with his hands behind his head.

* * * * * *

Terrence Philborn, the Human Warehouse, stepped off the train
platform at Got.ham Central Station.  He had to make one last
visit to his old gang, then he could collect his hundred Gs for
the McLaughlin operation and retire to Florid.net.  Whistling
softly to himself, he pulled a tiny key from the inside jacket
pocket of his cheap suit and headed for the storage lockers.
Quickly finding the row he sought, he checked to make sure he was
unobserved, then used the key to open one of the lockers.
Reaching inside he found, not the parcel he had been expecting,
but a single sheet of paper with four handwritten lines on it:

     "Seven Deadly Sphammers
      Up to their old tricks
      One got filled full of lead
      And then there were six"

"What the --" he began, as a silenced pistol sneezed four times
in rapid succession, sending him sprawling to the tiled floor
with the note still clutched in his lifeless fingers.

* * * * * *

Doctor Stomper was finally able to push his way through the
milling confused crowds that had replaced the rioting insane
crowds of a few hours earlier.  The milling crowds did less
damage, but weren't that much easier to navigate.  On the way, he
spotted several teams of Legionnaires helping with cleanup
efforts and administering first aid to members of the public
who'd been hurt in the riots.  _That should help our PR_, he

Arriving at Legion Headquarters, he went to his lab without a
word of explanation, emerging fifteen minutes later with a long
computer printout and a Startup.bucks coffee mug.  He found
Ultimate Ninja and Deductive Logic Man in the monitor room and
explained his findings.

"Earlier today, I witnessed a Poincarre reversal.  Not only that,
but it was the textbook cliche Poincarre reversal -- a spilled
and broken coffee cup reformed itself and leapt from the floor
into my hand.

"Mind you, quantum mechanics say that such a thing is possible.
But it also says that it's incredibly improbable -- so improbable
that on average you'd have to wait several times longer than the
estimated lifetime of the universe before it happened by chance.
Again, just because it's incredibly improbable doesn't mean it
didn't happen by chance.  It was suspicious, though, and I
decided to test for some other possible but very improbable
effects.  I took some coins from my pocket and flipped each one a
hundred times.  The results confirmed my hypothesis."

"They each came up heads a hundred times in a row?" Deductive
Logic Man asked.

"Nope.  They each landed on the edge a hundred times in a row.
The more improbable results I obtained, the more convinced I was
that these things weren't happening by chance -- that these
events were a symptom of the reckless retconning that's been
going on of late.  When I returned to my lab, I ran some tests to
determine the current level of retcotheric energy in the area.
Right now, according to my figures, everyone in the Looniverse
has been exposed to roughly three megabyrnes."

"And byrnes are the units of retcotheric energy?" Ultimate Ninja

"That's right.  Just for comparison, the Ring of Retcon puts out
about a megabyrne."

The ninja's voice was grim.  "And you say we've been exposed to
three megabyrnes each.  What are the long-terms effect of that
kind of exposure?"

"Nobody knows.  I imagine, though, that when all is said and
done, if we get the retcotheric energy back down to a normal
background level, a lot of this will turn out never to have

Just then, the world starting trying to shake itself to pieces
like a sock full of nickels in a blender.

[Due to the events depicted in SotN #7 -- Footnote Girl, who
hasn't been sleeping, just resting her head on her desk.  So
tired . . . so very tired . . .]

* * * * * *

He was no longer Brand New Website Boy.  That chapter was over.
He was Lorenzo Van Autoharp, and he worked in a store, selling
semi-disposable Swedish furniture.  His first day at work -- his
first day at any honest job -- had actually gone quite well.  The
pay was adequate -- not that he needed to worry about that, with
his payoff from the Sphammers' Last Scam -- and his coworkers
seemed like decent enough folks.  He started to think he'd be
able to put his criminal past behind him, to live the sort of
life his parents would have been proud to see.

On his second day at work he was showing a modular bookshelf and
credenza unit to a nice young couple when the intercom informed
him that he had a phone call.  He excused himself from his
customers and walked quickly back to the stockroom, lifted the
receiver and pushed the flashing button for the call on hold.
"This is Lorenzo," he said, and heard a sudden click as the
caller hung up.  He shrugged and replaced the handset, only then
noticing a piece of paper with his name on it pinned to the
message board. He pulled it down and unfolded it, revealing four
handwritten lines:

"Six Deadly Sphammers
      Trying to stay alive

One got crushed by a crate of bookends

And then there were five"

The last thing he heard was an ominous creaking sound as a metal
shelf high above his head gave way.

* * * * * *

"What was *that*!?" demanded Lava Lamp in a shaky voice. The
world seemed to have stopped spinning, which was hopefully a good

"Chronic retconning at its worst," said Captain Killfile.

"Retcon RACCoon?" asked Nudist Man.

"Almost certainly," Captain Killfile confirmed grimly. "Come on.
We've got to get the rest of the Saviours together and *get that

[that's from SotN #7 -- Footnote Girl, feeling much better now]

Captain Killfile twisted a knob on her left gauntlet and a
glowing blue portal opened in the air in front of them.  Stepping
into the killfile, the trio vanished from normal continuity.

"Now let's find our teammates," Captain Killfile said, pressing a
button on her right gauntlet.  Six glowing white rectangles
appeared on the wall.

"What are those?" Nudist Man asked.

"Watchfiles.  I've created one to find each of the other Saviors.
It looks as though Ultimate Savior has been rescued by the
Ultimate Ninja.  He's on a rooftop in the abandoned warehouse
district.  Very Disturbed Scary Creature Man is nearby.  Gothic
Gorilla's praying to that creepy statue thing again.  Mood Arrow
and the Human Aquarium are helping clean up after the riots.  And
. . . where is she?  There!  Dr. Net.ropolis is playing with her

"We'll have to do this without the monkey -- you know how he gets
when you interrupt his weird rituals," Lava Lamp said.

"And without Net.ropolis as well, it seems.  She just shut down
my watchfile," Captain Killfile tried to sound casual about this,
but was obviously seething with indignation.  "I'll gather the
others . . ." she twisted a different knob, and the four
remaining Saviors of the Net appeared, somewhat dazed, in the

"Sorry for the abrupt summons, gentlemen, but the RACCoon has
become a liability.  The Ult -- Jesse and I were prepared for
this eventuality, however.  Right, US?" she asked, looking
steadily at the Ultimate Savior.

"Uh, yes.  Why don't you fill them in on the details, Captain?"

"Thank you.  Now, here's what I need each of you to do . . ."

* * * * * *

Lucy kept running.  She'd shaken her pursuers at least twice, but
they kept showing up again.  She didn't know who they were, but
she had an idea of why they were chasing her.  It had to be the
book that strangely familiar-looking woman had handed to her,
right before the world turned into a sea of purple lollipops.

[That's the Retcon War from issue #7 again -- Footnote Girl]

A few seconds later, the normal world had returned, but there had
been no sign of the scared little woman in the green raincoat.
Lucy still had the book, and she continued on her way home to
change and catch the train out of Net.ropolis and away from the
Seven Deadly Sphammers.  She heard the door forced and leapt out
the bathroom window.  She'd been running ever since.

The first two times they'd chased her, she'd been running away,
in a panic.  Now she had a plan.  She was running toward
something.  Toward her only hope.  The only people who could help
her now.  The Legion of net.Heroes.

* * * * * *

The watchfile that Captain Killfile had set up to find Retcon
RACCoon beeped.  "There he is," Mood Arrow said.  "In C|Net.ral
Park, next to the statue of the Golden Age Retcon RACCoon."

"But there wasn't a Gol -- " Ultimate Savior began.  "Oh."

"Exactly."  Captain Killfile looked at him closely.  He was
really shaken up by that meeting with the Ultimate Ninja.  So was
Very Disturbed Scary Creature Man.  What was she going to do
about that?  No time to worry about it now.  "Remember, when I
take us out of the killfile, we're back into continuity.  Or what
passes for continuity these days.  He's almost certainly made
himself immune to all our powers.  Don't believe anything he
says.  Don't believe anything anyone says -- including me, after
I close the killfile.  Remember the plan. Just remember the
plan."  She took a deep breath, adjusted her gauntlets, and
closed the killfile.

* * * * * *

Sully's Sau.net Room catered to a very exclusive clientele.  The
sort of clientele who were always very meticulous about escaping
public attention.  Especially official public attention, such as
from the gendarmes.  Sully Ross took great pride in his
reputation for discretion.  It wasn't surprising, therefore, that
he object quite strenuously to the gentleman who said he had a
personal message for one of Sully's most prestigious regulars.

On the other hand, Sully Ross also took great pride in his
business acumen, and his sense of self-preservation.  Sully Ross
was a man who knew which way the wind blew, and how to ensure
that said wind did not blow across the fresh unmarked grave of
one Sullivan J. Ross.

The Spham King barely glanced at the attendant who brought in a
silver tray bearing a single folded sheet of paper.  He read the
handwritten note:

"Five Deadly Sphammers

Did not know the score

One took a bath with a toaster

And then there were four."

"What the hell kind of crap poem is this?  It don't even sca--"

* * * * * *

Retcon RACCoon saw his fellow Saviors appear from inside a
killfile.  He thought he knew what they wanted, but decided it
would be more interesting if he didn't.  So he didn't.  "Is there
something wrong, Captain Killfile?" he asked innocently.

"Hit me!" she cried and Mood Arrow responded by jabbing an arrow
into her thigh.

"What did you do, Mood Arrow?" the RACCoon asked.  "Have you gone

"He's not mad, rodent, but I am," Captain Killfile said.  "That
was a hatred arrow. And guess -- " she fired a full blast of
killfile energy in his direction.  "Who".  Another blast.  "I".
Another.  "Hate!"  Another.

"Luckily, I've always been immune to killfile energy," Retcon
RACCoon said.  "And mood arrows, lava, and water," he added

"You're not immune to my powers, traitor," Very Disturbed Scary
Creature Man began.  "Because I don't have any.  And I'm going to
take you apart."

"But Very Disturbed Scary Creature Man, you're a lone avenger of
the night.  You're not a team player.  You wage a one-man war on
crime in a dark city on the edge of anarchy.  You're so secretive
that your very existence is considered an urban legend.  You'd
never be seen in broad daylight like this.  And you'd never join
a superhero team in the first place.  You hate superheroes."  As
he finished, Very Disturbed Scary Creature Man disappeared.

"Phase Two!  Phase Two!  Go, go, go!" Captain Killfile shouted.
So far, so good.  Her intense hatred of Retcon RACCoon would make
her instantly reject any idea he originated, without thinking
about it first.  Whatever else happened, she'd keep her own
memories intact.

Lava Lamp and the Human Aquarium turned their powers on the
statue, reducing it quickly to a pile of rubble.  "Why are you
doing that?" the RACCoon asked, genuinely puzzled.

"We're from the Golden Age Retcon RACCoon fan club," the Human
Aquarium said.

"And we're destroying this modern travesty.  This has nothing to
do with the real GA double R," Lava Lamp added.

"Honestly, how could you think they'd feel any differently?"
Ultimate Savior asked sincerely.  "You claim to follow in the
footsteps of this great hero.  You use his name and his costume,
but you mock everything he stood for.  I find that very, very
disappointing.  You don't want to disappoint your fans, do you?"

"Gosh, no.  I guess I never thought about it that way.  You know
I'd never do anything to -- No.  Wait.  Wait.  There never was a
Golden Age Retcon RACCoon.  I made him up five minutes ago.  You
can't retcon a retconner, friend.  And you can stop trying to use
that 'Everybody loves me, I'm so special' power of yours.  You
don't have it.  Never did.  Everybody always thought that was a
stupid power anyway."

"Don't listen to him, US.  It was working," Mood Arrow said,
shooting the Savior with an insouciance arrow.

"Of course, the *real* Jesse Cashew had that power," Retcon
RACCoon continued.  "But nobody knows what happened to him.
You're just a low-rent clone that Dr. Net.ropolis whipped up in
her lab.  That's why you're aging so rapidly.  In fact, your
aging process is starting to accelerate drastically and --- mmph
mmph mmph-mm-mmph."  The Human Aquarium silenced the verbose
raccoon with a mouthful of seawater.

Of course, I don't have to talk to use my powers, Retcon RACCoon
thought, as the Ultimate Savior rapidly turned into an

"Maybe I am a clone, furball," the oldster laughed.  "But I've
got the hoop."  And he flung the hoop towards the RACCoon with
uncanny accuracy.

Of course, everybody knew that the hoop only worked when the
Ultimate Savior was holding it, so it fell harmlessly to the
ground.  Lava Lamp and Human Aquarium, the RACCoon's loyal
lieutenants, walked over to the strange old man and each grabbed
one arm.  "Is this guy bothering you, boss?"

* * * * * *

Sabine Dominique stared at the bank teller.  "Overdrawn?  There
must be some mistake.  I deposited nearly one hundred thousand
dollars in this account yesterday."

"I'm sorry, Ms. Dominique.  I'll call the manager if you --"

The former Triple X Girl cut her off.  "I don't have time for
that right now.  I've got some bearer bonds in my safety deposit

"Certainly, ma'am.  I'll call a guard."  The teller picked up her
phone and a few seconds later a uniformed bank guard appeared to
escort Ms. Dominique to a small room with a single chair and
table.  He brought in her safety deposit box and asked if she
preferred to be left alone.  She did, and he withdrew to stand
just outside the door.

Sabine opened the box, shocked to find nothing inside but a scrap
of notebook paper bearing four handwritten lines:

"Four Deadly Sphammers

On a spending spree

One inhaled some poison gas

And then there were three."

She got halfway to her feet before she heard the hissing of
escaping gas.  She got halfway to the door before she died.

* * * * * *

Captain Killfile shot a quick, nonlethal jolt of killfile energy
into Lava Lamp and Human Aquarium.  They dropped to the ground,
unconscious.  "Phase Three!" she yelled.  "Go!"

With that, Nudist Man emerged from the trees, hooting and leaping
like a lunatic, heading straight for Retcon RACCoon, who could
not believe his eyes.  A naked human, shrieking like a madman,
was running up to him and . . . grabbing him . . . and striking
him with a rock on the top of his . . .

"Perfect," Captain Killfile said.  "You surprised him so much
that he couldn't think of anything to do.  He's out cold.  And he
can't retcon what he doesn't know about."  She cranked up the
juice on her killfile gauntlets to 11.

"Shouldn't we keep him alive?" Nudist Man asked.


"Do we know what happens if he dies?  Maybe everything goes back
to normal and maybe it doesn't."

"You might be right.  Damn, I wish Dr. Net.ropolis were here.
She'd know what to do."  She opened a killfile.  "Get everybody
inside.  I don't think he'll be able to use his powers."

* * * * * *

Chaz Cartoverde looked over the tops of his sunglasses,
appreciating the young ladies on the beach.  The former Green
Card Kid was living the good life in A.rec.ba, in a lovely little
spot that Offshore Bank Man once recommended.  A pair of gorgeous
redheads in white bikinis walked up to him.

"Good afternoon, ladies," he grinned.  "To what do I owe the

"Your friend asked us to give you this," one of the girls said,
pressing a folded piece of paper into his hand.  After enjoying
the view of them walking away, he unfolded the paper and read the
four lines written on it:

"Three Deadly Sphammers

Wondering what to do

One got shivved on the beach

And then there were two."

A shadow fell across the page.  Chaz looked up into the face of
his killer.  "You?  But how --"

* * * * * *

Vivian Net.ropolis was concerned.  The readings from her
authorial simulation programs were most unexpected.  One of the
programs -- an imperfect prototype that she only kept around as a
kind of "control group" -- was making some rather drastic
adjustments to the assumptions of the model.  It posited that the
perfect Mechanical Author would need to have a physical presence
within the fictional world.  This Authorial Presence would allow
the Author to fully appreciate the world from a character's point
of view.  It would also be something like a serial killer,
bumping off redundant or inconvenient characters without
requiring the Author to explain their deaths or tie them into the
larger plot in any way.

A weird idea.  No way it would work.  Luckily, these were just
prototype programs and none of them had actually been

* * * * * *

Three blocks away.  Two and a half blocks away.  Two blocks away.
One and a half blocks away.  One block away.  Two doors down.
Next door.  There.  Lucinda heaved a sigh of relief.  She'd made
it to the LNHHQ.  She burst through the door and set the book
down on the counter.  "I'm Lucinda Ponzi.  I used to be Lucky
Chain Letter Lucy of the Seven Deadly Sphammers.  Someone's
trying to kill me because I have this book.  You've got to help

The man behind the desk smiled kindly.  "Of course we'll help
you, Miss Ponzi.  Just for your own protection, there's something
we'd like you to read."

"Read?" She was confused.

"Just a disclaimer.  You understand."  He handed her a folded
sheet of paper.

Puzzled, she unfolded it and read the four handwritten lines

"Two Deadly Sphammers

Had their little fun

One ran into the wrong building

And then there was one."

* * * * * *

Very Disturbed Scary Creature Man crouched like a hideous
gargoyle on a rooftop, somewhere in Net.ropolis' extensive Gothic
Cathedral district.  There wasn't much crime here, but it made a
good spot for posing and brooding.  And he had much over which to
brood.  He was, after all, Very Disturbed.

Currently, he was Very Disturbed by his recent lapses of memory,
and his increasingly incoherent and contradictory thoughts about
his crimefighting career.  He also had increasingly incoherent
and contradictory thoughts about life in general, but due to his
obsession with the whole crimefighting thing, he didn't notice
these as much.

Manga Girl and Fuzzboy stood on a nearby spire.  "I think that's
him," Manga Girl said, pointing to a crouching figure in the near

"Are you sure?" Fuzzboy asked, squinting at the tiny shape.
"Maybe it's just a gargoyle."

"I'm pretty sure gargoyles don't absentmindedly fondle rubber
rats perched on their shoulders."

"Let's get him!" Fuzzboy hollered, leaping from the steeple
toward the next conveniently-placed rooftop.

"Wait--" Manga Girl began, but saw that it was too late to stop
her boyfriend's ill-timed attack.  She sighed and flew down to
join the fray.

* * * * * *

Morris -- no, Thaddeus.  Thaddeus Hotmail got off a plane
somewhere in South Ame.rec.a.  He didn't particularly care which
city or even which country.  A hundred grand American would last
a long time down here, regardless of his exact location.  He
approached the customs booth and handed over his paperwork.

"Enjoy your stay, Mr. Savetrees," the attendant said, and handed
him his passport with a smile.

"Thank you," he said automatically, before registering that the
man had used his real name.  He flipped open his passport to make
sure it was the right one.  A folded slip of paper fell out,
bearing four handwritten lines:

"One Deadly Sphammer

A long, long way did run

He was garroted in an airport

And then there were none."

* * * * * *

The stewardess smiled at him.  "Would you care for a
complimentary champagne cocktail, Mr. --?"

"Ah, Presence.  Arthur E. L. Presence.  And yes, thank you.  I'd
like a cocktail very much."  Life was good.

* * * * * *

[To be continued in Saviors of the Net #9]
[unless that's already been posted]

* * * * * *

Copyright 1998 by Steven Howard

The Saviors of the Net, Ultimate Savior, Captain Killfile, Dr.
Net.ropolis, Human Aquarium, Mood Arrow, Gothic Gorilla, Very
Disturbed Scary Creature Man, the Seven Deadly Sphammers, the
Spham King, Make Money Fast Mo, Lucky Chain Letter Lucy, Brand
New Website Boy, Triple X Girl, Green Card Kid, the Human
Warehouse, Anti-Christ Lad/Ole Scratch, and crossover concept
created by Arthur Spitzer.

Ultimate Ninja, Deductive Logic Man, and Self-Righteous Preacher
created by Ray Bingham.

Librarian Lady created by Saxon Brenton.

Alt.Lord, Manga Girl, Fuzzboy, Nudist Man and Arc created by Tom

Doctor Stomper created by person or persons unknown.

NEXT TIME: Saviors of the Net #9a: "What do Deus ex Machinas Dream of?"
           by Arthur Spitzer

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