[REPOST/LNH] Saviors of the Net #9a: "What do Deus ex Machinas Dream of?"

Arthur Spitzer arspitzer at earthlink.net
Fri Apr 28 15:59:13 PDT 2006

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[Cover:  There is a computer screen much like yours on it, with words much
like these on the screen.]

There was a first line, which happened to be the first line of this story.
The first line wasn't very important as first lines go, but the story needed
to begin somewhere.  And stories without first lines, well, that path heads
towards madness (which while a nice place to take pictures, you wouldn't
want to live there).

There was this party.  If you can imagine the ultimate archtypical party, it
would look a lot like that.  And there were these people at this party,
which makes sense, since a party without people is a very tormenting sight
much like a nostril without a nose, a sentence without words, or a
politician without a mouth.

There was a person at this party.  This person is what this story is all
about.  Not all of it though.  Just most of it.

The person held a drink in his hand.  The drink had one of those tiny
umbrellas bobbing carefree inside a clear liquid encircled by the corpses of
crucified lemon slices clinging to colliding cubes of ice.  Surrounding the
person, who was a well-dressed man, were a variety of dazzling women who
appeared to be escapees from the pages of various fashion magazine photos.
The man seemed to be handling himself well, as if being surrounded by
fashion models was a natural state.  Every word that came from the man's
mouth was followed by either a hearty laugh or a sigh of admiration.

Occasionally, one of the women would ask the man why he seemed so familiar.
Was he a movie star?  A professional athlete?  A superhero?  The man would
just shake his head while acting incredibly smug.  No, he was a writer, he'd
say with a serious voice.  And they'd ask him what he wrote.  He liked it
when they did that.  He'd say casually, Oh, just stories.  True stories.
And occasionally, he'd even tell what these true stories were.

He'd tell them he was writing about the Saviors of the NET.  A documentary?
You might say that, he'd say with a Sphinx like grin.  And they'd ask him
these inane questions about the Saviors.  Did those wild occult parties
involving the Gothic Gorilla really happen?  Was the Mood Arrow heavily
addicted to joy arrows?  Was it true about Captain Killfile's sex life?
Mostly tabloid drivel from rags like the Mid.Net Star.  The man would just
shake his head smiling like an unfinished maze.  To be truthful, he didn't
really write about the Saviors.  He could if he wanted too.  He could do
almost anything if he really wanted.  But he never told the women what he
really wrote because what he really wrote might disturb them.

What he really wrote was the dialogue that came from their mouths.  What he
really wrote were the lives that they lived and the dreams that they dreamt.
He wrote this party.  He wrote all of the people who were at this party.
And lastly, he wrote himself.

And sporadically, they would ask him what his name was.  And he'd say with
an effortless wink, "The name's Presence.  Arthur E. L. Presence."

And infrequently, they'd ask him where he got his ideas from.

**   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   **
Saviors of the NET:
Issue Nine
                  "What do Deus ex Machinas Dream of?"

**   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   **




Dr. Net.ropolis was typing.

She glanced at the TV in front of her and observed that the Saviors had
defeated the RACCoon a little sooner than she had expected.  It didn't
matter.  She had retrieved all of the retcotheric energy she needed
regardless.  And the distraction had allowed her more time.  She sighed to
herself.  Sometimes she had a hard time believing she was doing what she was
doing.  Not that she was creating the perfect writer.  It was the other

The manipulation of various people.  She had almost destroyed reality by
letting the raccoon loose.  How far was she planning to go?  How many more
principles would she have to sacrifice to the Mechanical Author's altar?
She tried to tell herself that it wouldn't matter once The Author was
completed.  All of the evil deeds ever done would be erased.  And only the
good would remain.

And she was saving the world, she tried to tell herself.  Where was the evil
in saving the world?  She wasn't some super-villain like Acton Lord, Tsar
Chasm, or the Time Crapper.  She wasn't doing this to satisfy her own ego.
She also wasn't a super hero.  She knew that.  She was just an ordinary
person with ordinary fears trying to do something to end the pain.

She was doing this because it was right.  And if people were hurt?  Well,
people were always being hurt.  If you had to hurt some people to insure a
world where no one ever was hurt, well, wasn't that better than standing
idly by hurting no one in a world of perpetual hurt?

But somehow all of the justification couldn't soothe the doubt clawing at
her mind.  She sighed, clearing her mind of these worries and focused her
attention back to the retcotheric energy readings.  The retcon energy was
going to be the lifeblood of her Mechanical Author.

Hmm, strange.  According to these readings, a third of the energy she had
collected wasn't there.  That couldn't be right.  She checked again.  The
results were the same.

Retcotheric energy was incredibly unstable, but still -- she had bottled the
energy in an anti-retcon force field.  There was no way it could have leaked
out by itself.  Had she miscalculated?  No, she was pretty sure she hadn't.
Then she recalled one of her authorial simulation programs going off on some
bizarre tangent.  Could it possibly..?  No, no.  That was impossible.

But she knew these were warning signs.  She would have to work faster before
these unwanted improbable occurrences started to become more frequent.
Fortunately -- the real opposition she faced, the writers, weren't taking
her too seriously.  She was just another story to them.  It was the only
advantage she had.  She'd have to make the most of it.

**   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   **

Back at The Party...

Mr. Presence became bored with the women surrounding him.  The dialogue out
of their mouths started to ring false to him.  And they started to look less
like women than badly constructed sentences.  Even the party and people
within the party gave off the same feeling. Even he looked like nothing more
than a sentence.  And the sentences started to look like nothing more than a
bunch of words strung together.  The words in turn looked like letters that
for some reason were connected to each other.  And the letters dissolved
into nothing, but a random set of lines and dots.

And when the reality faded everything started to f
dddjfl aife ieik      eije;;l   ie09838903jkf  kf;aefbbv f
djaf;eiiej        i;oojkj3u9r            93099rjf
     jddfkla k           83221hejk ksdncn eioepqp
                              uyuihjl uiuiuiuio|||||\\\\\........
////////////////            /?||\/\/\/\\/\\/\\\\\\\\...............

..............      ...   ....... ...  .....

Tjkiiillusion returned.

Mr. Presence sighed.  Even incoherent chaos became pointless after awhile.
He needed to find something to amuse himself before he decided to unexist
himself entirely.  He glanced at the book he had in his hand.  It had that
diary look.  Where had he picked up this book?

Oh yes.  From the woman in chains.  He briefly whistled 'Luck be a Lady
Tonight' to himself and then he chuckled a little at his tiny joke.  He
wondered if there was anything kinky inside it.  Probably.  All these super
types probably led incredibly kinky lives.  Why else become a superhero or

As he flipped through the book looking for anything juicy; he noticed that
the writer wasn't the woman in chains, but someone named Joan St. Claire who
was a member of the Saviors of the NET called Arc.  In the book were very
detailed plans involving how the Saviors would take over the Net.  All of
these plans seemed to be orchestrated by a being called the Alt. Lord.
There didn't seem to be anything about Dr. Net.ropolis's plan, which made
sense.  Only Dr. Net.ropolis knew what her plan was.  Well, he knew it too.
But for some reason he had never heard Dr. Net.ropolis talk about any Alt.
Lord or for that matter a Savior called Arc.  He would have to investigate
this.  Besides he had never talked with a megalomaniac from another

With a snap of the fingers Mr. Presence brought a baffled Alt. Lord to the
party, which he had by now reconfigured into a bar.

"What the..??!!" exclaimed the Alt. Lord.  He was wearing his infamous armor
made of Wasted Time, Empty Promises, Bad Hair Days, and Parking Tickets.
"Who Dares Ensnare The Alt. Lord!!? Speak Fiend!!"

"Chill out, man.  Have a seat.  So, you have a favorite drink?"

"I only drink the blood of women and children!"  Alt. Lord thought about
having an evil laugh after saying that, but he just wasn't in the mood
-- so he scowled instead.  But it was a good scowl.  No one could scowl
quite like Alt. Lord.  Alt. Lord had taken scowling and some how made it
into a pure art form that transcended mere scowling.  You couldn't help, but
get a magical feeling when you witnessed Alt. Lord scowling.  And you knew
once it was over that you were a far better person for experiencing it.

Mr. Presence paused for a second.  "Hmm.  I don't think they have that here.
Barkeep, make my main man here a Bloody Mary."

"Alt. Lord is No one's Main Man!!"

"Take it easy, big guy.  Just wanted to ask you some questions.  You know --
I've never met an evil cosmic megalomaniac from another universe before.
That must be some line of work."

"Well It Beats -- No NO!  I become weary with your Mindless Prattling!  I
demand you return me to my Alt.ter.Net Universe, so I can resume my campaign
to take over your Pitiful Looniverse!"

"Well, now you see -- I'll return you to your Universe -- When, and Only
When, you've answered all of my questions.  Think of this as an interview
from hell, Alt. Lord."

"And what if *I* threaten to destroy you!!?"

"Hey, take your best shot."  Mr. Presence smiled like a high tide at noon.

Alt. Lord hesitated for a bit, but with a defiant grimace he took his Big
Massive Illegal-In-Most-Dimensions-Without-A-License God Killing Weapon from
one of his pockets and aimed it at Mr. Presence.  "BAH!  I'll only destroy
your arm, Weakling!  And then keep destroying various body parts until you
return me to my Universe!!"  With that he clicked the trigger.

A wave of God Killing energy hit Mr. Presence's arm.

"Heh, that sort of tickled.  Well, I guess it's *my turn* to give you my
best shot.  Right?"  Mr. Presence still smiling rubbed his hands together.

There was a brief point where Alt. Lord stood dumbfounded, but quickly moved
into defense position like the brilliant master planner he was.  "Uh -- Umm
-- Well now, let's not be hasty.  I was -- umm -- testing you.  Yes!
Testing you!!  Seeing if you were really worthy of being in Alt. Lord's
presence!  Looks like you passed with flying colors!  Umm --now let's get
back to this whole you wanting to ask me some questions kind of thing!  Alt.
Lord will answer questions now!"

"Right.  Well let's begin.  What's your favorite color?"

"What kind of a stupid -- Oh all right.  Red!  Blood Red!! Yes!  Fresh Blood
RED!!  Muahahahah!!!  *Ahem* Sorry -- Evil just brings out my natural comic
genius I guess.  Next question!"

"What's your motivation?"

"Motivation!?  Bah!  Alt. Lord has no need of motivation!  That is for the
lesser sissy wannabe megalomaniacs!  Next question!"

"Oh come on!  All villains have some type of motivation.  I mean really, why
do you want to conquer the Looniverse?"

"Why do I need a reason!!?  Can't a guy just wake up one morning and say,
Hey, you know -- I think I'll enslave the Looniverse!  Let me tell you, all
this psychological mumbo jumbo you have to go through now days just to be a
super-villain, well, it's a shame!  I miss those days where you could just
be evil and no one questioned it!!  No shades of grey!"

"So you had a happy childhood -- You weren't abused or anything?"

"Of course not!  Not that I see anything wrong with abusing children, mind
you!  Whenever my father would slaughter an entire planet he would always
hold me on top of his shoulders so I could see the whole thing happen!  And
I was allowed to perform my first genocide when I was just seven years old!
So yes, I had a very happy childhood!  Next question!"

The bartender placed the drinks on the counter.  Alt. Lord scowled at his

"Why are you afraid of the Ultimate Ninja?"

"Afraid!!?  Alt. Lord is afraid of No One!!"

"Well, it says in this book that you're afraid of the Ultimate Ninja."

"Bah!  You would trust the word of some piece of libelous drivel over Alt.

"So if I made the Ultimate Ninja appear right here, you'd have no problem
with that?"

"NO Not..!! Umm I mean -- WHY would you want to do that?!  I'm sure the
Ultimate Ninja is very busy right now!  Why waste his time!!?"

"But I need to be convinced you're telling the truth.  If this book contains
falsehoods then I need to know what they are."

"Okay!  I admit it!!  I have this fear of ninjas!  I guess it's those ninja
bushes they carry and their ninja cooties!  I mean they're just icky!
Especially when they silently creep in the shadows!  Bah!  When I'm ruler of
the Looniverse my first act will be to rid the Looniverse of all ninjas!
Bah!  I feel queasy just thinking about them.  Next question!"

"Okay.  What does the word perfect mean to you?"

"Perfect!!"  Alt. Lord played with the celery in his drink as he thought
about the full meaning of the word.  Alt. Lord had little use for
philosophers, artists, writers, or basically anyone who dared to think about
anything other than how evil Alt. Lord was.  But occasionally -- when he
wasn't slaughtering innocents, being cruel, unusual, and generally down
right evil; Alt. Lord would occasionally kick back and try to unravel the
meaning of life and the universe.  "Perfect is Alt. Lord's middle name!
Yes!  Alt. Perfect Lord!"

"And what are you perfect at?"

"Bah!  I am perfect in my hate!  Perfect in my cruelty!  Perfect in my
inhumanity!  Perfect in my banjo playing!  I am Alt. Lord.  And I am one
lean mean machine of juggernautial perfection!  Except No Substitute!!!"
Damn, I'm Good! Alt. Lord thought to himself as he fully took in what he had
just said.  Was juggernautial a word?  Of course it was!  It was just that
no one had been as perfect as he was to use the word before, Alt. Lord
realized.  Damn, He Was Good!

"Ah, but Alt. Lord -- perhaps you are deluding yourself?  I mean if you were
truly perfect wouldn't you realize you were just a bunch of sentences and

"What is this madness you spout, Fiend!!?  I am Alt. Lord!  Not a bunch of

"Alas, Alt. Lord, that is all you really are.  And I'll tell you this much.
You have absolutely no chance of ever ruling the Looniverse.  Because, if
for no other reason, the LNH always wins.  This is their universe and the
rules it lives by.  Perhaps alternate versions of yourself -- in alternate
timelines might win.  Perhaps you might even conquer the Looniverse, but --
you'll have it quickly snatched away from you again.  If you don't realize
this you are doomed to spend your life in a futile pursuit."

"Lies!!  You Speak Lies, Fiend!!  I am Alt. Lord!!  I cannot possibly

"Heh.  Believe what you will Alt. Lord.  But I know what I speak of.  You
see I'm an author or at least I think I am.  Perhaps, I'm like you
-- just a clump of sentences that believes it's an Author.  Perhaps."

"I'm technically just a simulation.  A prototype for a Perfect Author that
Dr. Net.ropolis is creating.  I wouldn't even be alive, but for some nearly
impossible events that occurred.  I shouldn't be here talking to you.  But I
am.  Kind of like that gingerbread man in that story.  Except I can do
anything I want.  But there's the trouble.  What do I want?"

"Perhaps revenge?  That makes sense, doesn't it?  I was rejected because I
was supposedly flawed.  I was never allowed a chance at life because of this
flaw.  But here I am.  I could do anything to Dr. Net.ropolis that I wanted
too.  On the other hand, I can't imagine doing anything worse to her than
what is actually going to happen to her.  She has, betraying most of her
principles, already lost and I think she knows that deep down.  She's
battling the gods, and when you battle gods don't expect to win or even to
break even.  If you fly too close to the sun expect your waxwings to melt.

"At the most, she might become a martyr.  Doubtful though.  More than
likely, she will be written as just another mad megalomaniac that tried to
destroy the Looniverse -- but for the grace of the Great Writers.  History
isn't written by the losers, Alt. Lord.  You should remember that."

"So I can't have my revenge -- and even if I could, would I want it?  There
is part of me that feels sorry for Dr. Net.ropolis.  She's in a way my
mother.  Although -- it's only a small part.  A very small part."

"Perhaps, I could try to prove I'm perfect by attempting to do what Dr.
Net.ropolis didn't think I was capable of.  Fixing the flaws in this world.
But if I'm not perfect then how would I know what a perfect world was?  Or
what the flaws were?  And would a perfect writer doubt his own perfection?
What would you do if you could do anything, Alt. Lord?"

"Take Over The Looniverse!!"  Alt. Lord had a cold sneer on his face.  Any
fool should have known that answer, Alt. Lord thought to himself.

"Of course you would.  Well, I think I've wasted enough of your time Alt.
Lord.  Good Luck with taking over the Looniverse.  No, I really mean it."
Arthur E. L. Presence snapped his fingers smiling like a dead clown.  Alt.
Lord vanished from the bar before he could say Bah.

Arthur E. L. Presence sighed to himself and looked at the book again.  He
had been happy, sure of himself before he had found this book.  Why was
that?  This book was nothing more than a thing filled with words.  And the
book really wasn't a book, just words that pretended to be a book.  He
should destroy this book.  Clearly it was an evil thing that had made him
doubt himself.  It had only brought pain to its owners.  But he couldn't
destroy it for some reason.  It wasn't that it was indestructible.  A simple
match could destroy it.  But he couldn't bear to destroy it.  No, that was
silly that he couldn't destroy it.  Why should he destroy it, anyway?  No he
would keep it.  And occasionally, read passages from it.  Because he wanted
to.  Not because he needed to.

He wondered if a perfect writer would he be able to see actual people,
places, and things in the sentences that surrounded him and in some cases
made him what he was?  Perhaps when the Perfect Writer came he could fix the
flaws that were in him.

Would the Perfect Writer come?  Or would the LNH prevent that from
happening?  Arthur E. L. Presence couldn't say.

And what would happen when the Deus ex Machina to end all Deus ex Machinas
finally did arrive?  Would the heroes try to stop it?  Would the heroes even
want to stop it?

Was there such a thing as Perfection?  And what would happen if Perfection
wasn't all it was cracked up to be?

Arthur E. L. Presence didn't know the answers to any of these questions.  He
sat not smiling and finished the drink he'd been drinking.

What was he sure of?  The heroes would win.  Yes.  The heroes always won.
This was the Looniverse.  How could they possibly lose?

He got up from that seat, smiling like a fading sun set.

He could do anything he wanted.  He could be a ruler of a country.  He could
be a superhero.  Or a supervillain.  He could be the richest man in the
world.  He could become a director and create the greatest porno movie ever
made.  He thought about that last one for awhile.

But would it mean anything if he couldn't see the reality in the illusion?
If all he could ever see were just the sentences in the paragraphs?

He was on the streets of a city.  The city didn't matter.  He saw people
walking the streets unaware of what they really were.

He shouted at the top of his lungs, "You're just sentences and words!!!
That's all you are!!  Nothing more!!"

Most of people just ignored him.  Some looked at him with an amused
expression.  Some looked sorry for the silly mad man in the street.

Were they right?  Was he mad?  He looked at sentences that pretended to be
people.  Why were some of them enjoying life?  They didn't have his ability
to do anything he wanted.  They didn't know the truth.  Perhaps there was
some truth in the old cliche that ignorance was bliss.  Perhaps he could be
one of them for just a bit.  No, it wouldn't work with the knowledge of a
safety net.  No, if he were going to do this it would have to be without the
safety net.  Would a world where he believed the lie be better?  Could it be
any worse?

Arthur E. L. Presence snapped his fingers for one last time.

**   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   **

Kicking Back at The Lost-Cause Boy Memorial Hospital...

The casualty ward, which every other night would be filled to the brim with
innumerable superheroes and supervillains who hadn't had a very good night
to say the least, had a pretty light load.  Of course even a light load was
about twenty or so very brutally beat up or shot super people so it didn't
really say much for the word light.

One of the doctors glanced at a patient on a stretcher who had been shot
several times.  The patient was a woman; young, attractive, and athletic.
Basically, your typical super type.  She had this bizarre costume made of
chains and letters.  She looked kind of familiar.  Had he seen her
somewhere?  Probably not.  Once you've seen one, you've seen them all.

"Will she survive doctor?"  A nurse asked with concern.

"She should have died from these wounds.  I really don't know how she
survived as long as she did.  Maybe it's a miracle.  Or a plot device.  Yes,
I think she'll survive and have her chance to get back at whoever did this
to her.  She's incredibly lucky whoever she is."

"Well, until she gets her bill," the nurse joked.

The doctor chuckled to himself.  "Yes.  You've got a point."

**   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   **

Dr. Net.ropolis gazed at the Apathy Beast sleeping in its containment
chamber.  This was how she was going to take care of the writers, she told

She had bought if off of some trenchcoaters who swore that the beast had
knocked off the various NTB writers beyond the Fourth Wall.  Still, she knew
how trustworthy trenchcoaters were.  And the trenchcoaters she had bought
the beast off of were probably even sleazier and more corrupt than your
typical ones.  Especially the one who had made an obscene pass at her.
Christ, what was his name?  Mr. Dreadbeet or something equally asinine.  It
didn't matter.  Scum like that would have no place in the new world that the
Mechanical Author would create.

She had manipulated the DNA of the apathy beast to the point where the
apathy emission was at its maximum strength.  Once the Perfect Author was
operational she would release the beast through the fourth wall and hope
that it took care of the remaining LNH writers.  Once that happened
everything would be out of her hands or anyone's hands.  Except the
Mechanical Author's of course.

Once more she gazed at the Apathy Beast.  And the Apathy Beast Gazed right
back at her.

Where is the evil in saving the world?

**   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   **

Once upon a time there was a man.  He couldn't do everything he wanted to.
But then can any of us?  If you hit him, he would bruise.  If you shot him,
he would bleed.  He also happened to be one of the best assassins in the
world.  He wasn't The best.  But he was pretty close.  And he was cheap.
Hell, he was free.  He was independently wealthy and did assassinations as a
hobby.  And his name was Presence.  Arthur E. L. Presence.

He found his name strangely ironic, but didn't understand why for some
reason.  Sometimes, he wasn't satisfied with his life.  Sometimes, he would
wonder what it would be like to do anything he desired.  He didn't know why
he had this very haunted feeling when he would think that.  A feeling like a
typewriter without any keys.

He didn't realize that the people around him were just sentences.

He didn't realize he was just a lot of words.  Just a story

And sometimes he would snap his fingers.  He didn't know why he did it.  He
just did it and hoped something would happen.

But nothing ever did.

There was a last line.  This was the last line.

**   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   **
**   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   **

Next:???? I have no idea.  It will be written by someone else.  Or it won't
be... Maybe it will be you.. maybe not..

**   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   **


Arthur E. L. Presence is Steven Howard's

Alt. Lord, Joan St. Claire are Tom Russell's

The rest are mine or someone else's.

**   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   ****   **

NEXT TIME: Saviors of the Net #9b: "Of Two Worlds"
           by Jesse N. Willey

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