ASH: Time Capsules #12 - Think of the Children

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at
Tue Aug 11 23:39:17 PDT 2009

     (Note: due to the looming deadline, Saxon posted the core story on its
own earlier.  This is the version that will rest in the ASH archives,

     The cover shows a hamster in a mad scientist labcoat and goggles.  The
Impossible Five lay scattered and defeated around her as she chortles
triumphantly.  Or whatever hamsters do instead of chortle.

    //||  //^^\\  ||   ||   .|.   COHERENT COMICS UNINCORPORATED PRESENTS
   // ||  \\      ||   ||  --X---------------------------------------------
 //   ||      \\  ||   ||                "Think of the Children"
//    ||  \\__//  ||   ||            Copyright 2009 by Saxon Brenton

     For all the advances in telepresence and virtual reality, there was a
certain emotional resonance that physical proximity created, a frame of mind
that could be harnessed to create a whole greater than its parts.  So, while
much of education took place in scattered virtual classes across the planet
or even across several planets, there was both prestige and benefit to be
found in the sit-down in-person classroom.  Naturally, giant lecture halls
were largely a thing of the past, but smaller groups did still meet and
bounce around ideas.
     Kaoru Spinoza led such a discussion group today as part of his academic
apprenticeship that was still known as "graduate school", and the topic had
drifted to an old late 20th Century saying, "On the internet, nobody knows
you're a dog."
     "But were there any actual dogs on the internet?" one of the newer
students asked.
     "It depends on how you define dogs, I guess," Kaoru replied.  "I mean,
there were at least two caniform robots active in the Third Heroic Age, and
both had internet access.  And Edouard the Catman was, as you might guess,
part cat.  But nonhuman presence on the internet didn't really get big until
the 2020s, what with the various artificial lifeforms that were native to the
net, or the infamous SatyrNet operating out of the Kingdom of Q'Nos."
     "And all the aliens," another student chimed in.  "Although there aren't
any doglike races out there, at least that we've encountered."  There were a
few groans at this, the student was notorious for trying to steer discussions
towards the possibility of alien interference in human culture.
     "Don't forget the hamsters," a dark-skinned girl pointed out.  She
tended to be silent much of the time, but when she did speak up, it was often
a point that stayed with everyone.
     "Hamsters," the first questioner blinked.  "I know the internet's been
called a series of tubes, but a hamster habitat?"
     "No, she's right," Kaoru smirked.  "In fact, when I was digging through
an old educational server a couple years ago, I found that it had been
hijacked by a group of uplifted hamsters.  Let me call it up and send you the


[June 2, 2026]
     +-I'm a superhero and a diplomat,-+ " Contact told himself.  +-I'm used
to dealing with strange things and talking with alien people.-+
     -+Still, hyperintelligent hamsters are a first,+- interjected Paul, the
disembodied consciousness that shared Contact's headspace.
     +-Well, yes.  But my point is that this shouldn't be much different to
meeting with a Pranir, or a satyr,-+ Contact told the self-aware memory.  He
looked at the hamster sitting on the table in front of him.  As far as
physical size and shape went he looked at first glance like a perfectly
unremarkable brown and white hamster.  However hamsters didn't normally wear
capes or tool belts, and that simple fact was enough to prompt a thoughtful
individual to notice that this small and furry person possessed dew claws
that were articulated into opposable thumbs.  There was also...  Well, it was
dangerous to project one's own sensibilities onto others, especially when
those others were a completely different species with whom you'd had no
experience in reading the body language, but Contact had the impression that
the hamster was doing the diplomatic looking-politely-patient-and-dignified-
     -+Best not keep the guest waiting,+- Paul suggested.
     "So, Mr. Lehweee," Contact said out loud, and making a passable attempt
to pronounce the name meant for a smaller throat and higher register of
voice.  "You say you have an urgent warning about a rogue member of your
     Lehweee nodded, a deliberate choice of body language for the benefit of
the human.  "Ms. Lehweee actually, but you'd hardly be expected to know.
"I'm here as the representative of my government.  Not quite a full
ambassador," she added wryly.  "More a bearer of urgent news."
     "Understood," said Contact with a smile as he found himself warming to
     "Within the past four daycycles we discovered that one of our most
prolific but eccentric scientists had gone missing.  Her name is Dr. Hewiila.
Some researchers were assigned to examine her paperwork to smell if there was
any reason for her disappearance.  The preliminary answer was alarming, and
over the next few days things only grew worse.
     "Indications are that Dr. Hewiila has developed a dangerous fixation on
human domination of the planet Earth, as well as the potential threat of
superhuman conflict to both the Earth and adjacent worlds.  We believe that
she has used her expertise in extra dimensional physics to set up bases for
herself away from the oversight of others, stocked them with high tech
weapons, and is planning to try and eliminate the most powerful of Earth's
     Contact raised an incredulous eyebrow.  "Considering that the power
levels of paranormals on Earth at the moment reach all the way to that of
literal demigods, I'd say that if that's her plan then she's overreaching
      "I agree," said Lehweee.  "Although the point is how much trouble she
can stir up, not whether or not she can succeed in her goal."
      "Point taken.  And she's motivated by trying to keep the paranormal
violence under control?  That's a worthy aim, but I'm afraid the cat's out of
the bag as far as that's concerned," Contact said.  "After the recent
attempts by the Planetary Confederation to sterilise the planet with a
coronal mass ejection, or the future Santari to ram a planet killer spaceship
into us, the most likely result would be to provoke fear that anything that
can take out the current high-end paranormals is something too dangerous to
be left alone."
      "Mr. Zander, at this point we honestly aren't sure what her exact
motivations are, but there's a very good chance that they aren't fully
rational.  It may involve a pragmatic attempt to stop human paranormal
violence spiralling out of control.  On the other hand it may involve some
version of nostalgia or belief in manifest destiny.  We hamsters are
originally from Earth, you see.  We left for a new home when it became clear
that even if we used our hyperintellect to limit our breeding, we would still
soon come into conflict with humans.  It wouldn't even have been at the point
where there was genuine problems with dividing up resources.  Based on human
history our projections indicated that within two decades our faster
expanding population would have grown to a point where humans would have
begun to grow fearful and start looking for excuses -- any excuses -- to move
against us.  That's no way to raise children and start a civilization, so we
simply left.  Now, if Hewiila is somehow acting on atavistic territorialism,
then that may be enough excuse to harbour a grudge.  But on the other paw
there's maltheism..."
     "Hyperintelligent hamsters were originally uplifted by humans," pointed
out Lehweee.  "There was a time, early on, when we looked upon you as gods.
And if one of us were to grow angry with humans, and set about picking and
choosing incidents of humans misusing their authority and technological
ability, and using that as an excuse for why humans were unfit and needed to
be cast down...  Well, it's hardly as though they'd have to hunt far for
excuses, now would they?  Isn't it much the same with your own deities, after
the God Market?"
     "Yes," conceded Contact.  "So, at best we have someone motivated by
goodwill but who's not thinking things through.  At worse we have a twisted
     "That about sums up the situation," agreed Lehweee.  "However, there is
some good news, of sorts."
     "And what's that?"
     "Dr. Hewiila seems to be working on standard military procedure to take
out the most powerful threats first.  At this point in time that's the
Impossible Five.  It could be seen as an opportunity to remove the current
greatest criminal threat on the planet.  Of course, that also has the risk of
unacceptably high levels of collateral damage."
     Contact pulled out his blackcell.  "Meteor isn't going to thank me for
this, but I think we'd better start kicking this up the chain of command," he
said, referring to the current leader of ASH while her husband, Solar Max,
was missing.  "Hey, Sarah?  I've got someone here that I think you should
talk too."
     "You'd better put the social introductions on hold and get here fast,"
said Meteor, cutting across his message.  We've just gotten some intel that
two of the Impossible Five have just been assassinated."
               *              *              *              *
     Her name was Dr. Hewiila, but for this task of eliminating the human
paranormals it had tickled her fancy to take on the nom de guerre of Dr.
     There was clap of thunder as Dr. Incisor's mecha teleported in and
displaced air with its arrival.  Not that she was physically present in the
thing.  She needed to have a mecha present, simply for show, be she could
easily direct it via zero-time lag extra dimensional links using quantum
     Some five hundred meters below were a cluster of small rocky isles off
the coast of Indonesia, one of which held a hidden base of the Impossible
Five.  *Had* held a hidden base of the Impossible Five, as the antimatter
bombs that Dr. Incisor had simultaneously teleported in turned the base and
volcanic rock above it into so much rubble and gamma waves.
     It had not harmed the two Impossible Five members who had been within,
but then Dr. Incisor had neither expected it to nor wanted it to.  The
destruction was merely to flush them into the open so that when Dr. Incisor
obliterated them it would be in full view of the various spy satellites that
were even now focusing on the area in response to the explosions.
     And here they came.  Chiaroscuro and Anhydra, flying up in an attack
formation to outflank their assailant.  Perhaps they would attack with the
intent to destroy the mecha immediately as an example to others.  Perhaps
they would try to capture the hypothetical pilot for interrogation.  Perhaps
they would preen and posture again as they had at their debut at Monte Carlo,
boasting about how being from the future they knew all about those defences
that could be arranged against them.
     Feh, sloppy logic on their part if they relied on that third one.  To
erase their own pasts and make themselves immune to temporal gazumping they
had to come back in time and set in motion a new history.  Which meant their
old history didn't include opponents working on ways of attacking temporally
rootless foes.  Which meant that they weren't prepared for THIS!
     One and a half seconds after the impossible pair appeared in the skies
the onboard computer activated the temporal shredder.  Almost everything in
the area was native to this time and place, and had not only the one-
dimensional temporal inertia that was a consequence of moving forward with
the normal flow of time one second at a time, but also the higher-dimensional
temporal inertia that kept people and objects anchored in their home
realities as those realities wiggled though the multiverse, diverging and
sometimes converging and generally spiralling about one another like a
squadron of Yossarians with middle-ear trouble.  The temporal shredder had no
effect on these things.
     However the Impossible Five, being people who had recently disconnected
themselves from their original time flow to turn their own pasts into closed
loops, had not yet been in 2026 for long enough to re-accumulate their own
higher-dimensional temporal inertia.  The temporal shredder curdled higher
dimensional time, and the vectors of every part of Chiaroscuro and Anhydra's
bodies splayed randomly backwards and forwards and sideways into adjacent
timelines, and the resulting shear forces caused the spacial matter making up
their bodies to be torn apart at subatomic levels.  Death was instantaneous
but not at all messy.  There literally wasn't enough left of them to leave a
               *              *              *              *
     Dr. Incisor waited until the assault mecha had teleported back and the
intruder alert systems of her hidey-hole extra dimensional base has been
confirmed to be reactivated.  Then she let out a little giggle, and that
giggle became a chuckle, and soon that chuckle escalated out of control into
a peal of triumphant laughter.
     Ooooh, this was going simply too, too perfectly.  Soon the Impossible
Five, and then the Conclave of Super-Villains, and so on and so forth down
the line of humanity's paranormal, technological and military power holders.
And while the humans were scurrying around in response to the destruction of
their overt power bases, all the while her long term plan was nibbling away
in the background.
     It had to do with influenza.  Her especially tailored strain of flu had
already been deposited around the planet, and when winter came and flu season
began the virulent but otherwise not particularly severe disease would spread
across first one hemisphere and then the other.  And as the humans were
infected, little snippets of recessive DNA codes would insert themselves into
the collective human genome.  It would take a while...centuries probably,
considering that the magene didn't properly follow Mendelian genetics...but
eventually humans would stop producing superhumans.  And while Dr. Incisor
would hardly be around to see the fruits of her labour, the children and the
children's children of her fellow hyperintelligent hamsters would be the
better and safer for it.
Marker's comments:
     Your attempt to present an overview of the different lines of thought
about the departure of our people from humans and hypothetical recontact is
good.  I particularly liked the figure of a diplomat who for reasons of
professional objectivity can summarise the different positions within the
word count allocated.  The inclusion of incidental details about the Academy
of Super-Heroes members shows an above average attention to detail for human
paranormal current affairs.

     However, the sudden shift to a battle scene is jarring, and the use of a
hamster super scientist who casually defeats the humans is both implausible
and reeks of wish fulfilment.
     Spelling and style errors are marked in red.

     "That has to have been someone's idea of a joke," Mr. Alien-Obsession
shook his head.  "If there really was a colony of super-intelligent hamsters
that use British-style English spelling, where did they go?"
     "Who says they had to go anywhere?" Kaoru shrugged.  "Near as anyone can
tell, by the 2020s they'd taken up residence either in the irradiated part of
     "The ancestral home of the species," the dark-skinned girl noted.
     "...exactly.  Or they'd found a pocket dimension accessible via the
wastes of Syria.  Much of that land is still contaminated even today, so they
could just be hiding out there.  Or maybe they did decide to leave before the
disasters that came later.  But they hid pretty well in the first place, the
main archaeological evidence of their existence is from the outdated computer
systems they'd hack into for resources, and I presume that at some point they
managed to start manufacturing computers of their own rather than repurposing
human-made ones.  Which would have let them stop borrowing from us and go
deeper into hiding.  I'm pretty sure that this ambitious plan to foil the
Impossible Five," he tapped his computer tablet, "was never put into action,
     "Or they killed the Impossible Five and replaced them with hamsters
wearing human suits!" a student suggested, grinning.
     "You've been reading too many early 21st Century 'webcomics' again,
haven't you," Kaoru sighed.


Saxon's Notes:

     Written in response to the two concepts proposed by the joint winners of
the first High Concept Contest.  'Superhumans worrying about their superhuman
children' (submitted by myself) and 'uplifted animals' (submitted by Andrew
     I'm not quite sure where to begin untangling the threads that went into
this story, so to keep things simple I suppose I'll just stick to the main
ones.  Apart from the overt theme of 'non-humans concerned about whether they
can co-exist with humans' there's also a nod to the subtext of 'always a
bigger fish' that Dvandom sometimes uses in his ASH stuff.  So, the
Impossible Five have arrived and are carving a niche for themselves as top
dogs on the planet.  Mm-hm, and what about when the next uber threat comes
along and overshadows them?
     That was a driving notion in the original version of the story, which
was labelled as an 'alternate unreality in a perpendicular universe'.
(Mainly so that I could make up any old outrageous stuff and not have to
worry about conflicting with any planned-but-not-yet-published canon.)  In
particular the line about the tailored influenza virus being used to remove
humanity's magene was a reference to the way that in the 21st century setting
of ASH there are an increasing number of paranormals but in the 38th century
setting of the Spear Carriers there are very few.  As well as being a
concrete goal for Dr. Incisor to aim for it was also originally meant as a
bit of pseudo-foreshadowing; and of course as a literary reference it's an
inversion of the Wildcards virus used to introduce superpowers into the human
gene pool.
     Then Dvandom suggested that it would be relatively easy to drag the
story back to within spitting distance of mainstream ASH continuity by
reframing it as hamster written Mary Sue fanfiction, which was duly Made So.
Only a few minor changes had to be made, mainly to account for the fact that
the narrator was now from a fixed cultural context rather than being a true
impartial third person omniscient.  The largest change was the removal of a
short scene with Timeslip -- the adult Chris Kelsey -- on the grounds that
his existence is probably being kept a secret from the general public.  A
smaller but more pertinent one was that despite her actions and reactions,
Dr. Incisor is no longer explicitly labelled as a supervillain.
     One final piece of nerdstuff: The hyperintelligent hamsters (or their
ancestors, anyway) first appeared in rapfic's 'Eight Tiny...Reindeer?'  in
the _Academy of Super-Heroes Holiday Special_.
     (And somewhere Continuity Porn Star dances, shaking his booty at the

Dave's Notes:

     Main story by Saxon Brenton, 2135-era wrapper by me.  I deliberately
left spelling and usage errors in the bulk of it, since there had to be some
errors for the grader to mark in red.  :)
     Due to the stresses of getting ASH #100 done, I didn't participate fully
in the High Concept Challenge #2, but when Saxon sent me an early version of
this story as out-of-continuity ASH-fanfic, I started batting around ways to
make it fit...after a fashion.  
     In the webcomic Narbonic, a group of intelligent hamsters disguise
themselves as a human via an armature, a trenchcoat, a hat and a paper plate
with a face drawn on it.  As a disguise, it doesn't really fool any of the
real humans, but no one seems bothered by a bunch of hamsters operating a
human suit anyway, so the disguise "works" in that sense.
     Finally, the Impossible Five actually set out to restore their own
timeline not remove themselves from causality (that was actually Timeslip's
goal), but the fact that the hamsters knew even part of the story is
impressive.  :)


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