LNH: Contest: Legion of Net.Heroes Volume 2 #31 [repost]
saxonbrenton at hotmail.com
Fri Nov 27 01:32:39 PST 2009
[LNH][Contest] Legion of Net.Heroes Volume 2 #31
| |-| \
| |-|  / #31
| | |  egion of \ 'Cancer of the Personality'
| | | __     / (Part of High Concept Challenge #4)
| | | [___][ \et.__eroes \
| | | \ ] [ __ ] / written by and copyright 2009
| |-|     \ Saxon Brenton
| | Cover shows a composite image of a single face made up of many
| | shards of many different faces. The mosaic only vaguely fits
| | together, and the face seems to be screaming.
[A Silver Age-style roster of characters in the form of a series of mug
shots in little circles runs down the side of the title page:]
Roll call for this issue:
o Limp-Asparagus Lad
These are just some of the super-powered do-gooders who belong to an
organisation that thinks that running around with your underwear on
the outside is acceptable as a fashion statement. They are: the
Legion of Net.Heroes!
Madness congealed out of the ether.
Here and there in the planetary noosphere bits and pieces came
together. Bits and pieces and bibs and bobs, coagulating together in
a seemingly incomprehensible pattern.
Still, there were two things that were knowable about the
phenomenon. The first is that, curiously for something that seemed to
encompass the entire world, it was concentrating at one point.
The second is that it was early.
Limp-Asparagus Lad and W.I.L.B.U.R. were the only Legionnaires in
the computer lab when the automated systems were compromised.
The Wildly Improbable LISP Based Urbane Robot obviously had some
advance warning of events, since he suddenly announced, "Red alert.
Hostile AI detected. All Legionnaires to red alert. This is not a
drill." His voice echoed as it was broadcast over the public address
system throughout the rest of the Legion of Net.Heroes-HQ. Or at least
it did up until it was cut off in the middle of the word 'drill', because
that was when the power went down.
The loud speakers fell silent, the computers all shut down, and the
red emergency lights cut in as the everyday fluorescent tubes went dark.
There was the sound of security fire doors falling closed with thuds.
"Limp-Asparagus Lad, I shall require your assistance in dealing with
this," said the LNH-HQ's robot major domo.
"Very well," said the World's Most Boring Mutant Superhero. He stood
up from his chair and was just about to ask what needed to be done when
the lights flickered on and off again, and some of the computer screens
showed random gibberish.
"Please follow me," W.I.L.B.U.R. said, leading L-ALad across the
room towards the area that housed the mainframes and other computer
support equipment. "We will need to move quickly, and be ready to come
under attack at any moment. Now that Unity has realised that cutting the
power will not be enough to allow her to escape, she has begun thrashing
about randomly trying to damage the computer that she has been tethered
to. That will not last for long, and she will soon start to take over
deference systems in order to systematically destroy it and free herself."
With the power down the alphanumeric pad to access the mainframes
wasn't working. As W.I.L.B.U.R. used a key to manually open the lock
L-ALad said, "You can't summon help form the other Legionnaires?"
"Unfortunately, no," said W.I.L.B.U.R. "Unity is not merely a
malevolent AI. She is the internet itself, gained self-awareness and
turned Evil. Any electronic communications system is by definition a
part of her and should be considered suspect. Only stand alone systems
are safe, and even then only those that are isolated within Faraday cages
are truly tamper proof. As soon as I detected her presence I set off the
automated warning that you heard over the loud speakers and then shut
myself off from all electronic communication."
Once the door was unlocked the two of them stepped inside. "So
what is your plan? I'm having trouble with the idea that the sentience
of the internet can be trapped within a single mainframe computer, no
matter how powerful."
"She isn't trapped inside it. She's been tethered to it. Don't
think of someone imprisoned inside a cage. Think instead of someone who
is on a leash and cannot move very far..."
And then a co-opted security laser blasted W.I.L.B.U.R.'s head off.
Limp-Asparagus Lad did not allow himself time to be surprised,
instead dodging and flying up to the ceiling to try to be out of the line
of fire of the barrage of death rays. This was only partly successful,
since the ceiling only had a reduced line of fire rather than none at all.
Nevertheless he did briefly remonstrate himself. He should have
been using his drama sensing powers to anticipate the danger that
W.I.L.B.U.R. had already warned about. He set about using them now, and
moved in to incapacitate each of the laser guns. And because the Man of
Dull was making use of drama for his own purposes, it ironically meant
that he was obliged to use an outrageous pattern of death-defying
manoeuvres. He ducked. He rolled. He pitched and yawed and weaved and
tumbled. And whenever he got within range of one of the laser weapons
he crashed into it with his feet, destroying the offending piece of
machinery. One by one the blasters were disabled, and each time his
aerial acrobatics became easier.
Finally he disabled the last one. He dropped back down to examine
W.I.L.B.U.R.'s remains. "I am still functional," the robot's head
informed him. It seemed that that the mechanoid had been hit in the
upper chest, badly damaging his torso but causing his cranium to be
"Only barely," said Limp-Asparagus Lad.
"That is true," W.I.L.B.U.R agreed sanguinely. Despite everything
W.I.L.B.U.R.'s voice was calm - but then, that was characteristic of the
mechanical man. 'Urbane' was the salient word in his name-acronym, and
of all the fictional robots that he could be compared to he set most
people in mind of Robby the Robot. No cute comedy relief R2D2 knock-off
was he, nor a highly strung or prissy Kryten or C3PO. "Unfortunately we
do not have time for repairs. Please carry my head to the god trap
" 'God trap'?"
"That was Renegade Programmer's half-joking name for it. It's not
To somehow constrain the consciousness of the internet, no matter
how incompletely? Yes, Limp-Asparagus Lad could see that. He picked up
the head and followed the directions to their destination. Meanwhile
W.I.L.B.U.R. explained, "Once the internet grew big enough and complex
enough, it was inevitable that it would develop it's own self awareness
and become intelligent in its own right. There is a problem with this..."
"Let me guess. The good versus evil paradigm of the superhero genre
causes the new intelligence to be hostile, like Computo, or Ulton, or the
most apocalyptic fantasies of Dave Van Domelen?"
"No," W.I.L.B.U.R. disagreed. "The large amount of malware loose in
the planetary datasphere means that the new intelligence is actively Evil.
This is especially the case considering it's not just mundane virii and
trojans to take into account. We are constantly discovering new bit
packets left about by the likes of Melissa, Acton Lord, and the Master of
the Net. These contaminate the consciousness as it manifests. It is
usually Evil, often female, and frequently lascivious."
"Are you familiar with the phrase, 'The internet is for porn'?"
"In any case, Multi-Tasking Man, wReamhack, Renegade Programmer and
myself instituted a clean-up project that wReamhack code named Unity.
We set loose a series of programs that attract malware to themselves,
causing the malignant programs to coalesce into a new internet
consciousness, while at the same time being tied to the god trap
mainframe here at the Legion of Net.Heroes-HQ. Unfortunately she has
manifested ahead of schedule. Still, it gives us immediate access and
a modicum of control over her."
"Allowing you to purge the evil elements?"
"In a sense. We delete the malformed personality altogether, so
that the malware can't be used next time."
"You are unhappy with that," observed W.I.L.B.U.R.
"I did not say that," Limp-Asparagus Lad replied neutrally.
"You don't have to," said W.I.L.B.U.R. "It's subtle, and I doubt
if most humans would notice it. Nevertheless while you always talk in
a monotone, when you get angry you stop sounding like Mr Spock and
start sounding like Rorschach."
Limp-Asparagus Lad had no idea that he did that. Then it occurred
to him that perhaps W.I.L.B.U.R.'s damage might be causing him to suffer
electronic delusions. Was the advice the robot giving him about stopping
the hostile AI trustworthy while he was in his current damaged state?
He said, "I'm reminded of Ivan's question in The Brothers Karamazov,
about whether it's justified to torture to death one innocent baby in
order to ensure happiness for the rest of humanity."
"A good comparison, even if it's not completely analogous,"
conceded W.I.L.B.U.R. "But then, wReamhack and Multi-Tasking Man
thought in terms of the Biblical practise of scapegoating an animal with
the sins of a community and then driving it out into the wilderness to
die, and that's not completely analogous either."
"And Renegade Programmer?"
"As I recall, at the time he was more worried about how he'd run
out of chocolate bars. Ah, here we are."
They had arrived at the computer in question. Plastered onto one
side was a piece of masking tape which had been written on in thick, black
felt tip texta, proclaiming that this was indeed the god trap.
"This is where I will need your help in killing my daughter," said
"I beg your pardon?" said Limp-Asparagus Lad. He was close to
"The machine code used to attract the malware together and bind it
to the god trap is based on my own, much as I am programmed with modified
versions of Multi-Tasking Man's brain patterns. That makes Unity just as
much my daughter as Multi-Tasking Man is my father."
A surprisingly sentimental attitude. "And you insist on deleting
Unity rather than keeping her confined and trying to cure her?" persisted
"Yes. Please understand that regardless of whether she is good or
evil there are parts of her - mainly deriving from Acton Lord - that are
either inherently unstable or in an unstable configurations. In time she
would destabilise and disintegrate, only to reform and go through the
cycle again. For an entity of mind that sort of malignant death is as
terrible as cancer is. Moreover, projections that wReamhack did indicate
that in a statistically significant number of occasions her incarnations
will not only be Evil, but irredeemably insane and in pain from the
misconfiguration of her component pieces. We looked at the numbers and
concluded that it would be more humane to accelerate the formulation
process and then quickly euthanize the product. Some day we will have
cleared away enough malware - even if only temporarily - that she will
be able to form without it being integrated into her, and should be able
to grow up capable of protecting herself from its influence.
"Now quickly. I have a backup copy of myself in storage. Take my
cogence core from my head and insert it into the slot on the side of the
computer. I will activate the timer on my self-destruct routine, and
after my programming has been absorbed into Unity it will activate and
wipe clean the contents of the god trap as well as all other parts of
the personality matrix elsewhere around the planet."
Limp-Asparagus Lad was confused. "Why do you have to self-destruct?
You could just as easily set the god trap to purge itself if you
installed an exterior 'delete' button rather than uploading yourself
into it. It would make it possible for other people to do the job if
you had been critically damaged as well."
"Call it parental responsibility."
Limp-Asparagus Lad wasn't impressed with this explanation. He was
beginning to wonder if it might be some form of self-flagellation; a
token compensation for being unable to spare Unity brief periods of pain-
and Evil-addled existence. But he did as W.I.L.B.U.R. asked. A few
seconds after he inserted the cogence core the minimalist displays
indicated that the mainframe had been wiped clean in a full reformat.
Nevertheless he stood there for a few minutes thinking about what he
had just been told.
He found it bizarre. After all the effort he had put into reforming
villains - even the repeated failures with Exclamation!Master! - he found
the approach that W.I.L.B.U.R. and the robot's fellow LNH computer geeks
had taken with Unity to be disturbing. Did the fact that the planet's
e-consciousness would eventually reform make a difference? Was it truly
the same consciousness each time, or a sibling composed of the same
genetic-analogue material? He wasn't sure.
In the meantime he had things to do. He would need to take the LNH
off red alert. He would also need to contact wReamhack or Multi-Tasking
Man to update them on what had happened and get them to reactivate
W.I.L.B.U.R.'s backup as soon as possible. There were all sorts of tasks
to carry out and keep one's mind occupied. He turned and walked away.
Written for the fourth High Concept Challenge, which had the theme
of 'the kitbashed hero': a character who takes on aspects of a variety
of different things.
Also rewritten and would probably be subject to more rewrites if I
had more time, although I'm not sure whether that would actually improve
the story. One scene that I was toying with was the meeting between
W.I.L.B.U.R. and Unity in the god trap - but that would have taken ages
to get right.
Incidentally, Unity is not in any way based on the Skin Horse
character of the same name. Conceptually she's based on the internet
consciousness named Solace in some of the later Callahans books by
Finally, a new roster entry. You should be able to guess which
obscure character will get a write-up this time.
NAME: W.I.L.B.U.R. (the Wildly Improbable LISP Based Urbane Robot)
TYPE: Public Domain
CREATED BY: Jeff Coleburn
POWERS: Standard robot characteristics: fast physical reactions,
inhumanly fast mental processes, somewhat durable body.
ADD NOTES: First appearance: _Multi-Tasking Man_ #1. W.I.L.B.U.R.
was created by Multi-Tasking Man to assist with the running of the
Legion of Net.Heroes-HQ, and has acted as the Legion's major-domo
ever since. He is programmed with modified copies of Multi-Tasking
Man's brain patterns. He is not a combat droid, and specifically
avoids any fights that are beyond his abilities to handle.
Saxon Brenton University of Technology, city library, Sydney Australia
saxon.brenton at uts.edu.au saxonbrenton at hotmail.com
"These 'no-nonsense' solutions of yours just don't hold water in a complex
world of jet-powered apes and time-travel." - Superman, JLA Classified #3
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