ASH/CONTEST: Coherent Super Stories #19 - IMP in the ARPANET

Dave Van Domelen dvandom at
Wed Feb 10 21:07:02 PST 2010

     [The cover shows Brightsword I drawn in Ditko style, swimming through a
torrent of daffodils while clutching a chocolate bar in one hand.  He's

 .|, COHERENT                                            An ASHistory Series
 '|` SUPER STORIES                        #19 - "IMP in the ARPANET"
        Featuring Brightsword I           copyright 2010 by Dave Van Domelen

     General Art notes: This is Steve Ditko style at his most bizarre and
otherworldly, for the most part.  Even the flashbacks to "mundane" events are
twisted and warped to reflect how the memories are perhaps a bit


     Splash page.  It's similar to the cover, but where Brightsword's
expression was grim determination on the cover, here it's more confused.
Despite his strong grip, the chocolate bar he's holding isn't deforming.  The
series logo is in the upper left, but the story title is part of the final
thought bubble.  Indicia indicate that this was originally published in
Brightsword #21, dated June 1970.
     Brightsword is swimming up and to the right.  His first thought bubble
is above and to the left, between him and the logo.  The second is below and
to the right, the last is in the lower right corner.

     THOUGHT 1 (BRIGHTSWORD): Why am I trying to get this chocolate bar to
the other side of a sea of daffodils?  Why is it so hard to think?  To

     THOUGHT 2 (BRIGHTSWORD):'s coming back to me.  It's all just
a bad trip, not just for me, but for the...

     THOUGHT 3 (BRIGHTSWORD, logo-style lettering): ...IMP in the ARPANET!


     The panel borders should be somewhat swirly and overlapping.  This isn't
a regular memory flashback, it's tinged by the hallucinogenic nature of
Brightsword's experiences.
     2 by 2 grid, leave a lot of room for word bubbles.

     Panel 1: Brightsword is entering Professor Zeemon's office, and there's
a man in a Colonel's uniform there as well.  The eagles on his collar seem to
be trying to fly away.

     SPEECH 1 (BRIGHTSWORD): What's the emergency, Prof?

     SPEECH 2 (ZEEMON): Ah, good...Colonel Akers is here from DARPA*, he needs
your help.

     CAPTION 3 (FOOTNOTE): DARPA - The Defense Advanced Research Projects
Agency...who says super spy agencies have a monopoly on acronyms?

     Panel 2: Brightsword's head at the left forefront of the panel, so we're
looking over his shoulder at Colonel Akers.  Akers has a serious "government
spook" look to him.

     SPEECH 4 (BRIGHTSWORD): Got another rogue science project that needs

     SPEECH 5 (AKERS): Actually, we'd rather not punch it, but you're the
only superhero we could find on short notice.  We were hoping you might have
a contact who could help.

     Panel 3: Akers is taking off his sunglasses as he talks.  His eyes are

     SPEECH 6 (AKERS): For the past several years, DARPA has been working on
something called ARPANET, a way to let computers talk to each other.
Unfortunately, it looks like an alien intelligence has taken over ARPANET!

     Panel 4: Closeup of Brightsword, with question marks dancing around his

     BURST 7 (BRIGHTSWORD): Great googly moogly!

     SPEECH 8 (BRIGHTSWORD): But wait, can't you just deprogram or reprogram
or unprogram it or something?


     Another 2 by 2 grid.  Near the final panel, order is totally breaking
down again, and daffodils are flooding in from the panel gutters.

     Panel 1: Akers is holding up a stack of punchcards while Zeemon looks on
in the background. 

     SPEECH 1 (AKERS): Good to know you're not completely ignorant of
advances in computer science.  But there's two ways to tell a computer what
to do.  The first is programs, like this one.

     Panel 2: A circuit diagram of a computer, with speech bubble over it.

     SPEECH 2 (AKERS, OFF): But for things you want the computer to do a lot
of, you build it into the actual machine.  We call that hardwiring.

     Panel 3: Nighttime image of a meteor crashing into a farm field.  Akers
speaks via caption.

     CAPTION 3: "Two years ago, a meteor fell in Idaho with some very
interesting metal.  It had almost zero electrical resistance at room
temperature, something very useful for making computers, since they normally
generate a lot of heat.  So we've been using it in the ARPANET computers."

     Panel 4: A scientist at work on circuitry, the wires are reaching up at
him as he recoils in horror.  Akers continues to speak in the caption.

     CAPTION 4: "To our horror, we've discovered that the metal was an alien
of some kind.  And now that most of it has been hardwired into ARPANET, its
mind has taken over the system!"


     Splash page, more swimming in daffodils, although various strange
critters can be glimpsed among the flowers.  The view is from high above, so
Brightsword is only an inch or so long.  His thought bubbles start in the
upper left and move to the lower right.

     THOUGHT 1 (BRIGHTSWORD): Hardwired aliens infesting the nation's
defenses!  Now I remember!

     THOUGHT 2 (BRIGHTSWORD): And the ARPANET is too well-connected to just
turn things off...try anything at one machine, and the alien will detect it
and do, um, something nasty at the others.  Did Akers say ARPANET had access
to nuclear launch codes?

     THOUGHT 3 (BRIGHTSWORD): Um...yeah.  I think he did.  That's gonna be a

     THOUGHT 4 (BRIGHTSWORD): I wish I could remember what this chocolate bar
is for.  Did it have something to do with the LSDemon*?

     CAPTION 5 (FOOTNOTE): Last seen in Brightsword #9's immortal tale, "The
Red, White and Blue Acid!"


     Another 2 by 2 grid.  The art should be particularly loose and weird
around the LSDemon himself, especially later on.

     Panel 1: A prison meeting room.  A man who looks vaguely like Timothy
Leary in a prisoner uniform sits opposite Brightsword at the spartan table.

     SPEECH 1 (LSDEMON): No, man, I've been clean six months now.  Why you
hassling me?

     SPEECH 2 (BRIGHTSWORD): Because I don't know anyone better at getting
inside someone's head than you, LSDemon.  And right now I need to go on a
strange trip into some alien headspace.  

     Panel 2: LSDemon gives Brightsword a "what the heck are you talking
about?" look.  No dialogue.

     Panel 3: View over LSDemon's shoulder at a hemming and hawing

     SPEECH 3 (BRIGHTSWORD): Um, literally.  There's this alien mind I need
to get inside so we can disconnect it from...look, just accept that reality
is sometimes weirder than any drug trip, okay?

     Panel 4: LSDemon smirks.

     SPEECH 4 (LSDEMON): Groovy.  Whatcha need?


     2 by 2 grid.  Find a way to imply the passage of time between pages,
since Brightsword laid out the plot for LSDemon off-panel.

     Panel 1: Brightsword leaning forward earnestly, talking to LSDemon,
whose prison togs seem to have morphed into something like his "Sergeant
Pepper" homage costume last seen in Brightsword #9.

     SPEECH 1 (BRIGHTSWORD): ...and that's the situation.  We need to get
into that alien mind and find a way to get it out of ARPANET.

     Panel 2: Closeup on LSDemon.

     SPEECH 2 (LSDEMON): No can do.  I can help you send the mind on a trip,
but I can't permanently separate body and mind.  The body is that freaky
meteor metal.

     Panel 3: Brightsword looks dismayed.

     SPEECH 3 (BRIGHTSWORD): So, you're saying you can't help?

     Panel 4: LSDemon stands up and gestures grandly.

     SPEECH 4 (LSDEMON): Of course I can help!  But I can only take you part
of the way, send that alien dude on the trip of his life, if you can help out
on it.  Then you'll have time to figure out a more, like, permanent solution.


     Splash page, much closer to the swimming Brightsword, with the chocolate
bar in his hand at the center of the frame.  Many flowers drift up closer to
the viewer. 

     THOUGHT 1 (BRIGHTSWORD): That's IT!  I'm in LSDemon's acid trip world,
and so is the alien!

     THOUGHT 2 (BRIGHTSWORD): I just need to get to the alien and feed him
this symbolic chocolate bar, and it'll keep the trip going even when LSDemon
stops using his power.

     THOUGHT 3 (BRIGHTSWORD): And then the science guys will have plenty of
time to pick out all those wires and get the alien out of ARPANET!

     THOUGHT 4 (BRIGHTSWORD): Still not sure why it took the form of
chocolate.  Maybe LSDemon has the munchies....


     This is a splash page with three panels embedded in it, in the lower
left corner, middle right edge and one in between them.  Arrows lead from the
lower left panel up through to the rightmost one.  All the panels are
segments of the overall splash scene, but Brightsword is in the middle of

     Splash: A sea of daffodils.  Rising in the middle top like a volcanic
island is a pyramid covered in golden circuitry, a strange alien eye hovering
over it.  Think a mystical-cyberpunk take on the back of the U.S. dollar

     Inset Panel 1: Brightsword is swimming towards the middle panel.


     Inset Panel 2: Brightsword is swimming towards the right most panel.

     SPEECH 2 (BRIGHTSWORD): Current...trying to...keep me away!

     Inset Panel 3: Brightsword is swimming straight at the pyramid.

     THOUGHT 3 (BRIGHTSWORD): Hey, wait...does this thing even have a mouth
to eat the chocolate bar?


     2 by 2 grid.  All the gutters between panels are filled with a mix of
daffodils and golden wires.

     Panel 1: Brightsword's hand (the one without the chocolate) is sticking
out of the flowers and grasping the edge of the pyramid, as if he's resisting
an undertow that wants to pull him underneath the pyramid.


     Panel 2: Brightsword is in a medium shot, running up and to the left up
the side of the pyramid, taking a short hop over a golden tendril that has
detached from the surface and is trying to grasp him.

     THOUGHT 2 (BRIGHTSWORD): If there isn't - HUP! - a mouth up there, I
guess I'll have to MAKE one!

     Panel 3: At the top, Brightsword stands face to face with the alien
eye.  It has a very bizarre speech bubble, wreathed in daffodils and wires,
like the panel borders.

     SPEECH 3 (ALIEN EYE): Your primitive computer network is a satisfactory
home, meat thing.  Do not think you can make me leave.  Your species will
serve mine.

     Panel 4: Closeup of Brightsword's fist, clenched around the chocolate
bar, a brown wrapper with yellow name and white company logo.  "Choc" can be
seen of the name, and "NEST" of the logo.

     BURST 4 (BRIGHTSWORD, OFF): WRONG, alien!  It's time you saw the light!


     Splash page, Brightsword is cramming the candy bar into the center of
the eye, a rainbow of psychedelic effects exploding outward from his hand.
Shot is medium-long, you can just barely see some of the floral sea behind
the pyramid.



     Splash page, as many weird LSD trip effects as can be crammed in, with
Brightsword being hurled back towards the reader.



     2 by 2 grid, very regular lines, absolutely NO weirdness whatsoever in
the art.  As straight as the Ditko style allows.

     Panel 1: Closeup on Brightsword, who is groggily coming around on a
bench in a government lab somewhere.  A few sets of legs are visible,
belonging to Zeemon, Akers and LSDemon.

     SPEECH 1 (BRIGHTSWORD, WOBBLY): Uuuuh...anyone get the number of the
music festival that hit me?

     Panel 2: Medium shot of all four.  LSDemon looks guiltily relieved, as
if he kind of hoped Brightsword wouldn't wake up, but knows he'd have been
blamed if that happened.  Akers is combining "help you up" with "hearty

     SPEECH 2 (AKERS): No, but the alien intelligence is at a permanent one,
thanks to you.  While you were out, we were able to confirm that the
hardwired alien is neutralized.  

     SPEECH 3 (BRIGHTSWORD): So, when does it come out?

     Panel 3: Akers scratches the back of his head a bit sheepishly.

     SPEECH 4 (AKERS): Well...never.  The metal is too useful, and the alien
won't ever come back from this bad why disturb things?

     Panel 4: Medium shot, Brightsword is laughing and the other three look

     SPEECH 5 (BRIGHTSWORD): Well, I'm sure something better will come along
to replace the wiring before anything bad happens.  And you'd notice it if
this ARPANET started spewing acid trip craziness, right?  Ha ha ha!

     CAPTION 6: The End!


Author's Notes:

     This was done for the bizarre High Concept Challenge #6, which I
assembled as a Mad Lib out of contributions from the two writers who tied in
voting for High Concept Challenge #5.  The result was "When the Earth becomes
infested with hardwired aliens, one Earthling and his/her chocolate respond
by swimming."
     Clearly, a hard one to do without cheating somewhere.  Especially if I
wanted to do it in ASH, a sort of additional limitation I've been placing on
my High Concept entries...clearly something this loopy would make more
"sense" in the LNH or Superguy.  But then I remembered that I've been casting
Brightsword I as a sort of "Kirby's Captain America taken over by Steve Ditko
at his weirdest," and I knew he was my man for this chocolate-related
resistance effort.
     The title is a pun...IMPs are Interface Message Processors, the packet
switching nodes used in ARPANET.
     Choco Lite is an actual 1970s-era candy bar from Nestle, ARPANET was in
existence by 1970 (specifically, the first message was sent over it in
October 1969), and there really is a drugged out alien mind at the core of
the Internet.  What, don't tell me you never noticed?


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