NTB/LNH/ELSEWHIRL/HCC11: Legion of Net.Heroes Volume 2 #38
saxonbrenton at hotmail.com
Sun Jul 25 16:57:08 PDT 2010
[NTB/LNH/ELSEWHIRL/HCC11/M-O-U-S-E-] Legion of Net.Heroes Volume 2 #38
This issue of
 egion of
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[___][ \et.__eroes Volume 2 #38
\ ] [ __ ]
   
has *once again* been highjacked to present another of the
'Are You Feeling Lucky, Punks?'
written by and copyright 2010 Saxon Brenton
for the 11th High Concept Challenge
[Acraphobe content warning: This story is has a Net.Trenchcoat Brigade
label and is therefore implied Acraphobe. It contains mature content.]
[Elsewhirls content warning: Not a dream, not a hoax, not an imaginary
story. It's just not in mainstream continuity, that's all.]
John Munlop was only a year away from his long planned retirement
when he heard about his son's death. It was that piece of news that
sent him over the edge into madness, and that madness from which the
death trap that slaughtered so many emerged more than a decade later.
It happened like this:
The day of Aaron Munlop's death started out much the same as any
other for his father, who was employed in magical research and
development in the Thaumaturgy Department at Net.ropolis University.
Specifically in applications of magical defences. John had spent most
of his working life developing the psychic equivalent of bullet-proof
vests and protection from trespassers, and he was good at his job.
Now, it must be said that most of the applications of the various
magical R&D units were low level. As with all things if you wanted
superhuman levels of effect then you either had to put a *lot* of
engineering into it (think of all the purely mundane effort and
organisation needed to sent rockets to the moon) or actually have super-
humans - such as the members of the Legion of Net.Heroes - involved to
give the endeavour extra oomph. There *were* incredibly sophisticated
and powerful magical defences available, but they tended to be expensive
and therefore used by big businesses or government departments like the
Pentagon. For small businesses and private homes the price range
involved meant that you were getting the equivalent of a good mundane
security system. They were useful as long as they were installed
properly, used sensibly and not overestimated, but they were hardly a
panacea. The problem was that after decades of having magic depicted
sloppily in popular culture (such as with Harry Potter) or worse, for
comical effect in sitcoms (such as with Bewitched) the general public
had a vastly inflated idea of what magic could do.
(Then again the general public had a vastly inflated idea of what
a car's cruise control could do as well. As was so often the case it
was a problem with the public, not with the product.)
So on that Thursday morning thirteen years ago John Munlop was
investigating ways of increasing the effectiveness, or reducing the
costs, or both, for the curse protections of public buildings. There
was a knock on the door, and John looked up to see his supervisor,
Alanna. She looked grim. Behind her were two police officers. "John,
I'm afraid there's some bad news," she said.
And they told him. Officer Aaron Munlop of the Detroit police
force had been called out to what seemed like a domestic dispute and
had been mown down by a militia member wielding an automatic rifle.
Of course, assault weapons were illegal in the state of Mich.sig.an.
This did not stop them from making their way north from states with
more relaxed gun control laws.
After that John Munlop kind of went into shock. The next moment
that he could recall with any sort of clarity was at Aaron's funeral.
At the time he couldn't have told you how many days later it was, but
checking things like the printed schedule of the funeral service
indicated that it was Tuesday. It was a clear and chilly autumn day,
and John was suddenly struck by how *ordinary* it was.
It should have been raining, at least. The heavens should have
opened and wept in a show of grief, even if a full eclipse of the sun
was out of the question. Instead he could hear the distant sounds of
city traffic as people went about their business, as though Aaron's
funeral *didn't matter*. It was at that moment that John Munlop
started to grow mad.
What's that? Why, both meanings of the word 'mad', of course.
John made it through the funeral and through the flight back to
Net.ropolis on automatic. He returned to the empty house that had been
too big for him ever since his wife had died of cancer some years back.
And he thought, .oO( This is *not* right. )
A few days later he took some of his accumulated sick leave, and his
co-workers as the Thaumaturgy Dept thought nothing of it. He must be
under a lot of strain at the moment, they said to each other. Everybody
goes through the five stages of grieving in their own order and in their
own way. Best not to push him forward before he's ready.
Then he returned to work and made some very impressive discoveries,
almost as if he was driven. And this too made sense, and his co-workers
sadly noted the irony that some of the best work being done for the
benefit of humanity was being fuelled by grief.
Then John retired right on schedule and by rights that should have
been the end of things. It wasn't.
Truth be known, after his retirement it was a very long time before
John Munlop would get out much at all. It was one of the reasons he was
able to keep the family home that was too big for him. You don't have
a particularly expensive lifestyle when you don't go out much, instead
staying indoors working on your hobby/obsession/psychosis. His biggest
expense was continuing his subscription to a number of professional
journals on applied magic, and even that did not amount to much.
The object of his research was a way to make use of the magical
truism 'malice rebounds on the caster sevenfold'. Also, how to make
the rebound effect work on purely kinetic force. And how to make the
defensive warding big.
How big? Well, you're aware that the continental Usenetted States
sort of shaped like a block some 4-and-a-half thousand kilometres long
east to west and 2-and-a-half thousand kilometres tall north to south?
Yes. That big.
In the end he couldn't do it.
Even with years of preparation he found that he couldn't thaumat-
urgically engineer a magical lever powerful enough to run a ward that
would protect an entire continent. Not even using the truism of malice
rebounding, plus material and verbal and somatic components, and phases
of the moon, and making use of the power of ley lines, and crap only
knew what else. So, after nearly six years of research he scrapped the
lot and started working on something smaller in scale.
More time passed.
Just before the eleventh anniversary of Aaron's death John realised
that his spell crafting would soon be ready for casting (for a given
value of 'soon') and that as part of the price for getting his project
up and running he would need to get fit. It would not be an easy task
for a man in his early seventies to walk back and forth across Ame.rec.a.
True, there were certain potions and philtres that could imbue stamina
(mainly magical equivalents of Viagra(tm), actually; yes, some things
never change), but John had enough practical knowledge of magic to know
that it would be best to actually have some fitness to start with.
So he started exercising. Going on walks. His neighbours, who had
long since relegated the figure of John Munlop to that of an eccentric
recluse, began to see more of him about the streets - although this did
not extend to actually becoming properly sociable, since he always
politely but firmly turned down any requests to become reinvolved with
parents and citizens associations, church charity raffles, or
Then, two years later, John Munlop set out on his hiking tour. He
had an itinerary of the country, where he wanted to go and what he
wanted to see, carefully mapped out so that he would be walking a
gigantic grid of triangles just over 500 kilometres along each side.
He started out in Troughton, Virgi.net.a, by performing a small
ritual for the starting node. Then he walked over 500 kilometres up the
coast to Load Island. At Load Island he performed another small ritual,
before heading northwest to Buffa.load in upstate Net.York and repeating
the procedure. Finally he hiked back to his starting node in Troughton
and performed the ritual of closing. All up it took him several months
to set up all the nodes. He was bone tired, but his zeal for his project
was undiminished. As he did every evening he checked himself into a
reasonable hotel - neither a dump nor an overpriced tourist trap - and
watched the evening news.
John Munlop was no longer given to exhibiting strong emotions.
Nevertheless he was quite pleased, in a cold and detached way, that his
ward had kicked in and started doing its work immediately. The news was
full of the epidemic of peoples' heads exploding.
All over the eastern seaboard there were reports of people who had
attacked other people with guns, whereupon the kinetic force had bounced
back upon them, causing their heads to detonate, laminating their brains
across nearby walls and peppering the area with high velocity bone
shrapnel. And there were scores of them! Even within the few short
hours since late afternoon when John had completed the closing ritual
for the first triangle.
The deaths did not worry him. For every action there was a
reaction, and this was the new consequence for using firearms for
criminal assault. He was still unworried an hour later when he saw a
report of two police who became involved in a shootout with drug gangs
and who had also had their heads to detonate, laminating their brains
across nearby walls and peppering the area with high velocity bone
shrapnel. Nor the demise of the Legionnaire MasterBlaster, who had
been in life or death struggle with the Injoker when his head had also
detonated, laminating his brains across nearby walls and peppering the
area with high velocity bone shrapnel as well.
Or perhaps not so life and death. Among all the hysteria being put
out by the talking heads about what impact this might have on their
second amendment right to bear arms, no one seemed to have noticed that
it was only affecting those who were attacking other humans. Not those
who were defending themselves. Nor those who were killing animals.
Malice rebounds sevenfold.
This did not surprise Munlop. As was so often the case it was a
problem with the public, not with the product, and the ones making the
loudest noise were the ones who treated their right to firearms as a
fetish rather than as a responsibility.
What changes would this bring about?, he wondered as he stared at
his map. He didn't know, but was willing to admit that the results
might surprise him. Up until a few years ago he would have said that
the first amendment rights would have remained inviolate thanks to the
noise made by free speech fetishists. But then the Westbo.org Baptist
Church had made themselves so obnoxious that the government had passed
laws prohibiting protests at military funerals. And a conservative
administration at that.
What Munlop was prepared to bet on was that the most hysterical
fringe of the gun rights lobby were going to die, en masse. They would
not be able to understand, let alone accept, that this was a trap that
they couldn't fight or scream their way out of. They would walk into
the trap of their own free will, blinded to the danger they were in by
their own self-righteousness. Then they'd try to use their phallic
symbol substitutes in a way that was no longer permitted, at which point
they would inevitably became eligible for the Darwin Awards... Which
was to say their heads would detonate, laminating his brains across
nearby walls and peppering the area with high velocity bone shrapnel.
Munlop traced his finger across the map, contemplating his next
journey out to Charleston and before hiking back to Buffa.load. Now
that he only had to complete two sides to a triangle in order to set up
the nodes, things would proceed more quickly. Still, he had a lot of
walking ahead of him, and a nagging doubt returned as to whether he
would live long enough to complete his mission. He put on his night
clothes and retired to bed early. He had another long walk ahead of
Written for the 11th High Concept Challenge: death traps.
You know, one of these days I should probably just create a
sibling anthology title to _LNHv2_ called _Misanthropic Tales of the
Net.Trenchcoat Brigade_ and be done with it. This is the third time an
NTB story has shouldered its way into this LNH series. On the other
hand, not only is it funnier to have the running joke where they do that,
but its thematically appropriate for those disreputable Trenchcoaters
to take what they need from the Legion as circumstances dictate.
The 500 kilometres to a side triangle pattern is ripped off from
the old Torg roleplaying game - although I only used Baruk Kaah's stelae
pattern as a rough guideline, shifting locations and making up the name
of one of the towns.
I procrastinated with getting this written up until the last few
days, and then caught the flu. And just like George Orwell writing
_Animal Farm_ while suffering from cancer - only, you know, on a much
lesser scale - I find that writing while in pain is a wonderful incentive
for composing snarky text.
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
New, Used, Demo, Dealer or Private? Find it at CarPoint.com.au
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