NTB/LNH/ELSEWHIRL/HCC11: Legion of Net.Heroes Volume 2 #38

Saxon Brenton 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              
  []__ [] []   []  []      
  [___][ \[]et.[]__[]eroes  Volume 2 #38
       []\ ]   [ __ ]      
       [] []   []  []   
has *once again* been highjacked to present another of the 
                     MISANTHROPIC TALES
                          OF THE 
                   NET.TRENCHCOAT BRIGADE
'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 
neighbourhood watch.
     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 
him tomorrow.
Author's note:
     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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