LNH/Contest: Legion of Net.Heroes Volume 2 #36: HCC10

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at hotmail.com
Thu Jun 24 21:23:32 PDT 2010

[LNH][Contest] Legion of Net.Heroes Volume 2 #36: HCC10
___  ___________________________
| |-|                           \  
| |-| []                        /                #36
| | | [] egion of               \           'Being There'
| | | []__ [] []   []  []       / (Part of High Concept Challenge #10)
| | | [___][ \[]et.[]__[]eroes  \  
| | |      []\ ]   [ __ ]       /    written by and copyright 2010
| |-|      [] []   []  []       \           Saxon Brenton
| |-|___________________________/
| | 
| | 
| | Cover shows a worm's eye perspective of a giant robot looking 
| | resolutely upwards at a shining tower that itself climbs away 
| | until it fades into the blue of the sky.
| | 
| | 
| | 
     "Super happy fun powers ACTIVATE!  Form of a GIANT ASS-KICKING ROBOT!"
     With that Shen Cheong transformed into the three metre tall mecha 
known as the Titanium Swordsman and took to the early morning skies.  
     Not for the first time Shen experienced a moment of 'what the Hell 
am I doing?' double take.  He was an engineer by profession.  That was 
what had brought him halfway around the world to work in Kenya on the 
Chinese built Heavenly Fulcrum space elevator.  However unforseen 
circumstances had brought him to putting most of his work into the 
net.ahuman security that protected the megastructure.  It was all very 
strange if you stopped to think about it.  What was the phrase that the 
Americans used?  'Being bitten by an origin'?  Still, he was a 
net.ahuman now, looked up to as a hero by many, and had obligations to 
protect and serve.
     In the darkness and at this range the incoming neo-meteors would 
be invisible to the naked eye, so he consulted the radar telemetry that 
the people monitoring the security perimeter were forwarding to him.
     At first glance the four incoming bogeys looked like they were 
moving slowly, even lazily.  This was particularly so if you only took 
into account the ETA - they weren't due to arrive at Mount Kenya for 
another seventeen minutes.  However that impression was catastrophically 
short sighted.  Like almost all the rocks fired at the Heavenly Fulcrum 
over the past week or so they had been launched from across the border 
of the neighbouring state of Ethiopia and where approaching from the 
north at something in excess of Mach 3.
     As he listened to the radio chatter from his colleagues as they 
angled into position the Titanium Swordsman briefly flickered part of 
his attention away to check the recordings of previous incursions.  As 
expected they were on a different flight path (significantly different 
in the one case when the attack had been from Somalia in the north-east). 
That was a disappointment, since it confirmed that whoever had it in for 
the Heavenly Fulcrum - whether rival mining groups, enemy nations, or 
plain old lunatic religious insurgents - they were using a mobile base 
of operations.
     Shen enjoyed machine speeds in his empowered state, but he did not 
bother taking time to analyse this data.  Instead the Swordsman turned 
his attention to the upcoming interception.  Of course, this was not one 
of his rostered patrol shifts, and he and the contingent of jet fighters 
had been scrambled to act as backup should one or more of the rocks get 
past Sublime Weave.
     It was possible.  Not because of any weakness on Sublime Weave's 
part, of course.  Normally the Weave's spirographic force fields would 
be neither big enough or robust enough to stop a rock travelled at more 
than a thousand kilometres per hour.  However the man had been using 
plotdevicum to boost the range of his powers and so far had a perfect 
catch rate.  Between the efforts of Weave and the others members of the 
Fulcrum's net.ahuman security contingent no rocks had made it through 
the elevator's exclusion zone yet.
     No, instead what everybody was acutely aware of was the possibility 
of the neo-meteors might suddenly decide to dodge.  It was obvious that 
the was some net.ahuman involvement in launching these attacks.  No 
matter what speed they were propelled at, mundane rocks with no apparent 
source of thrust were not capable of flying many hundreds of kilometres 
on a non-ballistic trajectory.  And if something still had enough 
control of them even after launch to make them fly that way, when would 
the autumn mist lift and reveal some other unusual flight behaviour?
     Out on point the Sublime Weave raised a large force wall across 
the path of the intruders.  It showed on the Swordsman's distance 
sensors as the sudden appearance of a solid barrier.  At this scale the 
image looked paper thin, but he knew that up close the wall would be 
several metres thick and made of a pulsing network of constantly 
renewing patterns, like an old raster graphics computer screen.
     And speak of the devil.  The rocks dodged!  The barrier was several 
hundred metres wide and high, but two of the neo-meteors dodged around 
it - one skipping upwards and another to the left.
     "I'm on the leftwards one," radioed the closest of the fighters, 
and then peeled off to intercept.  Titanium Swordsman recalled that 
this was Lt. Li, a young go-getter originally from the Southern 
Provinces.  The Swordsman himself indicated he was in position for the 
other and gained altitude to intercept.
     The jet's rocket propelled missiles arrived first, and mercifully 
the rock did not try to dodge a second time.  The Swordsman took longer 
to destroy his target because his signature weapon, the most powerful 
item in his arsenal, required close range - but when he was on top of 
the final neo-meteor he used his plasma sword to smite the rock, 
obliterating it with a satisfying explosion of light and debris.
     After that bit of excitement The Swordsman returned to base and 
powered down.  As ever there was about half a minute's worth of 
disorientation followed by a slightly longer period of mental fatigue 
as Shen's thought processed dropped down to merely human levels.  But 
he was fine by the time that the preliminary debriefing was organised.  
In fact several hours after the stand down from red alert Shen found 
that he could not get back to sleep and spent some time composing an 
email to his wife instead.
     She was still back in China, working part time as a maths tutor 
in Anyang and raising their daughter Xiang.  He missed them, of course.  
But the opportunity to work on a project like this had been too great 
to turn down.  It still was - despite the strange turns that Shen's 
path had taken.
     He absently wandered over to a window and looked up.  It was still 
more than an hour until dawn, and down here the land was still in the 
darkness of the Earth's shadow.  But higher up the sunlight had started 
to reflect from length of the Heavenly Fulcrum.  Shen's living quarters 
were some way from the base of the elevator, but compared to the length 
of a many thousands of kilometres tall tower the perspective meant he 
was looking straight up at what seemed like a glowing point as bright 
as a full moon.
     The space elevators were roads into the sky.  Where would they 
lead?  There was already mining of the asteroids and talk of lunar 
colonies.  What else?  Terraforming of Mars?  The prospects thrilled 
Shen, and scared him more than a little.  And what then for the next 
generation, and then one after that.  Only last week he'd been informed 
that little Xiang was had announced at her twelfth birthday that she 
wanted to be an astro engineer, just like her father.  That had made 
Shen smile, and not in any wistful way at childish impulsiveness.  His 
little girl had always been stubborn, and good at maths, and more 
interested in boys toys for some reason.  He did not doubt that she 
would carry through with her intention, and if he didn't get to start 
work on Martian terraforming then it was a good bet that Xiang would.
     All of which meant protecting this asset from whatever villains 
wanted to tear it down.  He hoped the implementation of the force field 
defences would be ready soon.  In a way Shen envied the setup that the 
Americans had for their space elevator in Brazil.  Whatever else you 
could say about the turmoil of South American politics at least it was 
more stable than the situation in sub-Saharan Africa!
     His reverie was broken by a warning klaxon.  Now what?  Shen rushed 
outside and powered up, taking advantage of the Titanium swordsman's 
ability to process data at speed.
     There was some form of monster rampaging through the off-site 
complex on the other side of Thika.  Knowing he was the fastest combat 
effective who could get there he took to the skies while radioing 
his intentions.  Then he patched into security feeds and examined the 
incoming visuals.  A humanoid monster.  Made of rock!  He zoomed in on 
the imagery.  Ha!  They looked like the same types of rocks as the 
     Further details were coming through...  The creature had emerged 
from the laboratory where the neo-meteors were being examined.  Yesss, 
that made a nasty sort of sense.  The Titanium Swordsman began to see 
a pattern forming.  From the looks of it the neo-meteors were some type 
of Trojan Horse gambit: attack with the rocks in a more-or-less passive 
form, let them be captured and taken back to base to be examined, and 
then once inside the security perimeter reactivate them for a final 
attack against the space elevator.
     It was a pity for whoever was behind this that the rocks had been 
taken for examination to a lab almost 100 km down the mountain from the 
Fulcrum.  What, did they think the Fulcrum's defenders were stupid?
     Unless it was a feint.  The Thika complex was on the southern side 
of Mount Kenya, away from the direction of the rock launches.  Sigh.  
The sooner they could get that force field built, the better.
     Frustratingly none of the ordinance that Captain Xu's men were 
using against the creature seemed to be doing any good.  While he 
wasn't particularly thrilled by the prospect of having the efforts of 
himself or his men overshadowed, this was looking more and more like a 
case where he would need the intercession of one of the net.ahumans 
stationed up the mountain.
     "Sir, look!" came a cry, and Xu had just enough time to see 
Titanium Swordsman's final half second of approach before the mecha 
crashed into and carried off the hostile.
     The Titanium Swordsman slammed the rock creature into the tarmac 
and began ripping into it.  The creature retaliated with a powerful 
punch that sent the Swordsman staggering backwards.
     The Swordsman circled warily.  How had the creature managed that?  
It seemed to be a lot more powerful than he had been expecting from the 
forces involved during the capture of the neo-meteors by Sublime Weave, 
Auspicious Dawn, and the others.  Had it been underpresenting its 
strength in order to be captured and smuggled in?  Or was it that its 
parts were stronger when combined into a gestalt?  Could be either, or 
something else entirely.
     He decided to work on the latter notion, since the obvious solution 
involved dismembering the rock creature.  Even if were wrong in his 
basic supposition, he'd still have the advantage of having hindered the 
monster's ability to move and attack.  He radioed his intentions back 
to Captain Xu's security squad and put them on standby for this plan 
both succeeding and failing.  Then the Swordsman drew his plasma sword, 
feinted to one side, and sliced through his enemy's arm.
     The arm fell to the ground.  And began to crawl back to rejoin its 
body.  Titanium Swordsman wasn't particularly surprised, but in a way 
was relieved that the pieces didn't levitate with independent flight.  
As the creature ducked backwards to get away from the plasma sword and 
pick up its arm, the Swordsman made a sudden jump forward to cut loose 
its other limb.  The creature seemed prepared for this and used its 
remaining fist to smack a punch into the Swordsman's right shoulder, 
critically damaging the joint and almost tearing his arm off.
     Aarrgh!  Fsk!  Titanium Swordsman dialled down his pain receptors, 
but even so that would need major repairs before he could transform 
back to human.
     They circled each other, each looking for an opening.  The rock 
creature also continued to move backwards a bit, seemingly hoping for 
another instant of respite during which it could pick up and reattach 
its severed limb.  The Swordsman let him start, then feinted forward 
again.  The rock creature lunged in defence, but had fallen for the 
Swordsman's feint, leaving it undefended on its left flank and unable 
to prevent the Swordsman from severing the remaining arm.
     Titanium Swordsman did not wait to see what the creature's 
reaction would be.  Instead he pressed his advantage with a flurry of 
blows to continue to whittle away the animated pile of rocks, although 
he did keep a careful watch out for kicks.  He kept chopping even after 
the pieces stopped moving, since he had seen enough zombie movies to 
realise that a limb with even one joint still intact - even just a 
finger - would be capable of independent movement.  Of course, if this 
thing had been able to assemble itself out of rocks it would almost 
certainly be able to move about without jointed limbs in any case, but 
hopefully this would significantly slow it down.  Soon security forces 
began to pull up in trucks and jeeps, and began sealing each piece of 
debris they could find into separate containers reinforced with steel.
     With the fight over Titanium Swordsman started running a more 
comprehensive diagnostic on the damage his arm had taken.  As he did 
so he stared up the mountain towards the Heavenly Fulcrum.  .oO( I've 
travelled a long way and put up with an awful lot of crap for your 
sake, ) thought Shen wryly.
     However he knew that like all big engineering projects the 
Fulcrum was merely a symbol of something far bigger than it's physical 
presence - which was saying a lot for a tether up to a launch platform 
in geosynchronous orbit.  And for that reason he knew he'd willingly 
put up with even more if it was thrown his way.
Author's notes:
     Written for the 10th high Concept Challenge: the immigrant experience.
     I waffled even more than usual in choosing a story to tell for this 
one.  In the end I decided to simply hang a character piece/fight scene 
combo on the existence of one of the space elevators that I have used 
occasionally as part of the background of the Legion of Net.Heroes setting.
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
If It Exists, You'll Find it on SEEK. Australia's #1 job site

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