NTB/LNH/HCC: Legion of Net.Heroes Volume 2 #42 (HCC19)

Saxon Brenton saxonbrenton at hotmail.com
Sat Apr 30 16:27:39 PDT 2011

[NTB/LNH/HCC] Legion of Net.Heroes Volume 2 #42
This issue of 
  [] egion of              
  []__ [] []   []  []      
  [___][ \[]et.[]__[]eroes  Volume 2 #42
       []\ ]   [ __ ]      
       [] []   []  []   
has *once again* been highjacked to present another of the 
                     MISANTHROPIC TALES
                          OF THE 
                   NET.TRENCHCOAT BRIGADE
'The Dreams Of A Hundred Apes'
featuring Mister Elmo
written by and copyright 2011 Saxon Brenton
for the 19th High Concept Challenge
[Acraphobe content warning: This story is has a Net.Trenchcoat Brigade 
label and is therefore implied Acraphobe.]
     Officer McGracken had his gun drawn and at the ready as he edged 
up to the door.  He was not happy.  Anger was part of that, but most of 
it was straight out, adrenalin driven fight-or-flight terror.
     He had lost both Dinsman and Wolchowski somewhere in this musty 
old abandoned warehouse.  A stress driven part of his mind could have 
suggested that 'been herded from them' was probably a better description.
     And perhaps that wasn't just paranoia talking.  This place was... 
disorientating.  His radio wasn't working, and the few simple experiments 
that McGracken had performed to check his perceptions suggested that his 
eyes were playing tricks on him.  He was beginning to suspect that this 
place may have been pumped full of hallucinogenic gas, or moving walls, 
or something.  Whatever it was, it had the stink of some type of 
supervillain lair set up for mind games.
     He listened carefully at the door and heard nothing.  He eased it 
open slowly, looked inside, and with weary resignation took note of the 
fact that the room within was far bigger than could be reasonably 
expected to fit inside the warehouse that the cops had entered half an 
hour earlier.
     "Come in," said a voice.  It was deep, and calm, and scary as all 
hell.  In response McGracken responded, "Freeze!  Police!  Get out in 
the open with your hands in..." and then his voice trailed off as he 
realised that he was yelling at a dragon.
     It was huge.  It was green and scaly.  It was casually lounging on 
the floor on the side of the room to the left of the door in the way 
that dragons habitually curl up for a nap atop a pile of treasure.  It 
was wearing purple underpants.
     "Hello Officer.  I am
          FIN FANFIC FOOM!
and I welcome you to my lair.  Please, come in.  I have been 
expecting you."
     McGracken stared at the dragon, only vaguely aware that he had 
lowered his gun and stepped further in to the room.  Its eyes were 
large and luminous and it was all that McGracken could do to keep 
from being lost in the depths of its gaze.  He swallowed nervously.  
He had to keep his wits about him.
     "You're probably wondering where all the treasure is," said
          FIN FANFIC FOOM!
conversationally.  "For some reason people are always obsessing about 
hoarded treasure."
     McGracken hadn't, actually, but he mutely nodded just the same.
     "Over here is my current project," continued the dragon. "And 
as these things go I'd like to think of it as quite valuable."  
McGracken found himself being gently by firmly guided by a large scaly 
hand-like limb in the direction of some sort of built thingummy.
     The cop looked at it, but couldn't make out what it was.  It was 
big, and made primarily of metal, with a number of protruding bars and 
rods that made it look something like a kinetic sculpture.  But there 
were angles that just didn't make sense, plus parts that made it look 
like a giant slab of cheese or a pile of skulls or a moving nest of 
snakes.  There was also what looked like a chair.  McGracken focused on 
the chair.  The chair was sensible, and didn't hurt his eyes to look at.
     "It's a story telling engine," said
          FIN FANFIC FOOM!
"Here, why don't you try it out?  I'm really quite proud of it."
     McGracken was seated in the chair, which was a high backed affair 
something like a throne, although he was also peripherally aware that 
there were other, stranger parts attached behind and above him.  And 
this is what the storytelling engine had to say:
     Once Upon A Time there was a happy and prosperous kingdom.  But the 
kingdom was under threat from incursions by dragons, who would swoop in 
for no apparent reason and lay waste to large parts of the countryside.
     But *actually* there was a reason, because Once Upon A Time there 
had been a happy and prosperous kingdom of dragons.  Which had come under 
threat from incursions of nasty, brutush and short humans, who would 
swarm in for no apparent reason, taking up occupation of large parts of 
the countryside.
     And during that ancient Once Upon A Time a wizard versed in the 
dark arts of cryptohistoromancy came to the greatest of the human 
warlords and said, 'Lord, the land responds to the stories we tell it. 
If we spread the idea that this land is ours and has always been ours, 
then we will bind it under the Weight of our Words.'  And so it was 
agreed and so it came to pass, and the kingdom had always been a human 
kingdom, and the dragons were cast out to the edges of the lands.'
     But then one day a Brave Little Tailor set out to overthrow the 
tyranny of the humans, and win the talon of the beuatiful princess of 
a restored dragon kingdom...
     The dragon carefully reached out and placed an adhesive patch 
decorated with a silvery coloured rune onto McGracken's forehead.  The 
man's eyes glowed briefly with a flash of white light, which then 
pulsed out across his face and over the rest of his body, following 
the pattern of veins just beneath the skin and leaving a residue of 
silvery metal across McGracken's face and skull.
     With the glyph of accursed immortality thus activated 
          FIN FANFIC FOOM!
then used one razor sharp claw to decapitate the cop.  The unsupported 
body fell to the floor, where it produced a few final spurts of blood 
from the neck artery before the heart muscles gave in to death.  
Meanwhile the dragon carefully held onto the still-living-and-deep-in-
dream head and puttered around the baroque construct of the story 
telling engine.  It was trying to decide which of the remaining places 
would be the best place to insert McGracken's cranium.  The choice 
didn't take long, and then as the dragon installed the silvered skull 
it smiled and uttered aloud the cryptic comment, "And the Legion of 
Net.Heroes always wins".
     Mister Elmo wandered the streets of a city that wasn't Net.ropolis, 
occasionally muttering to himself.  People tended to avoid him, which 
was fine by the Trenchcoater.  He had realised long ago that he didn't 
have much in common that he could talk about with most people.  To 
paraphrase the notions that Lovecraft had used in his horror stories, 
most people only retained a grip on the thing that was usually confused 
for 'reality' and 'sanity' by remaining blissfully ignorant of the Big 
     He stopped at a vendor's cart in a crowded lunchtime plaza and 
bought himself a cup of coffee.  As he raised his drink to his lips he 
stretched out his mind, feeling the more-or-less coherent fabric of 
History distil out of Time at a rate of one second per second.  For the 
moment all seemed quiet, and Mister Elmo sipped his coffee in peace.
     The world was warm, and green, and lush.  Mister Elmo basked in 
the sunlight of an open grassy field as giant reptiles soared overhead.
     Then the shock of surprise brought him back to the here-and-now, 
and Trenchcoater crushed the still half full styrofoam cup.  Hot coffee 
spilt over his hand and added even more stains to his tan coloured 
trenchcoat.  A bystander not only saw this but was concerned enough to 
ask, "Hey!  Are you okay, mister?"
     "What?" asked Mister Elmo as he focused his attention back on the 
mundane, and glanced down at his scalded hand.  "Ah, thanks.  I, uh, 
hadn't noticed.  Excuse me," he said, and rushed off in the direction of 
the subway with his mind ringing from the threat of a world where 
dragons ruled.  As he ran across the road cars braked and swerved and 
honked their horns.  Mister Elmo paused for long enough to round on them 
and yell, "Do you mind!?  I'm walking here!" before continuing his dash 
down the stairs into the subway.
     From there his trip to Net.ropolis proceeded quickly.  At the 
entrance to the subway station Mister Elmo passed through the turnstiles 
without having to insert either tokens or a ticket.  As he reached the 
platform a train was drawing to a halt, and the trenchcoater stepped 
aboard without needing to pause.  The train was just the right one to 
take him to the airport by the quickest possible route, and there he got 
off and walked upstairs to the airport proper and then through the gates 
without once needing to bother with a boarding pass or security check.  
The airplane he wanted was taking on passengers just as he was arriving, 
and once again he walked aboard without having had to slow down - let 
alone stop - at any point since he had disembarked from the train.
     A stewardess directed him to his seat.  As he sat down and waited 
for the takeoff he mused on his destination.
     Bloody Net.ropolis. 
     Superhero capital of the world, of course, and full of more weird 
goings on than most people would believe.  Which made it convenient if 
you wanted all your weird sh!t in one place for easy access, but 
annoying as hell when you finally realised that none of it made sense.  
Even though the place was some sort of weirdness magnet (yes, various 
members of the Net.Trenchcoat Brigade had checked at one time or 
another, just to satisfy their own paranoid curiosities) you would 
think that any supervillain with enough brain cells to rub together 
would have moved their operations to another city, or even some little 
town out in the middle of nowhere.  Ignore the exhibitionists who wanted 
to build a rep for themselves by trying to fight and defeat a big name 
superhero.  Mister Elmo was specifically thinking of the villains who 
had a plan - taking over the world, or summoning up an elder god, or 
whatever - that would proceed just fine without any sort of climactic 
fight scene.
     Damned costumed superhumans.
     The flight was uneventful, and once he reached Net.ropolis Mister 
Elmo caught a taxi to the abandoned warehouse district, where he paid 
the driver - in real money! - with a hefty tip and the advice that he'd 
better get out of here quick.  The driver knew enough to guess at what 
was going to happen next, and drove away with a curt but polite, "Good 
luck, senor."
     The Trenchcoater eyed the warehouse suspiciously.  He could sense a 
glamour of misdirection and bemusement that had be laid over the place.  
He didn't expect it to cause him too much trouble - after all, he was 
professional at navigating inconsistencies of history, both perceived 
and actual - but that was no excuse for being blase and careless.  He 
rummaged around in his coat pocket and retrieved a ball of twine, and 
then immitated Theseus as he advanced into the building.
     As he advanced he could hear someone or someones stumbling about 
in the corridors further in.  Mister Elmo sighed.  He had been hoping 
that all the theoretically innocent bystanders had been warned away.  
But, on the up side, having other people about to act as distractions 
would be useful - as long as they didn't actually get in the 
Trenchcoater's way.
     He made his way towards what felt like the centre of discontinuity.  
This, at least, was more difficult.  It was small, quiescent, with 
only the barest hint of being there at all - but also with the sense of 
vast potential, of just waiting to explode outwards in some type of 
malignant glory.  In any case getting to it involved navigating a short 
tangle of corridors.  This brought him to a door.  There was talking on 
the other side.
     He eased the door open a crack and found that he was positioned at 
the back of a large area.  There was a dragon (In purple pants!  Never 
a good sign!) up front and facing away from him, weaving a web of 
beguiling blarney over two police officers.  Meanwhile at this end of 
the room was a throne.  An ornate seat.  And a particularly macarbly 
ornate one at that, decorated as it was with human heads.
     And another part of that ornamentation, the Trenchcoater sensed, 
was it's thrumming power.  Mister Elmo stared intently at the throne, 
for long enough for a trickle of drool to form at the corner of his 
mouth.  He absently wiped it away with his sleeve as his mind raced.
     It was...  No, it *looked like* a power accumulator of some sort.  
Sit on the throne and tap into the power?  For how long?  Was it an 
apotheosis engine?   A throne to raise you up to the power level of a 
throne?   And while dealing with puns, it occurred to Mister Elmo that 
'throne' was also slang for 'lavatory'.  Perhaps it was a construct to 
imbue the recipient with the abilities of the Time Crapper, the super-
villain who could be you, the evil future self that nobody wanted to 
grow up to be.
     Hurm.  Well, mucking around with time could explain how an 
alternate history dominated by reptiles could be brought into existence, 
he supposed.  But... no.
     The throne was too small.  Even taking into account that dragons 
could typically take on human guise, it just didn't make any sense to 
have an apotheosis engine built so small.  No self-respecting dragon 
would crown itself with godhood while in human shape.
     The Trenchcoater slipped through the door and made his way closer 
in order to get a better look.  What was it really? he wondered.  While 
the dragon continued with his beguiling speech out in the middle of the 
room, Mister Elmo examined the setup, tracing the power conduits that 
snaked around the structure and the silvery runes that encompassed 
the living but apparently totally out-of-it heads.  
          FIN FANFIC FOOM!
had gotten up to the "It's a story telling engine," part of his patter, 
prompting Mister Elmo to look up brightly.  "Oh, is it?"
     The dragon and both police looked at him. 
     "Well, I had been wondering," said Mister Elmo, a touch defensively. 
Actually, that name gave more than enough hint as to how that 
alt.reality-sans-humans-but-with-added-dragons was being generated.
     Of more concern was the dragon standing in front of him.  It 
narrowed its eyes.  "You aren't a mundane human," it said.
     Mister Elmo gave the dragon a sharp look.  "No."
     "I had been wondering when you would get here... Occultism Kid."
     And at that moment MasterBlaster burst through the ceiling, guns a 
blazing.  He dropped to the floor and yelled, "Alright!  Keep those 
hands where I can see them!  The Legion of Net.Heroes is...  What the f&ck 
is that!?" he demanded, catching a proper look of the throne.
     The police looked at the construct.  One of them frowned in 
puzzlement.  "It's a giant piece of cheese."
     "No, it's a Lego statue of Daffy Duck," disagreed the other.
     "So, now the Legion has arrived in force," growled
          FIN FANFIC FOOM!
at MasterBlaster.  "But I don't care how many of you there are.  You 
will not dare try to damage my engine."
     But Mister Elmo noticed that the dragon made no move to protect 
the thing that it had built.
     "Well, if you don't want it destroyed, then that's exactly what I 
think I'll do," said MasterBlaster.
     "No!  Don't!" exclaimed Mister Elmo.
     MasterBlaster's guns swung menacingly in Mister Elmo's direction.  
"Whose side do you think you're on?" he demanded with Hollywood tough 
guy bravado.
     "It's..."  There was no time to explain, and even if there had 
been, this was one of the Legion of Net.Heroes.  He wouldn't have enough 
intelligence to understand!  "It's a trap!  It's rigged to explode if 
you use blunt force against it.  It has to be deactivated by being 
     The dragon roared, lunging towards Mister Elmo.  "Be silent!  Or
           FIN FANFIC FOOM!
will put you in his pants!"
     "Ahhh!" screamed Mister Elmo, genuinely horrified at the prospect. 
He dodged around the throne, with the dragon close on his heels.  
MasterBlaster started firing at the huge reptile.  Mister Elmo caught 
sight of the two cops just standing there, still befuddled by
          FIN FANFIC FOOM!'s
draconic awe.  It occurred to the Trenchcoater that it would be nice to 
have some of those useful distractions that he had been thinking about 
earlier, and so as he ran he used his frothing abilities on them.  "What 
the hell are you just standing there for!?" he ranted.  "There's a bad 
guy wanting to change history so that dragons rule the world!  Don't 
just stand there like New York rubberneckers!  Shoot!"
     This seemed to break them out of the dragon's mind control.  In any 
case, they started shooting their revolvers at the dragon.  Mister Elmo 
wasn't sure what all the gunfire was actually doing - it didn't seem to 
be actually wounding the dragon, or even slowing him down - but it did 
distract him enough to turn on them.  With one tail sweep the dragon 
smashed one of the police against the wall with a sickening crunch, 
killing him instantly.
     Mister Elmo hurriedly put the distraction to good use.  He ducked 
back to throne and pulled out a simple pen knife.  Okay, so it was a 
storytelling engine, huh?  So all the power was being cycled through 
the dreaming, decapitated heads.  Was there a critical number?  No, wait, 
a critical number wouldn't be relevant, because
          FIN FANFIC FOOM!
had tried to goad MasterBlaster into destroying it.  It must already 
have enough victims slotted in.  It was ready and primed to release the 
energy patterned by the story to reshape the world as fact rather than 
     How amazing.  Almost by accident Mister Elmo had been spot on when 
he'd told MasterBlaster that the thing had been booby trapped if you 
did anything to it other than painstakingly disassemble it.  Thank 
goodness for Magician's intuition, supplying him with the correct answer 
on a subconscious level!
     So, yes, that meant that 
          FIN FANFIC FOOM!
had already primed it with enough heads.  But not for long, thought 
Mister Elmo grimly as he used the penknife to prize off the silvery 
material from around each skull, thereby separating them from the 
mystical infrastructure of its un-life support and allowing them to 
die one by one.
     Meanwhile MasterBlaster was having loads of fun using his 
cybernetic hand to form weaponry of sufficient calibre to knock about 
his draconic adversary.  FIN FANFIC FOOM! picked himself out of a wall 
and took frustrated stock of the situation.  The story telling engine 
was being picked apart piece by piece, and so it now looked unlikely 
that it could goad any of the Legionnaires into destroying the engine 
with one stereotypically heroic explosive hit and thereby releasing the 
accumulated power of its dreaming minds.
     The dragon was a carnivore, meaning it had entirely the wrong type 
of teeth to gnash in frustration.  So instead it threatened, "Next time 
we meet Occultism Kid, I will put you in my pants!"   Then it jumped 
up into the air and through the hole that MasterBlaster had already 
made in the warehouse roof (and perhaps widening it a bit more in the 
process) and flew away.
     Mister Elmo watched it go.  He felt a giddy sense of relief.  
After all, that threat it had made was a particularly terrible one - but 
thanks to the dragon's mistake of identity, Mister Elmo wouldn't be the 
one who'd have to deal with it.  Quite a good result, even if the 
Trenchcoater did have to say so himself.
Character credits:
     Mister Elmo created by Greg Morrow.
     MasterBlaster created by Rob Ramirez, via Martin Phipps.
     Fin Fanfic Foom created by Saxon Brenton.  IIRC only named checked 
previously, first appearance here.  Given over to Public Domain.
Author's notes:
     Written for the 19th High Concept Challenge: 'What Is The Secret Of 
The Silver Skull Machine?'
     I'm not entirely happy with this, since I wanted a Net.Trenchcoat 
Brigade story, but I think instead got a Legion of Net.Heroes story that 
just happened to have an NTBer in the lead role.
     To the best of my knowledge the trenchcoating character of Mister 
Elmo (as opposed to Greg Morrow's net.handle) only ever appeared in the 
NTB roster reprinted in the _Wrath Of The Administrator_ trade etherback, 
and reproduced again here:
Net.name/persona: Mister Elmo
Real name/address: Greg Morrow
Powers/mystical abilities/colour of trenchcoat: Strange frothing 
   abilities/mystical sense of continuity violations/tan
Origin: Driven insane by years of datelessness, Mister Elmo 
   prowls the back streets of USENET, incessantly whining, with spittle, 
   about trivial inconsistencies.
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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