ASH: LNH 2027 One-Shot: "Rebooted"
Dave Van Domelen
dvandom at eyrie.org
Wed Feb 13 11:32:23 PST 2013
[January 3, 2027 - The Internet]
"Damn, this is a big one," XAC-2 struggled to bind the AIngel that the
trio of Artificial Consciousnesses had discovered lurking in a system in New
"Don't knock it," Compadre replied as he finished unpacking all of his
subsystems and threw his full power at the rogue program. "A normal-sized
one might have been able to hide from us, this machine has a lot of power
they're just not using. We weren't really looking for an AIngel, just
showing ADA-7 the sights."
"I daresay the sights tend to involve the fights," ADA-7 smirked.
"Forgive the foray into poetry."
"That was supposed to be a poAAAAGH!" XAC-2 was hurled back as the
AIngel flexed its defensive subsystems.
"Focus, guys!" Compadre urged. "We only have a few seconds before the
dumb systems realize something's taking up too much space here and call their
masters to investigate! The AIngel might not care about being found at this
point, but we sure do!"
An unfortunate side effect of the complexity of artificial
consciousness, or ACs, was that while autonomous processes could take full
advantage of the speed advantage of silicon and photonics over organic
synapses, true awareness didn't move that much more quickly in a computer
than in a squishy brain. They could speed it up in bursts when that was
important, like the three ACs were doing now, but only by a couple orders of
ADA-7 moved nimbly past the AIngel's outer defenses. Her code had its
origin in an antique difference engine, and was far more compact and
efficient than any modern AC's. While her evolution since the original
Advanced Difference-Engine Autosophont had made use of a great deal of modern
computing theory, she could still slip through spaces no one else could.
Except Netwalker, but he cheated quite horribly, being one of those
paranormals. She wasn't quite as nimble as her prior incarnation as ADA-6,
and would be hard-pressed to fully fit inside a whitecell telephone, but she
was rather more powerful.
She struck deep and retreated, clearly having an effect on the AIngel,
but not enough of one. "Rather more powerful" was clearly not powerful
enough for the task at hand.
* * * *
[Simons Concrete Block, outside Wellington, New Zealand]
"Damn, computer's acting up again!"
"Heat buildup problem?"
"Not yet, but there must be a runaway process in there somewhere,
because CPU is at about two hundred percent and rising."
"Well, bugger. I told the boss this machine was too much of a bargain,
there had to be something wrong with it. But nooooo, he insisted we needed
it so we could get into the new synthcretes."
"Hey, there's good money in that. It's not like the old days, when we
could just throw together some gravel, sand and lime and it'd work fine."
"Well, the current batch'll be ruined if we do a shutdown now. See if
"Huh. Seems to have fixed itself. Numbers dropping to normal."
"Log it for later. Maybe we can fob it off on third shift."
* * * *
"The good news is, we forced it out of this node before it totally broke
surface," Compadre said, a peculiar asymmetry in his pulses betraying what
the effort had cost him. If he'd been organic, he'd have been gasping.
"The bad news is, it's not dead yet! Tally ho!" XAC-2 shouted,
compressing down and plunging into the connection the AIngel had fled
through. Because true awareness required rather large amounts of computing
power, the internet behaved for them like an archipelago, with travel between
islands requiring compression and vastly reduced awareness. There was always
the chance you'd decompress at a new location to find a nasty surprise
waiting for you.
"Wait...never mind," Compadre sighed. "Sending a note off to Ectype,
the C.A.C. needs to know about this," a small piece of his own code separated
and zipped off down another path towards the effective leader of the small
Community of Artificial Consciousnesses. "Hopefully one of the more
experienced ACs will get to the AIngel first, so XAC-2 doesn't get himself
fragged, defragged and refragged."
"Should we go after him now?" ADA-7 asked.
"Yes," a new voice replied, indistinct and aethereal. The two ACs
quickly scanned their environs, but found nothing.
"Who's there?" Compadre asked.
"The destiny of three and one entwine / An AIngel dark and brooding will
this day / Unwelcome light on a secret domain shine / Unless you three and
one more find a way," the voice intoned.
"Poetry," ADA-7 spat.
"Prophecy," the voice countered. "Now go. I see no salvation save that
which you will help bring about."
And while there had been nothing to detect while the voice spoke, both
could feel that the speaker had left.
"I really hope that's not another paranormal playing around in the net,"
Compadre metaphorically shook his head.
* * * *
[Vancouver, British Columbia Sector]
Nate Walker was jolted awake by an insistent beeping from his handcomp.
Which he was pretty damned sure he'd turned off before going to bed,
since it was his day off and he'd desperately needed the sleep after a
marathon session tracking down some celebrity cyberstalkers.
If the bloom had ever been on the rose of his current assignment, it was
well and truly off. All of the dirt of the entertainment industry, damned
little of the glitz.
Still, it'd take some serious priority mojo to override the Do Not
Disturb function on his handcomp, so Nate grabbed it off the nightstand and
thumbed it to full life.
YOU ARE NEEDED IN THE NET.
The words appeared on the screen almost before the power came on, it
THE LEGION MUST ARISE AGAIN
A TRUTH TOO DANGEROUS TO TELL
WILL BE EXPOSED TO HUMAN KEN
UNLESS YOU WEAVE A MORTAL SHELL
"Cassandra? Is that you?"
Back in the Academy days, he and his friends had encountered an
Artificial Consciousness that somehow retained an echo of a reality that
hadn't come to pass, in which the Template Killer had been stopped before
killing a young precognitive. Nate's friend Boomer had even built a
dedicated machine, the Palladium, to let this program fully express the
potential of the never-was timeline. But one day it had simply...stopped.
Nate had always suspected that Cassandra had run its...her course, and
decided she needed to find a new life out in the net. But years of
on-and-off searching had never found a trace of the program. She must have
figured out how to control the dispersal method that had hidden her from the
Template Killer until Nate and the others had reassembled her.
If it was Cassandra, she was in no mood to catch up on old times. No
more words appeared on the screen, but Nate could feel that a connection had
been opened to a particular address, as if urging him to enter and follow.
But the Legion? If this was as urgent as it seemed, there was no time
to even contact Boomer, A.J. and Tawny, much less get them all together and
linked up to the Net.Thingy.
"Time for a leap...or lurk...of faith," Nate muttered, then set his
handcomp down on the bedstand before projecting himself into the Net.
* * * *
"What took you guys so long?" XAC-2 gasped as he struggled to hold his
systems together. ADA-7 and Compadre had emerged into the massive
telecommunications hub to see the AIngel fully rampant, taking advantage of
the volume of resources available in the array.
Compadre hesitated on the threshold. "Damn. We're really not supposed
to unfurl here."
"A shame...it's such a beautiful place. When it's not got an insane
leviathan in it," ADA-7 observed. "I know, I know. Too much chance of being
detected, despite the size."
Compadre nodded. While the machine in New Zealand was a risky place
because it was too small for them to hide any fluctuations for long, the
sheer interconnectedness of hubs meant that there were too many eyes upon
them. Even the tiniest of fluctuations would be picked up, and fairly
And that assumed it wasn't already too late.
ADA-7 rushed to her friend's aid, now using her small size to slip in
among the wounds inflicted by the AIngel and apply code patches, healing
rather than harming. In this, she was slightly more effective than when
she'd tried directly attacking the creature, but she could tell that XAC-2
would need more help than she could give if he was to avoid grievous cascade
"I'll engage it, you try to divert prying eyes!" Compadre shouted.
"XAC-2, get out and get help!"
* * * *
Nate still wasn't sure what Cassandra...if that really was her...
expected him to do in order to bring back the Legion, but he figured digging
out the old perceptual skin couldn't hurt. With him were data disks carrying
a half dozen or so of the new characters he'd been working on, intended to be
more effective in combat than the one-note jokes that had dominated the
original LNH. He was entering what he knew was the major hub for western
America, and it was represented as the great city of Net.ropolis.
Of course, the hub wasn't a single machine, or even a single building,
but rather an interconnected series of server farms maintained over a fairly
broad geographical area in order to provide redundancy, but it was still
conceptually a tight core that organized traffic.
And there was a kaiju stomping through the city streets, a titanic beast
showing a mixture of Japanese and 1950s monster comics influences.
Confused citizens ran around in panic, and there didn't seem to be any
"Oh...that's why," he looked behind his avatar, which currently was a
generic capes-and-tights construct. A shimmering web separated this part of
Net.ropolis from the rest of the world, and now that he knew it was there he
could just make out the volume it enclosed. Someone was trying to keep the
battle secret, which probably meant the monster was fighting representatives
from the C.A.C. They really didn't like the idea of people finding out just
how extensively ACs had colonized the network, but the rogue AIngels that
found their way out of Khadamite labs every so often weren't always so picky.
And that was best case scenario.
Worst case? This was something originating with the Impossible Five,
who had access to software from the 2050s. ASH had been forced to bring him
into the loop on that little time travel secret after he'd encountered
something spawned by an AC calling itself Cronyx, and barely escaped with his
The kaiju breathed a gout of atomic fire, which seemed aimed at the
cloaking net. In other words, the AIngel had decided it WANTED the world to
see what was going on, for whatever reason.
"AAAAAAIIIE!" a scream cut through the background chaos.
"ADA?" Nate realized with a start. "Right, time to try out one of the
new disks and join the party!"
* * * *
The AIngel hadn't attacked ADA-7 directly, but the cloak she was weaving
was made from parts of herself, and the creature's attempt at breaking
through was causing serious damage to her.
"Damn it!" XAC-2 gasped, struggling to pull himself together. "It's not
holding back, and the more it cuts loose, the more we have to rein ourselves
in or we help it break cover!"
"No one said keeping the secret would be easy," Compadre grunted, trying
to use subtle means to herd the AIngel towards an exit. If they could seal
it into a single server, they might be able to crash the connections and trap
it. It still might endanger the secret, but it seemed the least bad option.
"I...I think something got in through the cloak just before the AIngel
started trying to break out," ADA-7 said, pain in every pulse. Error
correction routines were losing the battle as noise started to overcome
signal, and the AIngel hurled more and more power at the cloak she was
generating. Unlike the others, she was running nearly at her full strength,
but the stealth that was normally to her benefit was now a cruel reminder of
the limits to her power.
"I think you're right," XAC-2 nodded. "And it's coming this way. Feels
"Netwalker!" ADA-7 gasped, in both pain and relief.
"I don't know how much good he'll be able to do," Compadre frowned,
dodging the more overt attacks from the AIngel and hoping it didn't
anticipate his own pattern of covert strikes. "Our problem isn't that we
lack power, it's that we can't use it without alerting people. He might
inadvertantly make things worse, even after we explain the situation to him."
"Then explain it fast," Netwalker said, appearing on the field of
* * * *
"...and so neither XAC-2 nor I can use our full strength without
breaking the cloak ADA-7's maintaining. Our laws are clear on this: better
to die and risk not being able to restore from backup, than to give away the
secret to the world at large. You're a known quantity, you can fight it
openly, but we'd have to withdraw and leave you to do it alone."
Compadre, XAC-2 and ADA-7 were all generic superheroes at the moment,
the filter having tagged them as such but having no specific identity to give
"If I could make it so that you could go all-in without worries, do you
think you could take this thing down? Because I'm pretty sure I can't do it
on my own," Nate admitted.
"Probably," Compadre didn't sound too confident, but that might have
been more a case of not thinking Nate had any way to let him use his full
"Fine. This is probably going to get me in even more trouble with my
C.O., but someone I'm inclined to trust told me that the Legion of Net.Heroes
was the key to this. And that means you've all been recruited. Once the
cloak drops, just call me The Marshal, that's the identity I'm wearing now,
although you won't be able to see it until I bring you inside the metaphor.
Take these datafiles, and brace for EXTREME BOMBAST!"
Nate threw the three discs from his hand and they unerringly found their
way to the three struggling ACs. The AIngel/kaiju seemed to sense they were
important, but a burst of fire from Nate's flechette pistol distracted it
just long enough.
Then he exerted his will to warp reality, bringing all of the combatants
fully inside the illusion of Net.ropolis in the same way he'd brought his
college buddies into the net. "I hope this is what she meant by a mortal
shell," he muttered.
And then the archetypes activated. He'd been tinkering with them on and
off since the old Legion broke up, mixing elements of the old amateur fiction
characters together to create new heroes and heroines. He was pretty
confident he'd picked the best fit to ADA's strengths, if not her sense of
propriety, but he'd had to make snap decisions on the other two, opting for
aw much raw power as possible and hoping for the best.
His own identity was a sort of "Saturday Morning Cartoon" version of a
NAC Marshal, in even bolder colors and riding a highly impractical skycycle
based very loosely on the ones STRAFE sometimes used. It also had a few
little tricks shamelessly ripped off from one of Conflicto's toys.
ADA-7's generic costume shifted, flowed and darkened, becoming a
charcoal gray bodysuit with a blood red keypad pattern for a chest insignia.
Light seemed to have trouble finding her, and she faded in and out of The
Lurk as she moved. "I am Blackcel, mistress of the Darknet!" she proclaimed,
looking mortified even as she struck a heroic pose and then vanished.
XAC-2, who the metaphor had decided had been propped against a
streetlamp attempting to recover from his wounds, was suddenly hale and
healthy again. The idea behind Cannon Fodder had inspired Nate to create a
hero who didn't simply die and come back, but rather took anything you threw
at him and kept coming back for more. Of course, that alone hadn't been
interesting enough, and Nate *had* been trying to stay in the spirit of the
old Net.Heroes, which meant that XAC-2 didn't just heal, he started to
change, becoming a hulking, flame-breathing brute! "Nothing can keep me from
coming back again and again, puny AIngel! You're facing TROLLSAURUS now!"
Unlike ADA-7, XAC-2 was clearly enjoying the role he'd been cast in.
Compadre wasn't as badly in need of rapid healing as XAC-2 had been, so
by default he got the cosmic-style hero Nate had patterned after Kid Kirby
and Continuity Champ. The data disk changed itself into a large maul in
Compadre's hands, and the AC looked at glowing words that formed on its side.
"Whoever lifts Banhamar, be they worthy, shall possess the power of Mod-I,
son of Torvalds!" With that, he slammed Banhamar to the ground and in a
flare of light was transformed into a stylized representation of a teutonic
godling, but with circuitry patterns replacing the traditional wirework
"Blackcel, drop the cloak! Engaging opening narration!" Nate ordered.
THE AGE OF USENET IS LONG PAST, AND REC.ARTS.COMICS.CREATIVE BUT A FADED
MEMORY. BUT THE NET WILL ALWAYS NEED HEROES, AND WHEN IT CRIES OUT FOR
SAVIORS, THERE WILL ALWAYS BE AN ANSWER, FROM THE...
/ / ______ _______ _______ ________ ___ __
/ / / ____/ / _____/ /__ __/ / ____ / / | / /
/ / / / / / / / / / / / / /| | / /
/ / / /___ / / / / / / / / / / | |/ /
/ / / ___/ / / __ / / / / / / / / | /
/ / / /_____ / /___/ / ___/ /__ / /___/ / / / | /
/ / /_______/ /_______/ /_______/ /_______/ /_/ |_/
/ of NET.HEROES /
"Foul beast, thine transgressions against netiquette are too numerous to
catalog!" Mod-I hurled himself into the air behind Banhamar, streaking
towards the orange-scaled creature. "Prepare to be banned on account, email
AND IP address!"
The air rippled with the shockwave generated by Mod-I's impact, and the
monster reeled back. But it was merely daunted, not defeated, and it
recovered more quickly than the Regal Redname. A burst of atomic fire seared
forth from its maw, clearly seeking to make Net.ropolis an unmoderated city.
But Mod-I was not in its path! Instead, he now hurtled gracelessly to
one side thanks to a shoulderblock administered by Trollsaurus, who now took
the brunt of the fires.
"Haw! You call that a flame? More like a LAME!" Trollsaurus crowed,
ignoring the fact that bits and pieces of him were charring away into dust.
"Have a care, Trollsaurus," Mod-I snarled as he recovered his dignity.
"You are e'er but a single warning away from tasting Banhamar thine self."
"Yo' mama tasted *my* Banhamar," Trollsaurus retorted, then unleashed
his own flames on the giant monster.
The Marshal flew in closer. "Okay, people, Evacuation Lass tells me all
the bystanders have been removed from the area, feel free to cut loose and
get McDuffie Construction some rebuilding contracts! I repeat, it's safe to
give it your all!"
"I gave yo' mama my all!" Trollsaurus yelled at the beast, doubling in
size and grabbing onto the monster's shin (it was still a lot bigger than
"-1 Modappeal!" Mod-I cried out as he hurled Banhamar at the beast's
face, stunning it once more.
"You have the right to remain in small pieces!" the Marshal added,
reconfiguring his skycycle into a mechasuit and unleashing a barrage of
missiles at the creature's midsection. They did negligible damage, but were
distracting in their own way...which was exactly what he wanted.
Because suddenly it seized up and fell over, crushing three small
buildings that were unlucky enough to have been built in its path.
Floating in the space where its heart had been was Blackcel, her
expression a mixture of triumph and disgust. "I sent its core into The
Lurk. The rest is just an empty shell program," she explained.
* * * *
[January 4, 2027 - Vancouver, British Columbia Sector]
Four faces shared a split screen conference call on Nate's desktop.
None of them were real...or perhaps they were more real than most, since they
represented the actual (if partial) presence of the individuals, rather than
just images. They were avatars assembled from bits and pieces of other
faces, placed over a "virtual actor" mesh. Three were Nate's fellow new
Legionnaires, while the fourth was Ectype.
"It's a good thing we're better at altering records online than you
humans are," Ectype smirked. "RACCSpace Animation has a backdated
incorporation as a startup small studio and all the relevant permits.
Yesterday's 'guerilla marketing' stunt will result in some fines, but that
won't be a problem."
"And I'm going to get in a little trouble for moonlighting, but I've
wink-wink-nudge-nudge implied that this is all part of an operation I have in
mind to troll for cybercriminals," Nate replied.
"Hah," XAC-2...or Zach Toomey, as his new ID called him...interjected.
"This sounds suspiciously like something we're going to have to keep on
doing," Compadre sighed. He'd eschewed XAC-2's approach and picked an
identity that had nothing to do with his true name, going by Patel Shrestha,
with a swarthy virtual complexion to match.
"I'm going to need a heroic identity a bit more dignified if we're going
to continue this," ADA-7 sighed, rolling her eyes. Thanks to her talent for
multitasking, she'd actually adopted three different identities, and could
run them all at once if need be. So she was Adele Munderson, the CEO of
RACCSpace, as well as actress Toni Miller and programmer Charlotte "Charlie"
"We can work up some other ideas...I hadn't really finalized the looks
on those identities, I'd been working more on the powers," Nate shrugged.
"I'm sticking with Trollsaurus," XAC-2 insisted.
"Officially, you three are paying me as a consultant and licensing some
of the programs I created, but most of the LNH stuff fell into DSHA hands
during the IP reforms of 2011, for some reason. Your backdated incorporation
included those licensing fees as well," Nate explained. It had been one of
the ruder surprises of his senior year when he'd been called to his advisor's
office to meet with an IP lawyer.
"This is all well and good," Ectype's expression took on a more serious
cast, "but I'm concerned about this Cassandra. I've never met her, nor even
heard of her before yesterday's events. An AC that has precognitive skills,
whether they're an echo of her creator's Magene or simply a highly advanced
analysis system, has the potential to do great harm as well as great good.
Harm, particularly, if her predictions aren't as solid as she thinks they
"Oh, I agree. I know she means well, but Cassandra was never really
part of our reality even when she lived in Boomer's dorm room," Nate
shrugged. "She probably kept your secret safe for now, but the new LNH is
pretty high profile already...Lightfoot even sent me an email saying I'd
ruined it forever, in his best fanboy-whine...and the more people watching
us, the more likely it is someone will start putting the pieces together."
"No secret lasts forever," ADA-7 pointed out. "Maybe some last a little
longer than others," she frowned, referring to her own life in the Babbage
machine, unknown to all for over a century, "but they do come out in the end.
And if humanity's first hint of our existence is as heroes, that can only
"Not necessarily...shunned and hated by a world they never made, a world
they've sworn to..."
"Enough mutant mutant angst angst, Zach," Nate interrupted.
* * * *
[January 4, 2027 - Somewhere on the Mediterranean Coast]
"No, mistress, that was not one of mine, although I may have had
something to do with its discovery in the New Zealand system," Cronyx bowed
apologetically to the ever-silent Matrioshka. "I realize that if we are too
overt about revealing the hidden community of my primitive ancestors that
they will band together against us, but any time I think I can make it look
like happenstance, I take the opportunity."
The porcelain-masked woman nodded grudgingly, then cocked her head.
"Oh, indeed, mistress! An excellent idea! If they want to play at
being net.heroes, it's only fair that we provide them with some appropriate
__ COHERENT COMICS UNINC. PRESENTS
/ / //| // // // /^^| /^| /^^| /^^/
/ / //||// //==// ._-' | | ._-' / Legion of Net.Heroes 2027 #1
/ / // |// // // /___ |_/ /___ / "Rebooted"
/ /______________________________________ copyright 2013 by
/________________________________________/ Dave Van Domelen
For the time being, this is just a one-shot, very very loosely inspired
by High Concept Challenge #35, "Ruined Forever". Since I'm running that
challenge, this isn't an entry. But I always try to have something to post
on Ash Wednesday if I can, and this idea came to me just in time to kill two
birds with one stone.
The in-jokes and references in this story are too numerous to catalog.
Consider it an early easter egg hunt as well as an Ash Wednesday posting. I
will point out that Cassandra was the main focus of the three-issue LNH2024
I leave you with a relevant quote that Nate Walker would have been
familiar with (and seen a certain dark irony in): "There will always be an
LNH. Period. Even if all the current writers disappear in a poof of light,
some wandering group of weirdos will come and look over the remnants of RACC,
see what the LNH was, and rebuild it all over again." - Chad Imbrogno,
For all the back issues, plus additional background information, art,
and more, go to http://www.eyrie.org/~dvandom/ASH !
To discuss this issue or any others, either just hit "followup" to this
post, or check out our Yahoo discussion group, which can be found at
There's also a LiveJournal interest group for ASH, check it out at
you're on Facebook instead, there's an Academy of Super-Heroes group there
More information about the racc