LNH: System Corruptors #33: "Exclusive Economic Zone"

Andrew Perron pwerdna at gmail.com
Thu Sep 3 21:04:00 PDT 2015

8D                              SYSTEM  CORRUPTORS                            D8
Issue #33: "Exclusive Economic Zone"                            By Andrew Perron
V      VV      VV      VV      VV      VV      VV      VV      VV      VV      V

    Lucky Chain Letter Lucy had always been more of a follower than a leader.
She'd been *so* relieved when the Legion of Net.Villains had showed up to absorb
her ersatz version of the Seven Deadly Sphammers. When the LNV broke up, she
found a bunch of people who were looking for someone to follow, and they formed
the West Coast Brotherhood of Net.Villains - the first two words added after a
kerfluffle with Mister Homage and a move to Web Surf City.

    They'd managed to get Lagneto as leader... for about five minutes before he
flew off to Do Something about net.ahuman rights. After that, they had tried
RobGoblin, but after Liefeld split with DC, his heart wasn't in it. There had
been a brief stint with Reversed-Morality Alternate Universe Classic LNH
Explain-the-Joke Lass that Lucy really didn't like thinking about - more like
Belabor-the-Joke Lass, really.

    They had been on the verge of giving up, members drifting off one by one,
when a new figure appeared, a legend spoken of in whispers - the Crime Empress!
She was a Vector, one of the self-created clones of the living computer virus
known as Vector Prime; but when Repetitive Lad had suggested that she might just
be an inferior copy, she had shown him forcibly just how superior she was,
knocking him out with one blow and kicking him off the team once and for all.

    It was said that, when a Vector discovered her true self, she lost her
ability to make clones, and gained powers that were uniquely her own. Lucy
didn't know how true that was, but the Empress had powers intimately entwined
with criminality, based on the spam and viruses that stalked the Net and trapped
the unwary. Her personality was much the same, imperial, calculating, and
devious. She had taken their sad scraps and whipped them into shape, intent on
starting a criminal cabal that could match anything Mister Homage came up with,
and holding off the influence of the mysterious Tyrannus Auron. And now, she was
looking to expand...

    "West Coast Brotherhood of Net.Villains, roll call," said the Empress,
lounging in her seat, a throne made of 1940s crime comics. Like many Vectors,
she was tall, buxom, fair-skinned and red-haired. Her face was formed by a
severe expression, makeup chosen to match, military-styled outfit in black and
red emphasizing her power and presence over everything else. The throne was at
the end of a long, straight table, along which the other members sat.

    "Revamp Lass," said a woman in a suit and very expensive designer glasses.
She fiddled with a Golden Man action figure, its features shifting and molding,
becoming Dark Retribution Golden Man, Rare Meme Golden Man, Snarky Space Hero
Golden Man. Her own features shifted in response.

    "Plotchopper," said a bulky yet nerdy man with a certain resemblance to
Dwayne Johnson, wearing a green-and-black costume with a big "P" on his chest.
He had been a Brotherhood member for a long time; now, his powerful Plotaxe was
at the Empress's command.

    "Gracemora, and stick it up your ass." The Dorf assassin, skin dyed the color
of blackberry juice, picked her fingernails with a Strongstuffium dagger. She
was a wildcard, known to none but the Empress; but that, and her status as a
parody of a popular character, were enough.

    "OTP, and ditto!" said a teenage black girl with a cheerful (but slightly
manic) expression. She was wearing a high-end T-shirt and jeans (if you asked,
she'd specify that it was a scoop-necked elbow-length shirt, and that the jeans
were... pink). Over these were a flaring, pointed mask and gloves with long,
steel claws. She'd lead one of the small net.villain teams competing for space
down in Net.ropolis, but had had enough gumption to track down the Empress, walk
right up and ask to join. Since she'd also managed to disembowel three guardbots
on the way in, the Empress was impressed enough to accede to the request.

    "Professor Perhap, focused on this spacetime to as narrow a degree as
possible." The good Professor looked perfectly normal older man, skin slowly
turning papery and acquiring liver spots, except that his eyes occasionally
faded into a dizzying, shifting, shimmering spectrum of color. Another long-term
Brotherhooder, he had apparently undergone some kind of cosmic ascension,
allowing him to perceive worlds far past this one and understand the true
structure of reality. That just didn't seem possible to Lucy, considering that
he couldn't understand how out-of-date his fashion sense was.

    "Captain Coredump," said a young Latina woman, clearly a college student,
wearing a black outfit on which were printed lines of C++ in bright yellow, a
pair of chunky black wristbands, and a dramatically flowing lemon-yellow cape.
She seemed uncomfortable, shifting in her seat. Had the original Captain had a
daughter? He hadn't seemed like the type to pass on his knowledge to a student,
thought Lucy, but he didn't seem like the family type, either. Perhaps she had
simply grabbed the legacy and ran.

    "Far.net.heit 451," grinned a woman with wild, charred hair, fingertips ashy,
skin streaked here and there with soot, black-on-white. She was bundled in a
jumpsuit with big "ASBESTOS" stamps on it (despite being the exact polyweave
model you could get from any military surplus outfit). She was a fanatic, bent
on destroying the taint of civilization, and Lucy had no idea why she was a part
of this outfit. She was going to turn on them one day. Lucy knew it, and she
knew the Empress knew it. Maybe that's what she was counting on.

    "Phoenix Down!" intoned a man in a black suit, vaguely reminiscent of
military dress, wearing a cape of brightly-colored feathers, red at the
shoulders shading to yellow at the triangular end. His schtick was bringing
people back to life, which to Lucy sounded more like a hero thing, but whatever.

    "Demented Designer," said a man in an outfit... better left unsaid. The last
of the oldschool Brotherhood members, DD was focused on redesigning heroes'
costumes to his own twisted taste. He had two books of fabric swatches out, and
was trying to decide between drab grays and drab browns.

    "Crossplay King." The woman next to her was dressed in... Captain
Continuity's outfit, actually; she seemed to wear a new one every day, each one
meticulously sewn and crafted. She had come to the team as OTP's plus-one; on
the way in, she'd taken out five guardbots and fought the Giga-Guardtron to a

    She was also looking right at Lucy. Everyone was, actually. "...Lucky Chain
Letter Lucy!" she said belatedly, sitting up straight.

    "Very good," said the Empress, reclining and steepling her fingers. "Now. We
have spent our time building, establishing ourselves in the local criminal
ecosystem as a force to be reckoned with. But it is time that we moved to the
next level; time that we widened our scope..."

    Suddenly, "Wipeout" by the Surfaris started playing. Lucy stiffened. They'd
purchased the base on the black market after the Riptide Slashers had been
broken up by Anklebuster, but they hadn't gotten around to reprogramming all of
the automatic systems; that song signalled a perimeter breach.

    All eyes were on the Empress. She gave a single nod. "Defense Plan Alpha."

    The Brotherhood rose as one and raced out of the underground throne room, up
into the innocuous office park that hid their dastardly deeds. The tanks, who
could take punishment and dish it out, blocked the exits; those with more
oblique powers hung back, to watch and wait for the moment to strike; the hit-
and-run types - like Lucy, whose luck powers served as a form of active
defense - headed out onto the grounds, to identify and harry the intruders,
cutting off their options and driving them towards whoever could take them out
the fastest.

    Lucy raced up the stairs, getting to the roof of building A. She shaded her
eyes from the summer sun and looked around the grounds, activating her
communication implant with a touch to the inside of her elbow. "Nothing ye--"
She stumbled, and caught herself on an air conditioner - and her eyes fell on a
swift-moving shadow on the grass, like a bird but far too large...

    She flipped on her back and lashed out, chains flying into the air. There was
a metallic clang, but no human shout - had she missed? Then there was a rush of
air and Captain Coredump flew past her.

    Lucy squinted into the sky. CC was fighting a silent silver shadow, bright
flashes of sunlight obscuring their form.

    Captain Coredump broke away. Glowing lines of code appeared in midair,
swirling around her body before sinking into her bracelets, which shivered and
reshaped themselves into wicked wrist-mounted blades. She struck, and they

    Lucy's communication implant called out in Phoenix Down's nasal voice.
"Single intruder at the back gate of building B. Crossplay King has them pinned

    Gracemora spoke up. "Single intruder at the left wing of building C.
Far.net.heit 451 is engaged in-- You IDIOT!" she shouted, making Lucy wince.
They weren't supposed to call each other idiots mid-battle. In the Empress's
view, recrimination could be had anytime; facing the enemy, one was a
professional. "Intruder is inside building C, heading downward!"

    "Single intruder on the roof," said Lucy, scanning around to make sure it
*was* just a single intruder. "Captain Coredump is engaged in aerial-- wait,
they're gone!" CC was spinning, confused, in midair.

    "Confirmed, our intruder has vanished in a twinkling," said Phoenix Down.

    "Demented Designer here," DD shouted unnecessarily. "Fast-moving target
pushed past me into the lower levels! Tried to turn its outfit into something
with a lot of belts and chains, but it was too quick!"

    "Confirming motion downward," said Professor Perhap, remarking on this fact
as idly as if it were last week's golf scores. "Intruders have each individually
entered secret areas. They have obvious knowledge of our layout, and their paths
will converge in the throne room."

    "They're after the Empress," murmured Captain Coredump, and Lucy stifled a
scream. She was right over her shoulder, hovering slightly in the air.

    "Yeah," said Lucy. "So... we should get down there and defend her, right?"

    Captain Coredump hovered, silently. Lucy couldn't see her eyes. Seconds
stretched by.

    Then she grabbed Lucy - who resisted the urge to lash out because she
wouldn't have been able to grab her if it had been a bad thing because she was
lucky, right? - she remembered the flash of the gun - lying in the bed, drifting
in and out of consciousness-- pain--

    Lucy woke up in midair. Good - it had only been a few seconds that time.

    Captain Coredump pointed a bracelet at the little fountain in the center of
the office park. The jets turned aside and the middle cycled open, revealing a
smooth steel tube the width of a person. She flew straight down, emerging right
inside the main entrance to the throne room.

    OTP and Plotchopper were on opposite sides of the long table, each fighting
one of the mysterious intruders. OTP was gleefully slashing at a humanoid figure
that seemed to be made of fire, shifting and flowing and just barely maintaining
its shape. Somehow, she was holding it back. On the throne, the Crime Empress
sat, watching silently.

    Plotchopper was swinging his axe at the silvery shape Lucy had seen; a lithe
woman in a black bodysuit, with silver cybernetic wings folded on her back, and
a silver helmet with a long, beaklike curve and a red visor. She struck with
long, shining claws, dancing out of his weapon's way.

    He kept looking back at the Empress, who shook her head, just a bit, every
time. He could exercise his power right here, Lucy knew, end this fight now and
just have events collapse back to the status quo. But the Empress didn't want a
draw - she wanted a win.

    And then all of a sudden Lucy was tumbling through the air and really,
Captain Coredump had THROWN her!? and brace for impact and CRASH!

    Lucy, Plotchopper, and the intruder were in a heap. The fire being was
distracted and OTP was pressing them back into Captain Coredump. They were

    A wind passed through the room. A black blur. And a shape was rising, and
falling, and diving down at the Empress--

    And there was a figure, in black, red and yellow, bowing at her feet, laying
a zigzag sword down before them.

    The flaming one stopped in their tracks and bowed. The silver one sat up,
slipping out of one of Lucy's chains, and bowed.

    The Crime Empress stood, applauding. "Well-done. That was very nearly an
effective defense." She pressed her implant. "All Brotherhood members to the
throne room, please. The exercise is over."

    Lucy pushed herself up, untangling herself from Plotchopper. Exercise? This
was just a *test*!?

    She opened her mouth. She caught the Empress's eye. She closed her mouth.
Right. Test. Makes sense. Just fine.

    The rest of the Brotherhood filed in one by one, warily. "Sit down, sit
down," said the Empress, and they returned to their seats.

    The intruders (?) stood in a line in front of the throne. The flaming one
simmered down into a man with red hair wearing a domino mask. The Empress
stepped out in front of them, grinning like a Cheshire cat.

    "Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce..." She gestured to the super-
speedster. "Calbuco Lightning, of Chile's Stray Wolf Pack." She stepped over to
the flaming man. "Big Josh, of Net.Zealand's Rabblerousers." She indicated the
silver woman. "Silent Condor, from Japan's Fear Syndicate."

    "The condor isn't a Japanese bird," remarked Lucy, folding her arms.

    Silent Condor shrugged. She waved her hand, and hard-edged glowing blue
letters appeared in midair, reading, "No one ever gave Mynabird any trouble."

    "These three," said the Empress, "are representing their respective
net.villain organizations in this endeavor. Further, alliances have been made
with teams in China, Ca.net.da, Korea, Peru, Malaysia, Indonesia,
Alt.stralia..." She shrugged. "Apologies, but it feels strange using net.names
for non-English-speaking nations. Surely they can make up better puns
themselves, you know?"

    "Empress..." said Revamp Lass, crossing her arms. "What *is* this?"

    The Empress chuckled. "Ladies and gentlemen, I give you..." She stepped in
front of the three and raised her arms. "The Trans-Pacific Plunderbund!"

    Phoenix Down raised his hand, and the Empress pointed to him. "...the

    "It means 'An alliance or cartel of political, commercial, or financial
interests engaged in exploiting the public.'." [ Def. 1. Oxforddictionaries.com,
Oxford University Press, n.d. Web. 2 Sep. 2015. - Footnote Girl, who has a test
on MLA citations coming up] "In other words, a great partnership, through which
we can influence the world entire, and bring it to its knees!" She let loose
with a good old-fashioned maniacal cackle.

    Professor Perhap stroked his chin, and began chuckling. Far.net.heit 451 let
loose a shriek that fell into an unhinged giggle. Plotchopper glanced around,
and started laughing uneasily; most of the Brotherhood followed his lead. Revamp
Lass looked put out, and Captain Coredump was as taciturn as ever. And Lucy...

    Lucy was thinking. Why was the Empress doing this? She wanted to be on top,
not part of some vague network of share and share alike. Not unless...

    ...unless this was only the first step. Unless she figured that, from this
position, she could build her power - link herself closer to these other teams,
then bring them under her sway, one by one. With each step, she would command
more, and could challenge the crime networks of the world, the governments, the
LNH - until she was truly an Empress.

    Could she do it? By charisma, by personal might, by the loyalty and fear of
her lieutenants - would she parlay this power into a crown?

    And if she had miscalculated, if someone else could play the game better and
take control of the Brotherhood and the Pacific rim - what then?


Author's Notes: Yep, I came up with the idea for the pun first - though which
P-word I was going to use there changed many times during the writing process.
(At one point, it was the Trans-Pacific Partnership for Power, Possession and
Peccancy.) "Plunderbund" is such a great word, though. I'm-a use it all the time

Per Adrian, the "Heroine's Journey" arc is going to be coming out irregularly,
so there's no need to issue-skip past it.

Interestingly, though Plotchopper was listed as Drizzt's creation even on very
early rosters, I've discovered that he was actually created by wReam:

And if you're wondering about the gender balance of the West Coast BoNV, it's
because in Web Surf City, there are two girls for every boy.

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