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

Ben Rawluk ben.rawluk at gmail.com
Fri Sep 4 21:37:37 PDT 2015

On Thursday, September 3, 2015 at 9:04:00 PM UTC-7, Andrew Perron wrote:
> VVVvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvVVV
> 8D                              SYSTEM  CORRUPTORS                            D8
> V^^^^^^VV^^^^^^VV^^^^^^VV^^^^^^VV^^^^^^VV^^^^^^VV^^^^^^VV^^^^^^VV^^^^^^VV^^^^^^V
> 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
> standstill.
>     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
> danced.
>     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
> down."
>     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
> winning.
>     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
> plunder*what*?"
>     "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
> now.
> 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:
> https://groups.google.com/d/msg/rec.arts.comics/7ZXGfhMphN8/MCohofIPdN0J
> 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.

Aww, so many adorable super-villains.

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