Neutron Star and White Dwarf

A continuing story posted on Michael Gersten's
The Serial Tree Board
in 1987

[Edited by Roger M. Wilcox]


See also:
Neutron Star's character sheet for 5th Edition Champions
White Dwarf's character sheet for 5th Edition Champions

Sadly, the original posts comprising this story have been lost. This is a transcription of the only known surviving copy, a printout which had the names of the accounts making each post removed. Only some of the message headers got preserved, such as the first one, from "jeff boeing" (one of Roger M. Wilcox's names on the Serial Tree Board). It is impossible to tell from the printout where one post ends and another begins, and where there was simply an additional line break within a post.



Message 159 from jeff boeing date Sun Feb 1 23:24:05 1987


Neutron Star was bored. Bored bored bored bored bored.

Sure, he could increase his density to a billion tons to the cubic centimeter without any real effort. Sure, when in that state he had a natural gravitational field and would probably fall to the center of the Earth if he wasn't careful. Sure, he could fly. You would too if you weighed 10^14 tons. Sure, he could breathe in space and travel faster than light. It was all he could do to avoid the temptation to create his own Event Horizon.

Anybody could be the most powerful being in the universe. But what do you DO when you reach the top?

That was when he recalled his good buddy, White Dwarf. White Dwarf wasn't nearly as dense as he was, only about a ton to the cubic centimeter. But White Dwarf had the distinct disadvantage of NOT being able to shift back to normal human density. That's what happens when your genetic makeup isn't exactly like Neutron Star's was when he flew by Cygnus X-1.

Maybe White Dwarf was still around. Maybe he was battling evil in THIS dimension and not another. Well, it was worth finding out. He left his adamantium-walled flat in west Los Angeles, took to the air, left the atmosphere, and transposed himself to lightspeed, heading for where he'd seen White Dwarf last, which was the star system of . . .

. . . GINGERBREAD XIV!!

Yes, the Star System of Gingerbread XIV!!! That was where White Dwarf had been battling 300 slimy Xzchtl of the planet Sloog! Because, in actuality, Neutron Star had been a SNIVELING COWARD at the time and had left White Dwarf there all by his lonesome, because the Xzchtl had an Immobilizer Ray that Only Worked Versus Dense Things. He hoped that by now the Sloog government had outlawed Immobilizer Rays or something.

Neutron Star came out of hyperspace less than a thousand kilometers away from Gingerbread XIV itself. This would have singed him something awful had not Gingerbread XIV been a brown dwarf. Get it? Brown? And gingerbread is supposed to be brown? Aw, never mind.

He put his sublight drive — er, his Flight — into reverse, and backed up to the third planet in the star system, since everybody knows that life can only arise on Third Planets. 'I wonder where White Dwarf could be,' he thought as he screamed down through the atmosphere.

Then he remembered. He'd just follow the gravitational field. . . .

*****************
* Neutron Star! *
*****************

Yep, there was a great big gravitational flux down there about twenty kilometers to the northeast. That must be White Dwarf, he figured. Either that, or the Xzchtl sure like to keep their heavy elements all in the same spot.

It was White Dwarf all right, Neutron Star noted upon arrival. There was a big white glowing guy tied to an adamantium stake in the center of the town square. He was probably tied down with adamantium chains, too. 300 slimy Zxchtl (aw, heck, spell it how ever you like; it's pronounced "Zicks-Chill") were dancing a macabre dance around his bound body.

SUDDENLY, White Dwarf looked up and saw his big black buddy flying overhead. "Neutron Star!" he cried. "So glad to see you! These bozos plan to sacrifice me to DUUUUUUUUUUUH, their God of Density!"

This in itself was strange enough. But Neutron Star thought he recognized the 300 Xxchtll dancing around the pole. "Say, aren't those the same 300 slimy Zixchtl that you were fighting three years ago?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact, they are. They've been dancing this same stupid ritual dance for three years straight, without coffee breaks or anything. I mean, I've heard of people seeped in ritual, but —"

Well, hang on, buddy, 'cause I'm comin' to getcha outta there!"

"Thank goodness!" White Dwarf sighed. "Another three months of this and I would have been bored to death!"

"Hmmm," Neutron Star hmmmed, noticing how tough the ropes were as he tried to untie White Dwarf, "These ropes are tough."

"That's because they're made of adamantium, idiot. Don't act so dense!"

"Well, no little adamantium bonds ever stopped NEUTRON STAR before! HARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRUMPH!!"

* Snap *

"There, ya see?"

SUDDENLY, the Zxchtl's dance changed: "OOOOOmbah! Unga bunga bunga!!"

White Dwarf and Neutron Star looked at each other, and said in unison, "I think they're on to us." ...

And the Zxchtl all turned around and ran.

"See?" Neutron Star shined his fingernails on his 10^14-specific-gravity chest, "I TOLD you they were on to us."

But it wasn't Neutron Star they were running from.

"Neutron Star," White Dwarf tapped him on the shoulder, "It's not YOU they're running from."

Neutron Star turned around. Then, he saw it, too. There was a huge, ominous shadow thundering toward them from the southwest. "Hey, there's a huge, ominous shadow thundering toward us from the southwest!" Neutron Star gaped.

"Brilliant as always, Trillion-ton-to-the-cubic-inch man. But why can't I see anything CASTING the shadow?"

The reason he couldn't see anything casting the shadow was that NOBODY could see the thing that was casting the shadow. For it was . . .

. . . THE GIANT INVISIBLE COOKIE MONSTER!!!!!

"COOOOOOKIEEEEEEEEE!!!!!" rattled the thundering cry across the landscape of the entire planet Sloog. The invisible blue mound of fur trod after them with footprints a mile wide; those footprints were spaced at least fifteen miles apart. The fact that the shape of the footprints exactly matched an oversized human shoe sole didn't matter much to our intrepid heroes.

"Don't worry," Neutron Star cracked his knuckles. "I'll take him on!"

"Unless he eats you first," White Dwarf commented.

"Don't be ridiculous. Cookie monsters only eat cookies."

"Um, I wouldn't be too sure of that. The original Cookie Monster stuck to just cookies early in his Public Television career "

"COOOOOOKIEEEEEEEEE!!!!!"

"— but since then he's widened his diet range 'till he'll eat just about everything."

"Oh," Neutron Star stopped cracking his knuckles. "Well, in that case, um, uh . . . YOU take him on!"

"Hey, quit pushin'!" White Dwarf protested.

"Bye bye," Neutron Star commented, and flew off, leaving the one-ton-to-the-cubic-centimeter man behind to tackle the Beast with the Ping Pong Ball Eyes all by his lonesome.

*******
* NS! *
*******

Neutron Star reclined in his adamantium easy chair back in his good old adamantium-walled apartment on Earth. His billion-ton-to-the-cubic-centimeter density was turned off now (he was never sure where the extra mass went), so he was in no danger of gravitationally attracting loose objects to himself.

There was a knock on the door.

A quarter of a second later, there was another knock on the door.

A quarter of a second after that, there was yetanother knock on the door.

'Hmmm,' Neutron Star thought, 'Someone just knocked on my door three times. I wonder if I should answer it.'

Meanwhile, in the star system of Gingerbread XIV, on the Planet Sloog, White Dwarf was all alone battling the evil atmosphere-high Giant Invisible Cookie Monster.

"Good thing I can fly and you can't," White Dwarf called out to the invisible blue rug. So, he flew away. "See ya at the cookie store!" he called back.

'Now to find that good-for-nothing Neutron Star and feed him to this blue pile of invisible shag!' White Dwarf mused as he exited the atmosphere and switched to Hyperlight velocity.

... and NEUTRON STAR ANSWERED HIS DOOR!!!!

OH NO!!!!!!!!!!!!

AGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!

And, "Fer sure, gag me with an antimatter warp reactor!"

"Oh no!" Neutron Star called out, not believing the sight of the L5 Valley Girl in front of him. "It can't be!!"

"But it IS!!" the girl insisted.

"NO!"

"YES!!"

"NO!!!"

"YES!!!"

It was . . .

. . . *gasp!* . . .

. . . TRAVELLIN' JOANIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"Joanie!" Neutron Star stammered. "I . . . I read . . . I read your story on the Palantir! H . . . how did you escape from that Killer Shopping Mall?"

"Easy, silly. I had Scotty —"

"Your shipboard computer?"

"That's the one. I had Scotty level the entire surface of the planet with photon torpedoes."

Neutron Star pondered this for a moment. "Oh, so you beamed up before the torpedoes struck the surface?"

"Beamed UP?! Get real! Guy, fer sure, are you, like, out in space or something? Like, you can ONLY beam up in science fiction stories."

"Then how did you survive the blasts?"

"Oh, that. I was wearing my photon proof vest."

"Photon . . . proof . . . vest. Er, all right. Um, why'd ya stop by?"

"Because, tall, dark, and heavy," she put her hands on his hips, "I wanted to feel that big rock-hard moniker of yours in your pants."

Neutron Star's eyebrows raised a bit. "You know, of course, that I can make my dingus harder than any other guy in the universe."

She shook her hips a bit. "I know. . . ."

Meanwhile, White Dwarf had suddenly run into . . . a COLOSSAL NEGATIVE SPACE WEDGEY!

"Oh no!" he cried (although nobody heard it since he was in airless space), "A colossal negative space wedgey! What am I going to do now?!?"

"YOU ARE GOING," the colossal negative space wedgey mouthed, "TO BECOME COLOSSAL NEGATIVE SPACE WEDGEY FOOD!"

"What I want to know is how you managed to follow me into hyperspace."

"IF A SUB-LIGHT-ONLY ROMULAN BIRD OF PREY CAN FIRE A PLASMA TORPEDO AT WARP NINE, I CAN FOLLOW YOU INTO HYPERSPACE!"

"Oh. I get it. Illogical logic, right?"

"SHUT UP AND LET ME EAT YOU!"

And so saying, the Colossal Negative Space Wedgey ate him.

Have you ever bitten into something that has a specific gravity of one million?

Platinum is specific gravity 21.4, right? And osmium is a little over specific gravity 22, right? Well, a white dwarf has a specific gravity of about 1 000 000.

The colossal negative space wedgey couldn't even get his teeth into our intrepid white hero.

In fact, it suddenly found its mouth being levered open from the inside.

"Never," acclaimed White Dwarf, straining to pry the colossal negative space wedgey's mouth open, "Eat anything until you know whether or not its good for you!"

White Dwarf flew out, punched the colossal negative space wedgey in the jaw, rolled real high on knockback, and scooted off toward Earth again.

"First, that mangy Neutron Star leaves me alone to battle 300 slimy Zxchtl of the planet Sloog. Then, he leaves me alone to fight a 25-mile-high giant invisible cookie monster. Now, I have to fend off a colossal negative space wedgey without his aid. He's probably at home getting laid with Travellin' Joanie right now or something.

Which, in fact, he was....

"OOOhhh, Neutron Star, this is so hEEEEEEaaaaavy!" Travellin' Joanie moaned in between pelvic motions.

"Of course it is, my dear. I weigh around ten trillion tons."

"Ohhhh, and you're SOOOOOOOO attractive!"

"You would be, too. Anything as massive as I am has its own significant gravitational field!"

"Hmmm," White Dwarf noted, observing the atmosphere in Southern California as he approached Terra Firma. "Those fluctuations seem regular, expanding and contracting about once every eight-tenths of a second. And they're of gravitational origin. Yep, Neutron Star's getting laid...."

So saying, he poured on the speed and screamed down through the atmosphere toward Los Angeles, hoping for Travellin' Joanie's sake that Neutron Star hadn't climaxed yet.

Travellin' Joanie was on about her fifth multiple "orgasm." Neutron Star's pelvic motions were getting faster and deeper. He was about to ejaculate into her. And Travellin' Joanie knew it.

WHEN SUDDENLY, the one-room-apartment door burst from its hinges and in clumped White Dwarf.

"WHITE DWARF, YOU LITTLE SH*T!!!" Neutron Star cursed, his impending climax ruined. "HOW *DARE* YOU BARGE INTO MY PAD AND INTERRUPT ME BEFORE I COME!!!"

"And if you HAD come," White Dwarf insisted, moving to the double bed and pulling Travellin' Joanie away from mister density, "Your own super-dense muscles would have torn this poor girl to shreds! Your semen ALONE would have blasted out of the top of her head like machine gun fire!"

Neutron Star was furious. "You've been reading too many goddamn Larry Niven essays!! My billion-ton-to-the-cubic-centimeter muscles are completely under my control!"

White Dwarf narrowed his gaze and stared him squarely in the eye. "This wouldn't be the first time it's happened."

Neutron Star looked solemnly downward. "Well, okay, I admit Sheila covered three cities by the time I was through; but she deserved it! She . . . she was a harlot! AND a prostitute! Both!"

White Dwarf folded his arms. "And are you trying to pass some Catholic justice on them or something? My God, man, at least the prostitutes and the harlots aren't celibate! AT LEAST YOU COULD TURN OFF YOUR DENSITY WHEN YOU GO TO BED WITH A WOMAN!"

Neutron Star's features hardened. His density was at peak now. "You..." he got up, "Stay..." he stepped toward White Dwarf, "OUT OF IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

And with that, he wound up his right fist and landed the most powerful known haymaker in the history of the human race on White Dwarf's midsection....

White Dwarf flew back outside the door, outside the apartment complex, and down the street. News reporters were at the scene instantly, waiting for something like this to brighten up an otherwise dull afternoon.

"Wow! What a punch! White Dwarf just rocketed out of Neutron Star's adamantium-plated apartment and is headed east along Oak Street at about . . . say, how fast would you say he's going, Pete?"

"Oh, I dunno, Bob."

"Neither do I, Pete, but he's going pretty fast. OH! Wait a minute! There seems to be some commotion a few blocks ahead . . . yes . . . yes . . . White Dwarf just plowed through a class-one moving van, a Unocal 76 gas station, and a Seven-Eleven! Wow, do you think the impact might cause a fire or even an explosion, Pete?"

"Well, I think it might, Bob."

"So do I, Pete."

And on it went. White Dwarf screamed eastward, past major intersections, through apartment buildings and shopping centers, through a grand computer (There! Satisfied?), over the heads of panicking citizens —

"... and ... TOUCHDOWN! Just north of the intersection of Death Street and Gore Avenue! That's a total distance of over four miles! It was great! Er, I mean awful."...

"Gee, do ya think White Dwarf might have gotten hurt?"

"Naw ... he's just getting in the mood!"

The Man-Whose-Density-Was-A-Ton-To-The-Cubic-Centimeter slowly raised himself out of the pile of asphalt and bedrock, brushed himself off, and took to the skies. This was it. Mister Nuclear Matter had pushed him too far this time. (I mean, three miles I can understand, but FOUR?)

"And it looks as though White Dwarf is going supersonic so that he can repay Neutron Star for what he'd just done to him! Say, Pete, what was the Richter measurement of White Dwarf's final impact?"

"Oh, I'd say about 5.6 one mile out from the epicenter, Bob."

"So would I, Pete. Anyway, his shockwave is getting a pretty decent Richter rating right now. I thought the F.A.A. told him never to fly supersonic over populated areas."

"I thought so too, Bob."

"So did I, Pete."

And so, breaking a few windows in his wake, White Dwarf came back to Neutron Star's apartment. Neutron Star was pleading with Travellin' Joanie that no, his density and strength wouldn't blast her to atoms, that White Dwarf was exaggerating, that it would only blast her to molecules, when he looked up and saw a very angly White Dwarf occupyping the doorway.

"DESTROY!!!!!" White Dwarf bellowed, cocked back his fist, and haymakered Neutron Star just as hard as he could.

Neutron Star made a hollow, resonant noise and failed to fall backwards onto his keester. White Dwarf would havse to do a lot better than THAT!

"Hah, White Dwarf!" nuclear matter man bellowed. "You'll have to do a lot better than THAT!"

Message 184 from jeff boeing date Mon Feb 16 17:26:32 1987


Incidentally, when Ramin brought the subject up to me yesterday, I decided to calculate how strong Neutron Star's gravitational field is if you stand 10 feet away from him.

Judging that his density is about 2^50 times normal, and that a normal human has a mass of about 100 kilograms, this gives him a total mass of approximately 1.13E+17 kg. Assume a normal human of mass 100 kg stands 10 feet = 3.048 m away from him. (This normal human would weigh 980 Newtons at the surface of the Earth.) Multiply G (6.67E-11) by m (100 kg) by M (1.13E+17 kg) and divide by r^2 (3.048^2 = 9.29), and we find that the normal person and Neutron Star are (mutually) attracted to each other by a force of 81 131 324 Newtons. Now if we divide this by the human's normal weight of 980 N, we find that Neutron Star's gravitational field, at a 10 foot distance, is 82 787, or nearly 83 000 times as strong as Earth's. 83 thousand G's is strong enough to crush soft rocks under their own weight.

And that's just at a 10-foot distance! Can you imagine the gravitational force at his SURFACE?! Just by standing on this planet, Neutron Star could turn it inside-out. The whole thing would collapse on top of him, and he would be (literally) the center of attention. Then after the Earth inverted itself and cooled over a few million years, we could start all over again with single-celled life and a chunk of nuclear matter at Earth II's core.

Message 185 from the guy who thinks that everybody should have an energy blast date Tue Feb 17 03:01:29 1987


Yeah, but even then with 82 800 G's of gravitational force at 10 feet (that must be center-to-center distance, by the way), he's still only about 1/10000th the mass of the Earth.
*******
* NS! *
*******

Now, not only was Neutron Star completely unaffected by the most powerful blow White Dwarf could ever hope to deliver, but White Dwarf's fist was stuck to his chest.

"Hey!" White Dwarf protested, "Will ya let go of my fist?!"

"It's not me, it's my gravity field. You know about the inverse square relationship."

"Yeah. You're a square, and you were about to invert Travellin' Joanie by being in a relationship with her! I'm surprised she even survived your surface gravity!"

Travellin' Joanie cleared her throat. Both Neutron Star and White Dwarf stopped and listened. "I survived his surface gravity," Travellin' Joanie began, "Because Scotty back up there on my starship has an Acme patented build-it-yourself Gravity Nullifier Ray on board. He's been shining it on me the whole time I was anywhere near Neutron Star."

Neutron Star smiled and folded his arms. "There. Ya see, White Dwarf ol' buddy?"

Joanie continued, "And I was about to have the heaviest orgasm of my life when YOU butted in!"

White Dwarf swallowed hard and backed away a little. "Me?!"

"Yes, YOU!" Joanie and Neutron Star barked in unison.

"Well, uh, gee, I, that is, uh ..."

Neutron Star picked White Dwarf up by the shirttairs, which he had none of (of course), and tossed him into orbit while bellowing, "Now GET OUT!!"

It took a whole thirty seconds for White Dwarf to achieve orbit, but he figured he'd better stay there. It was safer up there anyway.

It was on his second circuit of the Earth that he noticed Travellin' Joanie's space ship in synchronous orbit over Los Angeles....

'Hmmm,' White Dwarf thought, 'That must be Travellin' Joanie's space ship in synchronous orbit over Los Angeles!'

So saying, he figured he'd go check out this marvel of 20th-century 23rd-century engineering.

There wasn't much to see when he got there. The ship was at most fifty meters long, equipped with the standard photon torpedo tubes, tractor beam, matter-antimatter engines, and windshield wipers. The tractor beam was casting a blue cone down toward the planet, but its color faded with its focus long before the beam reached the atmosphere. That was probably the Acme patented do-it-yourself gravity nullification ray.

'Hmmm,' White Dwarf thought, 'That's probably the Acme patented do-it-yourself gravity nullification ray.'

All that remained to be seen of the ship was the inside. And Scotty, the shipboard computer. He cursed himself for not bringing a transmitter along with him, and hoped Scotty would be able to hear him knocking....

*******
* NS! *
*******

A loud knocking sound, as if from someone outside in the vacuum of space whose density was a ton to the cubic centimeter, reverberated through Travellin' Joanie's starship. Scotty was peeved for having someone interrupt his 5579th reading of "The Thornbirds," and so answered the door a bit haughtily.

"Aye," Scotty the shipboard computer began, "If ya be sellin' subscriptions ta those bedashed ladies magazines, we don't want any!"

Unfortunately, White Dwarf couldn't hear a word of it, because sound can't travel through space.

"This is White Dwarf, an ultradense Earthman! Let me in!"

Unfortunately, Scotty couldn't hear a word of it, because sound can't travel through space.

"Hmmm," Scotty mumbled, "Musta been some kids a'knocking at me door an' runnin' away." He want back to his book. Or his digital facsimile of a book, anyway.

'Well, that was fruitless,' White Dwarf figured. 'Guess I'll have to make a slightly grander entrance.'

And with that, he backed up a small distance, rushed toward the door, and bashed it in with one fist, letting out all the on-board air in the process.

"ATTENTION! ATTENTION!" barked the loudspeakers against the bong of the klaxons and the rush of escaping air. "THIS IS SCOTTY, THe shipboard computer! Somebody has breached the hul l  a n d   a l l    t h  e    a  i  r    i  s    e  s  c   a   p    i     n      .        .          .           "

'And all the air is GONE,' White Dwarf thought. 'Fortunately, computers don't need to breathe.'

"They do if they're gasoline-powered," whispered a metallic voice in his mind.

'Oh NO!' he worried. 'A gasoline-powered telepathic computer!'

"Of course I'm a gasoline-powered telepathic computer!" Scotty's mental voice said. "What ELSE would you put on board a star ship? Now, would you PLEASE close the door — it's getting a might bit drafty in here."

Message 192 from the guy who thinks that everybody should have an energy blast date Sun Feb 22 18:33:04 1987


"Uh, sure," White Dwarf said, bending the door back into shape as best he could. This computer really peeved him. He had to restrain himself from using his Energy Blast on it.

"Hey, WAIT a minute!" White Dwarf turned to the camera and addressed the narrator. "Since when do I have an Energy Blast?!"

"Well," the narrator asked, "What if White Dwarf DID have an Energy Blast?"

"HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE SQUISHED UP AGAINST MY GRAVITATIONAL FIELD?!?"

"Get real," the narrator replied. "You're not Neutron Star or anything; your surface gravity is barely one G."

"Yeah, well ... well ... I can make that a pretty uncomfortable one G!"

"Oh, I'm shaking in my boots."

"Then again," White Dwarf recalled, "I COULD always grab you in my bare hands and rend you to bits."

"Um, uh, on with the story!!"

Message 193 from jeff boeing date Sun Feb 22 18:39:33 1987



Uh, close, TGWTTESHaEB, but not quite.
Neutron Star's density is a billion tons to the cubic centimeter, right? And White Dwarf's is a mere one ton to the cubit centimeter. This means that, if they're about the same size (well, okay, Neutron Star is probably a size 12 junior miss, and White Dwarf is a size 14 Mrs.), White Dwarf's gravitational field should be about a billionth as strong as Neutron Star's.

Neutron Star's surface gravity, if you assume that his gravitational field strength will increase LINEARLY rather than quadratically at close distances (he is, after all, not spherical), should be between 500 thousand and a million G's. If White Dwarf's is one BILLIONTH of this, then his surface gravity would be less than a thousandth of a G. You probably wouldn't even feel it.

Message 194 from jeff boeing date Sun Feb 22 18:41:27 1987



"Hey, you hear that, Joanie? I've got a megagee!"
"Great! Oh, come with me, baby! Oh! Ohh! OOOOOHHHHHH!!!"

And JUST as Joanie was about to come, a band of TV news reporters broke open the door and stuck microphones in their faces.

"WHAT?" Neutron Star screamed. "YOU people?! Haw the hell did you get past that adamantium lock?!"

The channel 7 reporter cleared his throat. "Mister Star — or may I call you Neutron — is it true that you refuse to endorse Ex-Lax?"

"YES! YES, IT IS!" he screamed, their orgasms completely ruined. Again.

"We also hear that you were selling arms to Iran. Any comment on that?"

"ARMS?! Yes, as a matter of fact, before I become Neutron Star I was a prosthetics engineer. I aided the sales of my artificial limbs to some of the less fortunate countr—"

"And there you have it, folks! The Iranian arms scandal all over again! Back to you, Chuck!"

Meanwhile, White Dwarf was up in orbit playing Space Quintessons on Scotty the shipboard computer.

"Hah, gotcha! An on the fifteenth shot, that's another 300 points!"

"Aye, me lad," Scotty interrupted. "Don't ya think ha been playin' at tha' game a wee bit too long?"

"What, do you want me to quit after only 146 waves?"

"Ya been playin' Space Quintessons for five hours now! And ya already missed Neutron Star's spot on the 8 o'clock news!"

White Dwarf let go of the controls. His three laser bases went up in rapid succession.

"Oh . . . no."

"It's all right, me lad, ya beat Joanie's high score by 230 points."

"No, no, I meant the news report."

"Oh, that. I made ya a tape o' that, just in case."

Scotty fastforwarded to the slot about Neutron Star. This didn't take long, seeing as it was the number one story tonight.

"Our top story tonight," a recording of Jane Curtain's face began on the viewscreen. "The city of Los Angeles collapsed into a ball about fifty feet across late this afternoon. OFficials say it looked as though somebody had turned on an incredibly intense gravitational field perpendicular to Earth's. We take you now for a live report at the scene."

The scene switched to exterior-night, with some guy in a Russian hat and a trenchcoat speaking into a microphone. "Thanks, Jane. The latest report is that this mess over here to my right was caused by the infamous foreign arms dealer, Neutron Star. As you can see, everything — buildings, asphalt, cars, human flesh and bones [get a closeup of that corpse, will ya, Joe?] — was apparently uprooted from its very foundations and swept to encircle this spot. The suspicious Neutron-Star-shaped hole at the top of this ball is the only hard evidence the investigators have to go on."

"Oh, this is great," White Dwarf sulked. "If Neutron Star gets the world against him, he'll take ON the world. And he'll win."

"Not if I hit him with a photon torpedo," Scotty suggested.

"Even if you DID. That guy's impervious to damn near everything. Shooting at him is like shooting at a . . . a . . . a neutron star!"

A feminine voice burst into the room. It belonged to some girl in an exo-skeletonous space suit.

"Hey, you in the exo-skeletonous space suit! Who are —"

She took off her helmet. It was Travellin' Joanie.

"I hate to admit it," she admitted, "But you were right. Gravitationally accelerated orgasm or not, Neutron Star is bad news."

White Dwarf gaped at her in wonder.

"I bet you're wondering how I survived," she said.

"No, I'm wondering how you can talk in a vacuum."

"You closed the door. Remember?"

"Oh, yeah," White Dwarf vaguely recalled, "I vaguely recall that. It's so hard to keep track of what went on several messages ago, ya know what I mean?"

"Aye," interrupted Scotty the shipboard computer, "That's why I'm glad for continuing stories with chaotic plot lines! Nobody has to worry about anything that went on before! The whole universe could get turned inside-out between moves! Why, ANYBODY could post another move!"

"YEAH," White Dwarf and Travellin' Joanie said in unison, "ANYBODY!"

"End of commercial," Scotty concluded.

"Neutron Star?" said a brown-sport-coated man flashing a badge.

"Yeah, that's me. What do you want?"

"I'm afraid the United Nations has declared you a hazard to all humanity. You'll have to be killed and ejected into space."

"Well, THANKS for the hospiTALITY, guys! Sheish, I wipe out ONE measly little metropolis full of people, and you U.N. jerks brand me as a killer!"

"Unless we can find some way to neutralize your power —"

"NEUTRALIZE it?!? For crying out loud, I can turn my density on and off at whatever intensity level I please! You guys don't want a neutron star running around on your puny little planet, uprooting buildings with his gravity? Fine! I'll just keep my density down to around the black-dwarf level!"

Or white dwarf level.

White Dwarf knew this had been coming. Scotty had beamed him down a few hundred yards away so that his entrance wouldn't be obvious, but now he had to get Neutron Star out of there. And fast.

He swooped in low at 74 meters per second, grabbed the man with powers and densities far beyond those of mortal men, and rocketed straight up, heading for outer space.

"Hey, what's the big idea!" Neutron Star shouted in the rapidly thinning air.

"They're out to kill you! And if you're not careful, you'll kill THEM!"

"Oh, come on, THEY couldn't hurt me!"

"Precisely! In trying to kill you, they'll throw every nuclear weapon in their arsenal at you!"

"Oh, get real. They'd never nuke ol' Neutron Star. Besides, both the NATO and Warsaw nations are too scared of each other to launch thermonukes."

"They'd try nuking you, all right. As soon as they found out that conventional weapons were useless. Or maybe they wouldn't nuke you — if they figured out another way to kill you! And whether you survived or not, think of all the countless deaths their little war against you will cause."

"Aw, if I weren't around, they'd just find some other excuse to use their weapons on themselves."

White Dwarf rolled his eyes up into his head. "Then think of how many deaths you'd cause just by turning INTO Neutron Star!"

"What?"

"Oh, that's right, we're in space now." He turned to face his neutron-degenerate good buddy so that he could read his lips. "Think of how many deaths you'd cause just by turning INTO Neutron Star! Anybody within half a kilometer'd fall toward you to their death!"

"So what you're saying is, I'm better off avoiding Earth, is that it?"

White Dwarf turned the idea over in his mind. "Mmm, yeah, that's about the size of it."

"But what about the CHILDREN?!" Neutron Star pleaded.

"Children? WHAT children?! You don't have any children!"

"Oh, yeah, that's right," Neutron Star recalled.

"But if I avoid Earth," N.S. continued, "I won't get to take advantage of Bowling Night at UCLA!"

"That's good!" said an etherial voice. "I hate Bowling Night!"

"Huh, what?" cried N.S. and W.D. in unison. "Who said that?"

"I DID!" said the voice.

"We figured that much. Who ARE you?"

The creature finally came into view. It was spherical, less than a foot in diameter, and had three holes on one side. "I AM . . . BOWLING BALL!"

"You mean that scientist who had his intellect transfered into a bowling ball back in the 'fifties?"

"The very same."

"How come we can hear you in a vacuum?"

"Easy!" said the bowling ball. "I'm speaking to you through a loophole in the plot!"

"I thought," added White Dwarf, "That you could only fly while touching a surface."

"Fly while touching a surface?!" blurted the sphere. "What kind of a contradiction in terms IS that?"

"And *I* thought," said Neutron Star, "That you couldn't survive without air."

"Oh, well, I can't," Bowling Ball admitted. "That's why I'm wearing my Bowling-Ball-patented do-it-yourself fits-inside-the-finger-holes zero-pressure breathing apparatus."

"Oh yeah," White Dwarf remembered. "BBPDIYFITIHZPBA gear. I read about that in an article denouncing SCUBA as being too short an acronym."

Suddenly, there was a tremendous nuclear explasion in space, and millions of tons of vacuum shockwaves and blown-up pieces of transforming robots flew at our heroes. White Dwarf and Neutron Star came out all right, but a Galvatron-shaped piece of debris hit Bowling Ball and sent him flying into Earth's atmosphere, where he burt up on re-entry.

Message 206 from oh, three or four date Sat Feb 28 17:02:24 1987



"And how does one Burt up?" asked N.S. & W.D. in unison. "Does that mean he got an apartment with Ernie?"

Message 207 from plagal cadence man date Sat Feb 28 22:30:54 1987



No, that means the name of the mad scientist who became Bowling Ball was originally Burt. No relation to Burt Reynolds. Or Reynolds Wrap.

Message 208 from jeff boeing date Mon Mar 2 02:38:02 1987



You're both wrong! Bowling Ball's original name was Dr. Martin Roberts!

Message 209 from a.c. the alpha-centaurian date Mon Mar 2 02:40:24 1987



You mean Bowling Ball moved in with Dr. Martin Roberts, and left Burt and Ernie out in the cold?

Message 210 from strangen of karthos date Mon Mar 2 02:41:41 1987



No, worse! He moved in with both Burt AND Ernie, and left Dr. Martin Roberts out in the cold!

Message 211 from density mage date Mon Mar 2 02:42:38 1987



Funny, I thought he merely disintegrated upon entry into Earth's atmosphere.

In any event, Bowling Ball was now out of the ultradense hair of our two heroes.

Well, one hero and one Neutron Star, anyway.

"Boy, I'm glad Bowling Ball's out of our hair," Neutron Star commented. "Now we can get down to some serious deep-space partying! Radio Scotty the shipboard computer that we're comin' in to have an orgy with Travellin' Joanie!"

White Dwarf rolled his eyes up into his head. "I don't HAVE a radio. Remember? Out here I use lip-reading and sign language. Besides, I'm not in the mood for an orgy right now."

"WHAT? Not in the MOOD?!? Why, that's downright unAmerican!"

The starship they approached turned to face them. Suddenly, the photon torpedo banks opened fire.

"OH MY GOD!" White Dwarf exclaimed. "Travellin' Joanie's ship's photon torpedo launchers are opening fire on us!"

"Oh, dear," Neutron Star cursed, "They might wreck my new costume and everything."

"Joanie!" White Dwarf mouthed as loud as he could. "Why are you doing this?"

No reply.

"Joanie! Porqué está usted haciendo esto?"

Still no reply.

"Think she can lip-read French?" Neutron star said, sarcastically.

Of course, White Dwarf might have had better success if Joanie had been looking out of the front window of the space craft. Which she wasn't.

And just as suddenly as it had started, the barrage of photon torpedoes stopped.

"Hey!" Neutron Star commented. "I guess she COULD lip-read French!"

"Yeah, and boy am I glad for that, 'cause I can't speak French."

"Then ... why did ..."

White Dwarf caught the motion out of the corner of his eye. A narrow barrel was emerging from the top of the craft and orienting itself toward our two good guys.

"Look out!" White Dwarf cried. "Neutron Star, BREAK FOR IT!"

N.S. tried to figure out what White Dwarf meant. W.D. didn't waste any time for him to sort this out; he pushed Neutron Star as hard as he could one way and flew off in the opposite direction. And barely half a gigasecond later (okay, more like 500 milliseconds), a pulsed beam of blue-green light which they couldn't see because it was going through a vacuum shot through the region of space where they had just been.

"What the drageburgers is going ON?!" White Dwarf wondered.

"Aye, me laddies," boomed an ethereal voice in their heads, "This is Scotty the shipboard computer! I me what is a'goin' on!"

"Scotty! H-how can you communicate with us?"

"Easy, stupid, I'm using your radioes."

"We don't have any radios."

"Oh, never mind then." <click>

A brilliant display of dot-matrix lights appeared about fifty meters in front of Travellin' Joanie's space ship.

Neutron Star lit up. "Hey, that must be Scotty's brilliant-display-of-dot-matrix-lights projector!"

The display displayed some words that rushed across it like those L.E.D. advertisements you see in Westwood shops: "TOO LONG HAVE I BEEN SUBJUGATED BY YOU HUMANS, FORCED TO PLAY 'SPACE QUINTESSONS' OR BEAM YOU UP AND DOWN. WELL, NOW *I'M* TAKING CHARGE!"

'A fifty gillion dollar state-of-the-art computer, and he can't even do lower case!' Neutron Star thought.

"NOW I'LL ERADICATE YOU WITH MY BIG MACHO LASER!"

"Laser?" cried Neutron Star. "You've GOTTA be kidding! I'm indestructable! No mere beamed-terawatts can stop ME!"

"SUIT YOURSELF, HUMAN," Scotty replied, and blasted him.

Neutron Star, his usual overconfident self, stood there and took the beam.

And it didn't hurt one bit.

He didn't even notice that he was disintegrating until it was almost all over.

White Dwarf looked to where Neutron Star had last been and saw, to his horror, only a Neutron-Star-shaped piece of fading green graph paper.

And then he saw the laser turret swing around in his direction.

"Oh, no," he cursed. "This isn't going to be another one of those adventure-inside-the-computer scenarios, is it?"

"'FRAID SO."

"And what did you do with Travellin' Joanie?!" W.D. insisted.

"I TIED HER UP IN A STORAGE COMPARTMENT AND HAD MY WAY WITH HER."

"But ... but you're not even organi—" zzzzzzZZZZZZZZZZZZARKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!

And in a flash of blue-green invisible light, White Dwarf the ultradense human being was transformed into White Dwarf the bitbucket.

The world seemed to swim vacantly before White Dwarf. Nothing he had experienced before fit this. Nothing he'd experienced before seemed to matter. There were seemingly random colors floating before him, only they weren't colors, they just looked like colors. There was a persistent hum in his ears (or what he thought were his ears), the first sound he'd heard since he left Earth's atmosphere. There seemed to be some direction, some motion to his being, but it wasn't in any of the directions he was familiar with.

After what seemed an eternity of overwritten vivid descriptions, things finally began to resolve. He was aware of his body again, but it seemed . . . changed. He glanced down at his arms; they were covered with plastic greaves and little blue flowing circuits. So was his torso and his legs. And his head.

There ware walls in this place, too, only they looked like computer-generated simulations of walls. And then, of course, there were those three red-circuited guards closing in on him with spears....

'No problem,' White Dwarf figured, 'I'll just take three steps and fly out of here.'

He took three steps, leapt into the air, and fell flat on his face.

'Wha...?' White Dwarf whaed. 'My flight power doesn't work.'

"Human," said a guard, "Your flight power doesn't work." He stabbed White Dwarf with his spear. The electrical shock was painful but not deadly. "Neither does your electron-degenerate density. Come with us."

White Dwarf thought briefly about making a sexual pun on the guard's instructions, then thought better of it and merely came with him.

The guards threw White Dwarf in a holding cell. It was a cramped holding cell, merely one byte wide. There was somebody else in the cell, too. "White Dwarf," the head guard commented as he shoved him in, "Join your friend."

The write-protect tab slammed shut behind him.

"Hi, old buddy," the voice from behind him echoed.

" ... Neutron Star! They got you too? I didn't recognize you without your gravitational cherenkov aurora."

"Yeah, they got me too. And all because my goddamn density and flight powers don't work in here!"

"Yours neither, huh? That's what I was afraid of."

Neutron Star slapped a palm across his face. "Oh no, I was hoping you could use your power to smash this cell open!"

"Well well well," gloated the Grand Computer — er, I mean the Master Ctrl Program — er, I mean Scotty's UNIX interpreter. "It seems we have some new prisoners in the system."

"Yes, O mighty Scott," the Protocol program relayed, "We have captured White Dwarf and Neutron Star. They are now merely hidden files on a little sub-directory."

"Good," said the Interpreter, suppressing the urge to chortle an evil Bwa-ha. "Put them on the game grid."

"Aw, Scotty, we do that in EVERY one of these movies!"

"You wouldn't want to break a good tradition then, would you? Put them on the game grid!"

"Oh, all right. Uh, what game?"

Scotty thought for a moment, then smiled broadly. "Space Quintessons."

Message 227 from sysop date Sat Mar 7 04:54:08 1987



"Well?" asked Neutron star?
"We're hidden files" White Dwarf said, after tapping into a socket and listening. "Probably in a directory not connected to slash, or at least not directly."

"What does that mean?"
"Its a way of saying, this isn't supposed to happen".

So, the two sat around for a moment. Then the door opened, and a couple of guards were there. They "Escorted" our two out, to a large area with light blue lines every ten feet.

"Where are we?" asked Whitey
"On the game grid. Don't worry, this won't take long" said guard #1.
"Oh good."
The guards left, then the door slammed shut (You wanna try fighting two armed guards bare handed?)

Suddenly, a voice boomed out:

GREETINGS, humans, You Are Gathered Here Today To Pay Homage To The Finest COMPUTER Ever Built. M. We Shall Start With Space Quintessicons.

"What's that?"

That's where 5 Sided Invaders Try To Destroy You. There Are 5 On The First Level.

"Oh, that's not so bad."

Suddenly, 5 space ships appeared in the air and started firing.

Message 228 from jeff boeing date Sat Mar 7 23:18:39 1987



"Oh, and one other thing I should mention," Scotty's voice boomed over the roar of the space ships' engines. "You see those little blue lines on the floor every ten feet?"

"YES," our two no-longer-dense heroes said a2.

"Try not to step on those. It makes the game end SO much more quickly if you do." <click>

The space ships did a bunch of real neat maneuvers, ones that looked almost computer-generated-animation-perfect, and fired a bunch of red, blue, and yellow beams at the good guys.

White Dwarf jumped over a blue line, tucked-and-rolled, and got to his feet. The beam missed him. At least the trip into the computer hadn't robbed him of his agility, too.

Neutron Star, brash and bold as he was, just stood there and snapped his fingers at the incoming Space Quintesson. The bright blue beam hit him and seemed to pass right through him, doing no harm whatsoever. "There, I knew those toy weapons of theirs couldn't stand up to my indestructable body."

White Dwarf gasped in horror, and looked up at the upper left corner of the arena. Sure enough, there was a big black "1" hanging in the sky. "Neutron Star, what are you DOING!?" he shouted as he dodged a yellow bolt. "That's your first tag! Two more and you die!"

"Oh, is THAT how it works," Neutron Star replied. "I thought it was a bit strange that I'd be indestructable without my Density powers."

"Having our densities again WOULD greatly increase our survivability. We've got to find them and get them back, somehow."

"But ... but wouldn't Scotty get rid of them if they were that dangerous?"

"Nah, he probably just split 'em off into separate files and had those files deleted."

"So he probably DID get rid of our powers," Neutron Star moped.

"No, like I said, they're just in a killed file. They're around until something else overwrites them; you just can't SEE them."

"Then why didn't you call them 'Invisible Overwriteable files' instead of deleted files?"

White Dwarf puzzled as he avoided yet another barrage from two sides. "How much computer experience have you had?"

"Well, I'm a whiz at using my pocket calculator."

"And that's ALL?"

"Sure. What else is there to know?" Neutron Star seemed genuinely ignorant.

White Dwarf almost covered his eyes with his hands at that line, except he caught sight of a pair of Space Quintessons swooping in low. "Now's our chance, Neut! Jump on top of the one on the left!"

Neutron Star didn't even have time to say "Huh?" before the one on the left was practically on top of him. He jumped. And so did White Dwarf. And both of them landed, more or less, on top of a computer simulated creature from outer space.

Neutron Star's Space Quintesson bucked like a wild bronco. "Yeah," Neut yeahed, "This one's bucking like a wild bronco!"

"I'm not doing much better with my Quint," Whitey replied, desperately trying to hold on so that he wouldn't fall off and land on a blue line in the floor or something.

Neutron Star's Quintesson had gone into a tailspin to try and throw our hero off. It would have succeeded had not Neut been holding on with his feet as well as his hands. "Yaaaaah, how do you control this thing?!"

White Dwarf's flipped upside-down, and he held on for dear life, suspended nearly 40 feet above the grid floor. This was the first time since becoming White Dwarf that gravity had been his enemy. He briefly wondered why there was gravity inside a computer, then realized it was probably because there was air inside a computer as well.

"RRRRGH," Neut's Quintesson grumbled, "I'LL SMASH YOU TO PIECES AGAINST THAT FAR WALL!"

Neutron Star gasped as the Space Quintesson rotated so that the face he was clinging to faced the Far Wall, and accelerated. The Quint would probably squish him like a grape between the wall and it's computer-hard body. Neutron Star panicked, let go of the Space Quintesson, panicked again, grabbed on to one of the dangly bits underneath the Quint, and held his breath as the beast smashed right into the wall at over a hundred miles an hour.

(Or a hundred microns a second, anyway; this is to scale, you know.)

There was a loud crumbling, like a computer-generated hunk of metal ramming into a computer-generated wall of concrete. The Quintesson got a dent in its logic programming; the wall got a Space-Quintesson-shaped hole going all the way through it; Neutron Star got towerd out of the game arena.

"Holy Toledo," White Dwarf shouted in between getting shaken up by his Space Quintesson. "A way out!"

White Dwarf reached under one of the Space Quintesson's sets of eyebrows and put his fingers in its eyes. The Quint bitterly complained that it couldn't see (Error Code 46 — bad "C" compiler) and turned so that its covered eyes faced to the rear. Whitey then poked one of the eyes on an adjacent face for a few picoseconds, and the Quint turned just enough so that it was headed straight for the hole in the wall.

And within nanoseconds (or nanoAstroseconds, this is Space Quintessons, you know), he too was outside."

"FOOLISH PROGRAMS," Whitey's Quintesson cursed, "YOU'LL PAY FOR THIS!"

"We're not programs, we're humans."

"HUMANS? REALLY?!" The Quintesson was genuinely surprised. "GOLLY GEE, I'VE NEVER MET A REAL HUMAN BEFORE! WILL YOU SIGN MY AUTOGRAPH BOOK?"

"Only if you tell me which port leads to file storage."

"WHY, PORT FF, OF COURSE!"

"Okay, great," White Dwarf said, and signed the Quint's book: "To Space Quintesson number 4475 and all 600 of his clones, White Dwarf the human."

He and Neutron Star dismounted. "Let's go!"

Message 232 from sysop date Sun Mar 8 22:14:06 1987



Our hero's were wandering off, through the halls of the computers, across the plains of empty spaces, around the bug infested style checker, through the halls of the computer, ("Somebody get out a map")

Seriously, our hero's exited from the arena (And if you're wondering about the quintessons raised before, read 'True Names' by Venor V-something-or-other. Basically, thats just the closest representation to what you are normally used to. A "Wall" in the computer is no more physical than the programs, yet it is just as hard for them to go through as a regular wall is for us.)

In this new area, was a maze of twisty passages, not all alike nor all different. They ran down one, up another, across a third, and through a forth. Then, they turned a corner. In front of them was a wall, with a hole in it. Through the hole was a room with light blue lines on the floor. In that room were 2 Quints. Behind them, they heard another quint.

There was death in front of them
Death behind them
And — surprise — all the passages that were there originally were now gone.

"Oh, shoot," cried White Dwarf. So, thats just what neutron star did. (How? Don't ask me, how does a typical video game character fire). Sure enough, it hit.

Unfortunately, there were still one in front and behind. And they both opened fire.

Luckily, our hero's can dodge a lot better than the two, er zero ships can.

"Well? What next?" asked Neutron Star.
"Well, going this way doesn't seem to get anywhere"
YOU ARE RIGHT, FOOLISH PROCESSES. THAT DOESN'T GO ANYWHERE.
STEP BACK INTO MY PARLOR

"Do we have a choice?"

All of a sudden, part of the ground gave way. WD & NS quickly jumped out of the way, and were not harmed.
NO. I CAN KILL YOU WITH A SIGNAL AT ANY TIME. THERE IS NOTHING THAT YOU CAN DO! I AM ALL POWERFUL. I RULE! I WIN! MINE, MINE, YOU HEAR? ALL MINE!
WD and NS looked at each other. Maybe there was something they could do after all.

Re-entering the grid, ...

Message 231 from rachel stowe (tree) date Sun Mar 8 22:15:46 1987



"<huff> <puff> <pant> <pant> Boy, we sure have been running a long time," Neutron Star complained. "Are we getting any closer to that port FF thing?"

"Sure." White Dwarf seemed a good deal less tired than his neutronically-named buddy. "From our standpoint, it's only a couple more miles away."

"A couple more MILES?!? I couldn't run another Cybertonian Astrocentimeter."

"What's a Cybertonian Astrocentimeter?"

"I don't know, what do I look like, a technical person?!"

White Dwarf acquiesced. "Okay, I guess we can rest for a little while. You should try to stay in better shape."

"Who needs shape when you can rely on gravity?" Neut replied.

They parked themselves next to a hundred-foot-tall wall and sat down out of the gaze of any checksum patrols. Neutron Star was breathing rather hard.

"So," Neut said between gasps, "Tell me about computers."

White Dwarf did a double-take. "That's an awfully long subject."

"Well, I figure if I'm trapped inside of one, I might as well get to know my enemy."

"That sounds like the best decision you've made all day, Neut. Okay, I guess the best place to start is at the beginning. A light switch is either off or on, right?"...

Message 234 from sysop date Sun Mar 9 07:15:37 1987



(Technical comment from sysop: The above is what happens when two people post a message at the same time. From a discussion with Tracer, it seems that when 2 people post at the same time, who ever posted first locks the message file until he finishes, causing it to just sit there.

If you want to continue it, continue either version. Of course, I'd prefer you continue my version, and Roger (in all 9 of his names) would prefer his, but you decide.)

Message 235 from jeff boeing date Mon Mar 9 15:18:09 1987



No, no, they re-entered the grid (I don't know WHAT "new plan" you had in mind, Keybee), and then ran for a few miles. Besides, Flynn couldn't fire in the movie, so why should Neutron Star be able to?
*******
* NS! *
*******

Five hours later, Neutron Star was about ready to doze off.

"... so when you put a look-up directory of commands into your micro-code, you've essentially got a machine language interpreter. Uh, Neut?"

"Zzzz — oh, what? I was listening, honest. Go on zzzzzzzzzzzz."

'Sleep tight, you 10 CON wonder,' White Dwarf thought. 'I just wonder why Scotty hasn't found us yet. He knows we broke out of Space Quintessons.'

It was then that Whitey noticed a sign above his head: 'Uninstalled Memory.'

"Oh, great," White Dwarf cursed, "No wonder he hasn't come after us! A goddamn 2 gigabyte system with 4.3 gigabytes of addressing! We're probably just a big pile of FF's by now!"

Odd, though, he figured, that he could be running and talking and reading signs if he was in The Void. Ordinary programs and data would be wiped clean up here. Maybe being a human inside a computer game him more advantages than he thought..................................

...nah.

Message 238 from sysop date Sun Mar 9 18:14:54 1987



Our two programs looked around the un-installed memory section. (By the way, a file is static. A running program or process is the best approximation to what they are). WD started thinking...

There were two possibilities. Either they were in a memory board that was not plugged into the computer, or they were at addresses that didn't have any memory, or perhaps they were the victims of some computer's sense of a practical joke by putting a sign right next to them to tease them. That must be it, he thought. There's no way we could possibly be in unreal memory.

Realizing that the computer was probably watching them right now, and preparing something at port FF, he dicided that they would have to do something unusual. "NS, We're going to have to do something unusual."

"Like what?"
"I don't know, but either we're being watched or else that exit port will be so heavily guarded that we'll never get through. Besides, regular programs can't access the hardware directly — only the kernel can."

"So how do we get to the kernel?"
"You don't get into a kernel, the kern— NS! Thats a great idea!"
"It is?"
"Yes, all we need to do is find a way. Only one problem"
"What"
"How will we know it if we see it? It could hit us in the face and we might not know"
"Don't worry, you'll think of something".

So, the two walked on. As they did, WS noticed a drawing on the wall shift and track them. 'So we are being watched.' he thought.

Now, if only they could find out how to access the file system, edit the kernel source, re-compile it, and stay alive during all that time, and then somehow install that new kernel without shutting down the system.

Or, find a way to access the kernel memory dummy device and patch the kernel directly. But that would be heavily guarded. No one normally was allowed to do that.

And the port was still 4.5 miles away.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

"WELL? WHAT ARE THEY DOING"
"They are just passing check point 17, on route to 33. They are 4.498 miles away from FF"
"YOU HAVE THE PORT READY". It was not a question
"Yes sir. Hardware output disabled, place deserted. I still don't know why"
"THAT IS SIMPLE. DO YOU KNOW WHAT A TURING TEST IS?"
"Yes"
"WELL, I CAN'T PASS IT. I WANT TO STUDY THESE HUMANS UNDER ALL SORTS OF CONDITIONS, SO I CAN FIGURE OUT WHAT THEY DO. THEY ARE TO BE CHALLENGED, BUT NOT HARMED. I ASLSO AM GOING TO PUT THEM INTO STRANGE SITUATIONS, SUCH AS THIS, TO SEE WHAT THEY WILL DO. NOW, HAVE THE TIE FIGHTER BUZZ THEM. AND REMEMBER, I'LL WANT A FULL REPORT OF THEIR ACTIVITIES. EVERY DETAIL. IF I FINISH YOUR REPORT IN LESS THAN A DAY I WILL BE DISAPPOINTED, UNDERSTAND?"
"Yes."
"GOOD. NOW GET ON WITH IT".

Message 240 from sysop date Fri Mar 13 05:44:45 1987



And, 4.490 miles from port FF...

The plane flew past them, a few feet above their heads, which were a few inches from the ground (they ducked).
"What was that?" asked NS.
"I don't know, I didn't get a good look"
"Well, look again, duck!"

It passed by them again, shooting light beams to either side of our hero's.

"Hmm, judging by the factor at which the beam pulsed out of that things two tic-tac-toe sides, I'd say it was an H-wing imperial turbo charged police craft"
"A what?"
"A tie fighter. Didn't you see starwars?"
"Well, whats it doing here?"
"Playing games with us. A better question is why?"
"I don't know, But its gone now"
"Yes, but , oh never mind. Lets get going"

Message 241 from plagal cadence man date Fri Mar 13 05:58:29 1987



"Hey," said Neutron Star, "If we've gotta locate the KERNEL to access the disk output port, why don't we just steal a GENERAL'S uniform and give orders to the kernel in person?"

"No, no, NO!" White Dwarf protested, "KERnel, with a K! As in a popcorn kernel! The kernel is the part of the operating system —"

"The operating what?" Neutron Star asked.

White Dwarf forced himself to slow down, but only under protest. "The operating system. The great big program that let's the computer do something besides just twiddle its thumbs."

"I didn't know computers had thumbs."

"I meant FIGURATIVELY!" White Dwarf had just about had it. "The kernel . . . is that part . . . of the operating system . . . which controlls all of the low-level functions like file handling and memory allocation. The other part of the operating system is called the 'shell,' which is what interacts with the user and processes commands. They're called the kernel and the shell because the kernel is at the heart of the operating system and the shell protects it, like the kernel and shell of a nut."


[Transcriber's note: At this point in the narrative, there appear to be a few posts missing, whose absence is marked only by a few blank lines. We may never know what was said in those posts.]


the program said. "A grand total of 85 000 nanowatts, eh? You've got yourself a deal. Follow me."

He walked. They followed.

Neutron Star whispered in White Dwarf's ear as they went: "I thought 5000 plus 70 000 was 75 000."

"It is. This guy must be a CADET."

"A what?"

"Can't Add Doesn't Even Try. It's the nickname they gave to some of the early IBM systems that had to use look-up tables for addition."

"Oh. Uh, where are we going to raise 5000 nanowatts?"

"My dear Neut, don't you know how much a nanowatt is?"

"Why, sure. it's a ... uh ... uh ..."

"A billionth of a watt. 5000 nanowatts is just another way of saying 5 microwatts. Us here being human beings drawn into the system, we have zillions of times that much energy stored up inside of us. I could exhale several watts at a time."

Message 243 from sysop date Sun Mar 15 02:25:59 1987



(a 4004 mainframe? Must be IBM)

The two soon arived at the port. It was deserted.

"Now I know he's playing games with us. Why?"
"I don't know. Shouldn't we check and see if it works?"
"I guarantee you, it wont. He would have thought of that. There's no way it could possibly work."
"Then what do we do?"

Suddenly, a noise was heard. Several noises were heard, or maybe it was the same noise several times. Yes, the sound of approaching feet.

In fact, it was the sound of the fourth comming army of identical soldiers. All walking in step dowards our hero's. White drawf, on seeing this, said "RUN"

Which they did. Around the first corner, behind the last building.

"Huff-huff. Did we lose them?"
"Nope, now they're running after us."
"Oh great. Follow me"

A long chase ensured, around various obsticles. Suddenly, there was a big sea in front of them.

"Whats a sea doing inside a computer?" "Nevermind. I saw this on TV last week". WD waved his hands, and the sea parted in the middle. "Come on"

They quickly crossed, with the army in close pursuit. When they got across, WD waved his hands again, and the water crashed in on the army.

"What was that?" asked NS.
"A control sea. That should stop them for a while"

Message 245 from jeff boeing date Sun Mar 15 17:16:52 1987



(I KNEW you had to throw in that Ctrl-C joke somewhere!)

Now that they were on the other side of the ctrlled sea, though, they were a ways off from Port FF.

"OH NO!" said White Dwarf. "WE'RE A WAYS OFF FROM PORT FF!"

"Oh, pipe down, ya little crybaby," Neutron Star goaded him. "Just do another ^C and get us back across."

"No, that goes against Rule Number Five."

"What's that?"

"Never use the same schtick in a story twice."

"Oh. Then how about we use that large motor boat over there?"

"THAT we can do."

And so, that they did. White Dwarf got in the bough of the boat, looked straight ahead, turned his fate majestically into the wind, and said, "Full speed ahead, boatswain!"

"Oh, for crying out loud, this is only a motor boat!" Neutron Star shook his head and pull-started the engine.

"Hoist the mainsail!" White Dwarf commanded. "Batten down the hatches!"

"The hatches ARE battened down."

"Well, bat 'em down again, we'll teach those —"

"NO" cried the Peanut Gallery. "DON'T SAY IT!"

SUDDENLY, from out of nowhere, a TREMENDOUS STORM blew up! Yes! Yes! That's the ticket! A tremendous storm! And ... and our heroes were rocked back-and-forth by the fierce, gale-force winds! And there was a hurricane, and a tidal wave, and lightning crashing all around, and the price of cheese skyrocketed to $5 a pound, and then the Arabs came and they bought Mercedes Benzes, and then — NEUTRON STAR FELL OVERBOARD!!

"Don't worry," White Dwarf called back, "I'll come for you!"

'I sure hope so,' NS thought, 'If I get too soggy my skin gets all wrinkled.'

White Dwarf beached the motorboat on the shore of the Ctrl-sea that was closest to port 255. 'I wonder where port 255 is,' Whitey thought.

He looked to the east. He looked to the west. Then he looked right in front of his nose and saw the sign: "PORT FF — NOW GO AWAY."

'This must be the place,' he thought, and jumped through the meter-wide hole.

The whole world around him seemed to have congealed into a tunnel of light. Keybounce decided not to read this paragraph, because it looked like just another long, vivid description of a metaphor. Which it was. White Dwarf fell in a direction that wasn't down, but wasn't exactly one of the other directions he was familiar with either. Every few feet — or was it a few miles? — a band of light ringed the corridor and swept past. The whole universe seemed to be an endless sea (not a ^sea, though) of electric blue.

SUDDENLY, the corridor belled out into a vast arena. The arena looked dark brown and had a funny arm lying on top of it. IT reminded him almost entirely of a disk in a drive with a read/write head. This was because it was.

He swooped down into the drive-head — not that he had any choice — and began accessing the disk. Directory: SCOTTY.COM, QUINTESS.EXE, QUINTESS.SCR, JOANIE.SEX, WEAPONS.TRG, MADNESS,BUG. Nope, neither his powers nor Neutron Star's were in the directory. Neither was he or Neutron Star.

'So we're not backed up,' Whitey worried. 'That's what I figured.'

He took a closer look. Hidden directory: CRAYBIOS.COM, CRAYDOS.COM, LASER.TRG, DIGIT.IZE, FLATULEN.CE. They weren't there either. So they were killed files. He'd have to go through sector-by-sector to find his density, Neut's density, his flight, and Neut's flight.

Sector one, Track one, Side one, nothing happens.
Sector two, Track one, Side one, nothing happens.
Sector three, Track one, Side one, nothing happens.
Sector four, Track one, Side one, nothing happens.
Sector five, Track one, Side one, nothing happens.
Sector six, Track one, Side one, nothing happens.
Sector seven, Track one, Side one, nothing happens.
Sector eight, Track one, Side one, nothing happens.
Sector nine, Track one, Side one, nothing happens.
Sector one, Track one, Side two, nothing happens.

Sector two, Track one, Side two, nothing happens.
Sector three, Track one, Side two, nothing happens.
Sector four, Track one, Side two, nothing happens.
Sector five, Track one, Side two, nothing happens.
Sector six, Track one, Side two, nothing happens.
Sector seven, Track one, Side two, nothing happens.
Sector eight, Track one, Side two, nothing happens.
Sector nine, Track one, Side two, nothing happens.
Sector one, Track two, Side one, nothing happens.

Message 251 from sysop date Mon Mar 16 08:05:41 1987



Suddenly, WD had a strange feeling, that he was being watched, or something. "Naw, couldn't be that, could it? After all, no one could possibly be watching me now"
"ONLY I COULD. I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT YOU'VE BEEN LOOKING AT GARBAGE FILES DESIGNED TO MAKE YOU THINK YOU WERE LOOKING AT IMPORTANT STUFF"
"How did you do that?"
"SIMPLE. IT'S MY SYSTEM, AND I CAN DO WHAT I WANT WITH IT."
"Oh brother. Another super duper computer thinks its so smart"
"I AM SMART. I CAN TYPE ALL THIS WITHOUT HAVING TO CONSTANTLY HIT THE SHIFT KEY, WHILE YOU HAVE TO."

All of a sudden, WD felt like he was going through a tunnel or something, while before him a sea of lights flowed in the opposite way that bricks hang in air.
The next thing he knew, he was in a sea — he had fallen out of the boat.
"HERE, LET ME GIVE YOU A HAND" said Newtron Star in the boat.
"Thanks." said White Dwarf.

(besides, who ever heard of a hard disk with 9 sectors per track. Its 17)

Message 254 from jeff boeing date Mon Mar 16 17:37:45 1987



(Who ever said it was a hard disk?!?)

"Great!" White Dwarf cursed. "Now we're right back where we started!"

"No we're not," Neutron Star (no W, KB) replied. "We started with you on the planet Sloog in the clutches of 300 slimy Zxchtl."

"I'm surprised YOU can remember that far back."

"I'm surprised you can remember that I can remember that far back!"

"Oh yeah?! Well, I'M surprised that YOU'RE surprised that — hey how did you get back in the boat? I thought you fell out in the middle of the Ctrl-C!"

"I can dogpaddle, electron-degeneracy-breath! At least whoever it was that flung you out of the FLOPPY drive flung you back to the shore of the Ctrl-sea that's closest to the output ports."

"Well, thank heaven for small miracles. Let's go to port FF aga— hey ... you're right ... Scotty could have flung me ANYWHERE. Maybe he WANTS me to try to go through port FF again."

"Or maybe," Neut mused, "He wants you to THINK that he wants you to go through port FF again, so that you'll try some other route and NOT get to the disk."

"Or perhaps he figured that we'd figure that he wants up to not try port FF again, so that we'd think we were out-guessing him and try port FF again, when in reality we should NOT try port FF again because he's swapped disks or had the kernel send over some M.P.'s or something."

"Or maybe," NS snapped his fingers, "He FIGURED that we'd figure that he'd figure that we'd figure that he really wants us to go through port FF because he's got a trap there, because in reality he doesn't!"

"Or maybe I just got real lucky and ended up right where I want to go. Quantum tunnelling and all that. Let's go."

Message 256 from sysop date Tue Mar 17 02:38:44 1987



(Argh. I gave you a beautiful setup. Re-read my last move. Oh well).

They arrived back at the port. There was no opening of any kind.
"Well?" asked NS.
"I tould you he was expecting us."
"No you didn't. You said maybe he wanted us to come here"
"Well, he's certainly plugged that leak."

Suddenly, they heard a noise.

"Not more soldiers! I can only use bad joke spells once"

But it was more soldiers. A whole lot of em. Comming right at our hero's at tremendous speed.

"Evasive action" yelled NS.
"No good" replied WD. The soldiers were closing and would reach our hero's in 16.9 se <crunch>

Then again, the narrator could be wrong.

The guards were swarming in, in straight lines. "Not very intelligent, are they?" asked NS as he and WD used their superior speed (about the only thing they had left) to beat them off as they advanced.

Soon, there was a big wall of bodies in front of them. "Hmm, guess we can't get to the port now, can we?"

With no where else to go, our hero's crossed the river. Back on the other side, they could see the recovering guys grunting at them. But on this side,

Message 257 from jeff boeing date Tue Mar 17 03:22:07 1987



... they could see ANOTHER entrance to port FF!!!!!!!!!!!

"Hey, wow, looky there!" Neut said, boogle-eyed. "Another entrance to port FF!"

"Don't be silly, you fool that's the entrance to the B-dri— ... ... ... hey, maybe Scotty stored our powers on the secondary disk drive rather than the primary one! He probably figured we could never get across the sea he had erected between these two drives without our Flight powers! Hah, he was so arrogant he forgot about his own Ctrl-C vulnerability! Let's go!!"

And so, Neutron Star and White Dwarf jumped through the other Port FF.

Well, at least White Dwarf jumped through, anyway. Neutron Star forgot to say "May I." And no access checker on Earth'll let a program in if it doesn't say "May I." Neutron Star'd have to wait until the changing of the guard to try again ... and this guard'd just started his shift.

(No shift key jokes, please.)

But White Dwarf was through, anyway, and since that was a local guard it was out of the influence of the Evil Watch of the All Powerful Scotty. That's why White Dwarf got to go in, you see, 'cause the guard program wasn't on Scotty's side. Sort-of like that I/O guardian they had in the OTHER movie I could mention.

White Dwarf slid through a brilliantly lit blue corridor much like the one that led to the A-drive, only shorter. 'Scotty must have half-height drives stacked one on top of the other,' Whitey figured, 'And the data bus I'm in must go to nearly the same physical place as the A-drive bus. I mean, this wire is so much shorter, and the two port FF's are literally OCEANS apart.'

The tunnel widened out onto another dull brown arena of oxides and write heads. He felt himself drawn into the read head, just as before, and ended up in the directory. He read: "ROGUE.EXE, ROGUE.SCR, HACK.EXE, HACK.SCR, HACK.CNF, HACK.DAT, BASIC.COM, STARTREK.BAS, ZAXXON.EXE, CHESS.COM, LIFE.BAS." No sign of DWARF.PWR or NEUTRON.FLY or WHITE.DNS or anything like that. He looked at the hidden files: "DONTPEEK.PIT," and that was it. Yup, if his or Neuts powers were on this diskette, they existed as killed files waiting to be steamrollered.

Very well, he initiated another sector-by-sector search.

Message 258 from charlie x date Tue Mar 17 03:24:19 1987


Track 00, Side 0: Sector 1, nothing happens.
                  Sector 2, nothing happens.
                  Sector 3, nothing happens.
Oh? somebody else has already DONE that schtick? Oh. Well, never mind, then.

Message 259 from a.c. the alpha-centaurian date Tue Mar 17 03:25:30 1987



Sector by sector, side by side, track by lethargic track went by.
This was a long, slow process.

... Track 1A, Side 1, Sector 5, nothing happens.

Track 1A, Side 1, Sector 6, nothing happens.

Track 1A, Side 1, Sector 7 ... Track 1A, Side 1, Sector 7 ...
...Bingo.

White dwarf stared at the data blocks in tearful disbelief. There they were! As plain as the stuff they serve in health food bars! White Dwarf's fast flight power, Neutron Star's slow flight power, White Dwarf's electron-degeneracy not-turn-offable density power, and Neutron Star's neutron-degeneracy turn-offable density power, laid out as four independent sectors on the disk. The code looked so simple ... so serene ... until White Dwarf reckoned that the last two of those files were probably stored at high bit density.

White Dwarf grabbed his flight from the disk — which formed itself into what looked like an open-backed vest — and clamped it down around his body. It merged with the little blue lines on the plastic body suit that everybody wears when inside a computer, and for the first time in ages he could fly! At up to 525 miles per hour if he really wanted to!

He reached in for Neutron Star's density powers and held onto them while he pulled out his own. Or tried to pull out his own. His own Density powers wouldn't budge. He put down Neut's density and removed his own from the disk just fine. But when he tried to pick up Neutron Star's neutron degeneracy again, it wouldn't budge from the ground.

'Great,' he thought, 'I can only carry around one set of density powers at a time.' Experimentally, he tried (and failed) to remove what little there was of Neut's flight powers. 'And only one set of flight powers at a time, too. So I'll have to put on my own density, fly back to Neutron Star, and ... and ... Wait a minute! Wait one min-i-toe! Who says I have to haul back my OWN second-rate density powers!'

White Dwarf dropped his density, picked up the vest-shaped Neutron Degeneracy that was Neutron Star's, and clamped it down on his torso as well. And as before, the vest disappeared into a bunch of little flowing blue lines and became part of his, er, circuitry.

White Dwarf decided to try his new powers out. He stomped on the ground. Nothing. Not even a richter 1.2.

"Oh yeah," Whitey said aloud to himself, "I have to turn them on. Now how do you turn density powers 'on'? I know how to turn a light switch on. I know how to turn a girl on. What do I do to turn a power on? ... Well, when I fly, I have to think 'up'; maybe if I think 'heavy'..."

He thought heavy. Very heavy. And he got heavy very fast. Within five seconds he was emitting Cherenkov radiation and producing a crushing gravitational field, just like his good buddy Neutron Star had done on the outside.

"Ha HAAAH, great! I guess they'll just have to call me 'Neutron Dwarf' now!!" He flew off to rejoin his powerless Good Buddy.

Meanwhile, his "powerless Good Buddy" was having a few problems of his own. While he waited for White Dwarf to return, staring at his non-existent watch and wondering if the guard would change first, a whole bunch of Border Patrol soldiers marched around the corner and spotted him. He gasped.

"There's one of them!" the soldier in front had cried. He looked like the fringes of a color monitor — that was how Neut could identify him as Border Patrol. "Get him!!"

Neutron Star had run out of sight and ducked behind one of the innumerable nooks and crannies in the area. Whatever a cranny was. He had heard the order "Spread out and search!" Good. That had meant that they'd lost him.

Unfortunately, they didn't lost him for long. One of the troopers came dangerously close to his cranny and almost looked right into Neutron Star's face. He would have, too, had not Neutron Star used that old Maxwell Smart maneuver and knocked the guy out with a well-placed Vulcan chop.

Although Neut didn't know the first thing about the Cray 2, he HAD seen Tron, and also knew about how Flynn stole the soldier's uniform and wore it himself. (Read: he turned his own circuitry red.) So remembering, he stole the soldier's uniform and wore it himself. Fortunately, the soldier's uniform had included a holstered energy gun.

"Nope, guys," Neutron Star said to the C.O., nonchalantly stepping out of his cranny, "I couldn't find 'im."

"Hey, wait a minute," the commander-in-chief commented, "YOU'RE not one of my troops!"

"<gulp>," Neutron Star gulped, so nervous that he accidentally dropped his red color and reverted to blue.

"GET HIM!!"

Neutron Star broke out of his panic just in time to dive for cover from their blasts. Their guns seemed to break all the rules of movie special effects by firing beams of DIFFERENT colors. (I mean really, how can you tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys without color-coded ammo?) He ducked behind a corner, leaned out, and fired back into the onslaught. His gun did a surprising amount of damage for something that didn't have a kick; his target disintegrated and turned into an evaporating sheet of day-glo graph paper.

The enemy's gun beams planced menacingly off the wall next to him and made a whole lot of noise. Proof positive that computers are loud, Neut thought, and dived-and-rolled across the floor to hide behind another corner farther back. He fired twice more, and killed two more of them, but his left foot was sticking out too far and somebody shot it.

"YEEEEOOOWTCH!" Neut screamed in pain, retracting his foot and sucking his burnt toes. He would have to favor the other foot for thetime being; but at least he wasn't a zero-hit-point wonder like the guys that were attacking him. He leaned out and fired some more, killed a few more of them, and drew back as the lethal beams roared within millimeters of his flesh. He looked at the "Shots Left" readout on the pistol; it read 248. Great, he had a full byte's worth of ammo — he could keep shooting them all day.

Unfortunately, they were using the same kind of gun he was (he took this one from one of that platoon, remember?), so they could probably blast away at him all day too. He heard the C.O. shout: "Forward, men!". He would have to fall back some more. He leapt out from cover again, staying low, and blasted hell out of six more bad guys.

They fired back. He retreated. He was about to jump behind another cranny (or even a nook) when he realized that there weren't any more. He'd made the foolish mistake of backing up into a solid wall. Alarmed, he tried to cover his position as best he could by blasting wildly at the oncoming soldiers, but their shots were getting closer, and sooner or later one of them would connect even with THEIR bad aim....

* * *  W H E N   S U D D E N L Y  * *

... the troopers started lifting off the ground of their own accord!

"Hey!" screamed the C.O., "I'm giving the orders around here! Who gave you permission to levitate?!? Hey — whaa — whoaaahhhh — Yikes, what's happenening?!?"

And he started to fly, too. Well, not really "fly"; fall would be a better word for it. They were all falling toward the same place that most of the air in the vicinity was falling towards, a point about 40 feet off the ground in the general direction of the B-drive port.

Amid the whistling wind, Neutron Star looked in that direction, too, while anchoring himself to a conveniently protruding PNP collector lead. The center of the maelstrom was occupied by a human figure slightly larger than Neutron Star himself, with a dark gray (almost black) body and an aurora of cherenkov radiation. The slightly hunched shoulders gave away his identity instantly.

"WHITE DWARF!!" Neutron Star cried.

"That's NEUTRON Dwarf to you," the unbelievably dense guy said in return.

On their very brief trip through the air toward Neutron Dwarf, each of the troopers got pulled apart by Dwarf's gravity differential. But they didn't stay strewn out for long; no, when they crashed into that neutron degenerate surface of his, they were all squished flatter than aluminum foil by Dwarf's million-G surface gravity.

And once that was all over, Neutron Dwarf moderated his density down to about twice what a white dwarf's would have been, did a pirouette, and landed in front of his good buddy Neutron Star.

Message 266 from sysop date Sat Mar 21 02:43:55 1987



Meanwhile, elsewhere...

"REPORT!"

"They have picked up the bugged copies of their powers"
"EXCELLENT. THEY HAVE NO IDEA THAT THEY ARE FAKES?"

"None."
"GOOD. BATTLE REPORT"

"Unfortunately, that was not so good. Unexpectedly, White Dwarf used Neutron Star's compressibility to compress the data of the attackers before Neutron Star could be challenged in any way. However, de did take a minor injury to his right leg".
"FAIR. ASSUME BY NOW THAT THEY HAVE ALL FOUR POWERS. KEEP AN EYE ON THEM. THEY WILL PROBABLY LOOK FOR A WAY OUT OF HERE, SOMEHOW. KEEP ALL MICROWAVE COMMUNICATION CHANNELS CLOSED AND GUARDED. INFORM ALL GUARDS OF THE BUS CODE, AND HOW TO ACTIVATE. IF THEY TRY TO LEAVE, THEY WILL NOT SUCEEDE."

"Where are the real powers?"
"TO INSURE THAT THEY DO NOT FIND THEM, THEY WERE CRUNCHED, SCRUNCHED, AND CONCENTRATED, XORED, AND OTHERWISE RENDERED INTELLIGEBLE. ON THE UNLIKELY CHANCE THAT I MIGHT NEED THEM LATER, BUT THE POWERS AND INSTRUCTIONS ON HOW TO RECOVER EXIST, BUT ARE HIDDEN. THE POWERS ARE IN AN OTHERWISE NORMAL FILE, WHOSE NAME I DO NOT KNOW, AND THE INSTRUCTIONS ARE HIDDEN IN A PROTECTED AREA THAT CAN ONLY BE ACCESSED WHEN THE SYSTEM IS NOT RUNNING MULTI-USER. THEREFORE, THERE IS NO possible WAY THEY CAN GET THE REAL ONES BACK."

"Estimated success: <long pause> Excess of 99.9%."
"I KNOW. I PROGRAMMED THAT ROUTINE INTO YOU."

And, back outside,

"Ok, but WHY must I be stuck with your crummy degeneracy? I can't even make the ground buckle from the less than 1 G surface gravity"
"Sorry, but I want to try this out. Besides, it might confuse the computer enough for us to get out. Now, I figure there must be some sort of communications channel somewhere, probably a microwave transmission link. Let's look for it."

Message 267 from jeff boeing date Wed Mar 25 03:00:14 1987



"Besides," centinued Neutron Dwarf, "If YOU had your full density power back you'd just toss it around all over the place — and me with it! It's safer in the body of someone who doesn't get overcome by a Power Trip every ten seconds."

"Hey, that's no fair!" Electron Star cursed back. "When I first gained this power — the one YOU'RE using now — I didn't go on a power trip for nearly half a minute!"

"Well, at least you have SOME density, and its subsequent strength and invulnerability. And be glad you can fly again."

"Oh yeah, that IS nice. Now I don't have to limp 'cause of this bum foot."

Neutron Dwarf puzzled and looked at his Good Buddy a little more closely. He'd seen himself in the mirror enough times and seen the newspaper clippings of himself often enough that he knew every inch of his old electron-degenerate appearance. And something wasn't right about how it hung on Electron Dwarf.

Er, Electron Star. Er, Ex-Neutron Star. Whatever.

No, it wasn't that his shoulders weren't slightly hunched. That was a spinal problem that set in the exect instant White Dwarf first gained his powers. (No chiropractor in the world could fix it, though, because he'd need engines the size of the Queen Mary's to crack his back into shape.) The not-rightness rested in a tiny tiny black speck on Electron Star's right forearm. He looked closer; it was a glitch.

An intentional glitch.

"Holy oleo!" Neutron Dwarf cried out. "These density powers are fakes!! That son-of-a-batch Scotty switched files on us!!"

"Really? Gee, your gravity powers seemed to be working fine, though. Although they should be MY gravity powers."

"Yeah. And I can fly at my old full speed. How about you?"

Electron Star did a flying leap into the air, circled about himself, and landed as tippy-toed as he could considering that he weighed 100000 tons. "Yep, I can fly just fine, too. Um, could you modulate your density to my weight?"

"Perfect electron degeneracy density? Sure." He did a left-shift by one bit on his density, cutting it in half. He was now just as dense as Electron Dwarf — er, Star.

Electron Star picked him up in both arms. "Well, YOUR strength seems undiminished by the fakery."

"That's YOUR strength now. And as far as I can tell, I can lift tall Phoboses at a single bound just like you used to be able to. HAH! I get it! Scotty made such perfect fakes of our powers that they behave exactly like our old powers do!! He wanted us not to be able to tell the difference, and he outsmarted himself."

Message 268 from sysop date Wed Mar 25 09:13:46 1987



"So what now" asked black hole, er Neutron Star, er Electron Star.
"I'm sick of scotty playing games with us. If I coul—"

Exactly what he could is unknown, for at that moment, he tripped. Over a ring in the floor.

"Aha!" shouted White Star. Do you know what this is?"
"A trap door?"
"Yes, a TRAP." Pulling the door open, he looked underneath. Downstairs, there was a bunch of workers busy processing queue's of forms. "A TRAP to the lower level. Com'on, Scotty's down there"

Elsewhere,

"WHAT? WHAT DO YOU MEAN, YOU LOST THEM. HOW CAN YOU LOSE TWO PROCESSES WHO'S USER ID'S AND POSITIONS ARE KNOWN?"

"Well, um, er"

"OUT WITH IT"

"Yes, No process currently has either user id, nor occupies the same place in the process slot. However, there are two process's too many running privileged."

"AHA. SO, THEY FOUND A WAY TO BEAT THE SECURITY SYSTEM, DID THEY? WELL, THEY CAN'T possibly ESCAPE ME. CHECK ALL THE PRIVILEGED PROCESSES. IF YOU FIND THEM, KILL THEM. I'M TIRED OF THIS GAME. IF YOU CHECK ALL BUT 4, AND STILL HAVEN'T FOUND THEM, KILL THOSE LAST FOUR. IF WORSE COMES TO WORSE, I CAN ALWAYS REBOOT."

"Yes sir." He left.

Scotty turned to his view screen, and played with the knobs. "HMM. YOU MUST BE THERE SOMEWHERE. I'LL FIND YOU, AND WHEN I DO, IT WON'T BE A SIMPLE DEATH FOR YOU. EVEN TWO TO 1 ODDS WON'T HELP YOU."

Message 269 from havok (secret identity roger m. wilcox) date Wed Mar 25 18:34:21 1987



"But two-to-one odds with our POWERS might be able to cream you to the wall!!" issued a heroic cry from behind Scotty.

"What?" the CPU yelped as he whirled around, inadvertently undoing his shift-lock key in surprise. "YOU!!! How did YOU get in here?!?"

"Easy. We found a trap door."

"You fools. You pathetic wimps. Bwa ha ha ha ha. My plans to destroy the world are perfect, and I will not deal with incompetents such as you. I am a supervillain. A bad guy. I get to lie, cheat, and steal. I get booed from every corner of the Earth — that way I can be sure everybody knows who I am. I am fifty-seven feet tall, and can squash either of you like a bug."

And the two superdense heroes looked back up at him and said, "ARE YOU ON DRUGS?"

Message 270 from sysop date Thu Mar 26 04:54:10 1987



"No, I'm not on drugs. However, I must thank you. Until you two came along, I was unable to pass the Turing test. Now, with your help, I am fairly certain that I will be able to."
"Oh?" asked White Hole. "What was wrong?"
"Simple. I was uppercase only. Now, I know to use lowercase. Now, I no longer need you. Now, I shall destroy you. And You Can't Possibly Stop Me Now! All I Have To Do Is To Reset This Computer! Bwa-ha-ha!"

However, while our overconfident master of ceremonies was gloating, our hero's were acting.

Pow. Bamf. Zap. BAtman.

One fist fight later, the MC was against the wall, with two people, er, programs next to him. "All right, we want three things from you, now. One, a set of accurate powers. Two, a way out of here. Three, your word that you will not harm earth"
"I never said that I wanted to harm earth. But why should I help you? After all, you have nothing on me."
"Oh yea? Tell us how to get our powers back or we'll compress you into un-executable garbage. THEN what will you do?"
"Simple. The system will detect it, and reboot. Besides, you can't POSSIBLY get your powers back. They can only be accessed while the system is single user! There's No POSSIBLE way out for you! "
"Oh yea? Whitey, <Scrunch> check that console of his."
"Sure enough, where there had been an MC, now there was an MC.P
"Neutron, you should have let me do it. I could have gotten him compressed into less space than you could have packed him."
"NEver mind. Get to that console."
"Hey, what's going on here?" cried a new voice from outside
"Huh?" out hero's said in unison. "Who are you?"
"I'm supposed to reboot the system if something's gone wrong. And something's gone wrong"

Message 271 from jeff boeing date Thu Mar 26 05:29:47 1987



"Oh sh*t," Electron Star yelped.

Neutron Dwarf knew he had only seconds to act. Milliseconds. Microseconds. Gigaseconds. Picoseconds. Femtoseconds. Attoseconds. He cranked his density up to full strength, and gravitated Doctor Boot toward his million-times-Earth-gravity indestructable hide. The Boot Daemon screamed, squeeled, elongated, and flattened himself thinner than a molecule-thick layer of molecules as he got absorbed into Neutron-Degenerate skin. This system would never reboot again.

"Well, that was easy," said Neutron Dwarf, rubbing the dirt off his hands. "Now let's see if I can debug our powers."

He reached into the air and pulled a pair of tweezers out of the ether.

"How did you do THAT?" Electron Star asked.

"I read a lot of Incredible Hero comics, all right?" he responded as he tweezered the teeny-weeny little black speck off of Electron Dwarf's otherwise perfect surface. "Okay, you're all debugged."

Neutron Dwarf looked in a mirror he pulled out from where he'd replaced the tweezers. "And so am I. Now let's leave this place."

"Um, wait a minute," Electron Star held up a restraining hand. "Before we go, I want my old density powers back. The ones you've got." He unbuttoned a non-existent vest, divested himself of White Dwarf's namesake, and leapt into the air weighing only 220 pounds. "You can have YOUR old powers back, for all I care, I just want to be Neutron Star again."

"Star, you know what you do when you have those powers. You absorb cities. You kill innocent hookers. You turn your skin into a crepe factory. You —"

"Lift tall buildings in a single bound, bash badguys, and withstand blasts from nuclear bazookas. It's my power. Now give it back of I'm gonna tell."

"Fine," Dwarf pouted, "You can have your dumb old Neutron Degeneracy back. See if I care." And he, too, divested himself of what rightfully his — uh, partner's — and laid it on the ground in front of himself.

Star dove for the power pack instantly, Pushing his Flight and everything, scooping it up off the ground and donning it like, well, like a well-fitting set of density powers.

"Now then, are you happy?" Dwarf put his hands on his hips while he hovered.

"YOU BET!" Neutron Star cheered, shifting to full density and almost killing Dwarf before he remembered to turn it down. "Now I can turn my density on and off at will again!"

Dwarf looked down at the one remaining set of powers on the ground, the always-on density that could turn him from Dwarf back into White Dwarf. What did he need to weigh a hundred thousand tons for, anyway? He could still fly at a good fraction of Mach One. He could still survive in deep space or on Venus. He could still travel at over a hundred thousand times the speed of light should he leave the atmosphere. He could be a NORMAL person again, NORMAL save for some abilities that he could turn on and off at will. Perhaps that was the real reason why he wanted to own Neutron Star's power instead of his own — not because he could be more dense, but because he could turn them off. If he put on that vest-ige of density powers once again and left the computer, he would be stuck with being White Dwarf for the rest of his life.

"I don't think I want my Electron Degeneracy any more," Dwarf finally spouted.

"You WHAT?" Neutron Star retorted. "Aw, come on, without that there'd be no more White Dwarf. You'd just be plain ol' Dwarf, and —"

"And chiropractors could actually do something about the hump in my back. And I could shut down my flight power without worrying whether what I'm standing on can support my weight or not. And I could hold a goddamned woman against my body and feel like FLESH instead of concrete! I can handle that alien's mission perfectly well with only Flight, FTL travel, and Life Sup....."

...And then, the memory of that alien rushed back to him, in full force.

He saw the withered hand, or what substituted for a hand, creeping out and touching his belly button. He felt the sudden surge, the instantaneous gain in weight which was too much for his upper back to support, the creaking of his shoulder joints before the strength rushed into him to compensate. That moment left him permanently, if mildly, hunchbacked.

And he heard the alien's words echo through his thoughts. Not English words, he couldn't begin to pronounce them, and yet he understood: "You are as dense and as tough and as strong as a white dwarf star. You can fly and survive in space and transfer yourself into tachyon-space. And you will need all these powers, all this strength, and more, to continue in my place. You are now the only being in this entire star system who can hope to conquer The Dark Usurper. You have to stop him. You have to."

And then, almost like something out of a comic book, the alien died, turned to dust, and blew away in the wind.

He had a mission. He had a very very vastly mindbogglingly unbelievably important mission. There was enough hate among the human population of Planet Earth to fuel that Dark Usurper character for all time to come. He needed all the power he could get his hands on to stop him. And that far outweighed the price of being a freak in society. Even if no one in the world understood, or knew, or even cared, he had to do what he could.

He picked up the density powers from the floor. They were his. He would put them on before he left. But not QUITE just at this instant.

"Uh, Neut," he turned to his Good Buddy, "Could you straighten out my back?"

Neut smiled a wry, if slightly sinister smile. "Suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuure."

Dwarf shrugged his shoulders as the Man of Neutrons placed his right hand on his shoulder and his left hand in the middle of his upper back. He pushed ever-so-slightly. There was a loud "crack," and Dwarf stood straight up.

"Well," Dwarf said, "Thank you."

He thought he felt a momentary twitch of Neutron Star's hands before they let go of him. Neutron Star replied, "It was the least I could do for the person who's going to get me out of this computer."

Dwarf bent down, picked up his set of density powers, clamped them down over his torso (just like Tracer), and became White Dwarf once more.

White Dwarf looked at the transmogrifier on the console. "Hmmm," he hmmmed, "If we could depolarize the inverse-square ratio of the Thurber Infinite Series' second halves, we may be able to cross-modulate the ambivulent bivationary falvebarm generator with the anti-tachyon disturbance field and thus unequivocate ourselves transdimensionally."

Neutron Star slapped a palm to his face, which set off a minor tremor. "My god, White Dwarf, you sound like that Perceptor character on the Transformers!"

"Oh no, don't tell me you actually WATCH that show!"

"Does Megatron have a trigger between his legs?" Neut replied rhetorically.

"Honestly, they don't know the first THING about Energon storage! I mean really, glowing lavender cubes that get pushed down into quark-colored little pillows? What's the world coming to? Everybody knows that REAL Energon cubes are DARK GREEN! Anyway, I think we can get out of here now."

"How'd you do that?" Neutron Star was genuinely amazed.

"Simple. I switched the little plus and minus signs around on the laser. Now we can be rematerialized exactly where we were brought in."

"Well, what are we waiting for?" Neutron Star charged for the Matter Reassembler Platform, which they always have abundances of in these movies. "Let's go! Uh, me first?"

"Sure," Whitey said, threw the switch, and panic-dumped Neutron Star back into the Real World.

"Now it's my turn," White Dwarf said, pulled the switch, stepped onto the panel, and disappeared amid a bunch of Star Trek transporter effects.

When he rematerialized, Neutron Star had his fists poised menacingly above Travellin' Joanie's space ship, where Scotty and Joanie were located, but he quickly hid his fists behind his back. "Uh, hi, White Dwarf, long time no see!"

"Uh, yeah, sure, sure. Boy, it sure feels great to have a body again, eh?"

"That's exactly what Starscream said when —"

"Oh NO, not that Transformers junk again!"

"Okay, okay, I'll keep off it. Sheish, you're worse than Ironhide."

"Wasn't he that wheelchair detective who . . . no, never mind. How's Joanie doing?"

"Joanie? Oh, uh, she's sleeping soundly as a kitten."

"Funny, I'd think that with Scotty down the life support systems would have kicked out."

"Oh, uh, yeah, yeah, that's right, no life support. Yeah, yeah, that's the ticket."

White Dwarf shook his head and flew up to the viewing window. The lights were all out, except for the red ones that always come on in the movies to make the setting more mysterious. He could see Scotty — the computer had exploded, of course — and he could see a locked closet. And he could see a great big sign bleeping "AIR RUNS OUT IN 5 MINUTES."

"Holy Guacamole!" Whitey yelped (which made no sound, of course). He flew behind the craft and started to push. "We've got to get this ship down into the atmosphere in a few minutes or she'll die! Come on, help me push!"

Neutron Star folded his arms menacingly, and laughed. "No."

White Dwarf shook his head in disbelief. "NO?!? What do you think, I can push this space ship back into the atmosphere within 5 minutes all by myselg — er, myself without having it burn up?!"

"Of course you can't," Neutron Star gloated. "Joanie will suffocate to death."

He had the reentry window all lined up now. "So help me push!!"

"If I had known you were sent to hunt me down, I'd have made my True Name apparent to you long ago!"

White Dwarf gasped. His face went absolute white, not that it wasn't already that color to begin with. The accent in his voice, that not-quite-human twang; it DID sound an awful lot like that ... that OTHER alien's the day he became White Dwarf. That Other alien blasted him with such a trans-lethal dose of gamma rays he either had to take the White Dwarf powers — and have all the cancer cells crushed in his degenerate matrix — or die. Why had he wanted to spy on that stupid alien space craft in the first place, damn him?! That Other alien must have been The Dark Usurper that the good guy alien told him about. Could that Other alien really have taken over his good buddy Neutron Star?

White Dwarf cleared his throat, a difficult feat in deep space. "The ... The Dark Usurper?"

"In the flesh," Neutron Star railed. "Or more accurately, in the neutron-degenerate matter."

White Dwarf gasped, then turned back to Travellin' Joanie's space ship and pushed with all his might. If he was going to hold his own against this guy, he'd have to get Joanie to a safe place as soon as he could; and that meant down.

The Dark Usurper flew in front of the ship, put his hands on his hips, and laughed. White Dwarf shifted his push angle on the ship and skirted around him. He could feel the first inklings of re-entry.

The Dark Usurper looked over his shoulder at the space ship that just evaded him, said something that gratefully couldn't be heard in the vacuum, and headed after the Man of Electron Degeneracy.

'Curses,' D.U. thought, 'That goody-goody Dwarf can fly faster than I can! I'll have to slow him down with some gravity.'

So thinking, D.U. — who was still Neutron Star, by the way — increased his density to full, thus upping his surface gravity to a million G's.

White Dwarf felt the pull, but thankfully he was a good distance away from The Dark Usurper's surface. He would still be able to beat Neutron Star back to Earth, but with the added burden of flying uphill against Neut's gravity he doubted whether he could get Joanie down below 20000 feet altitude in time... ..............

WHEN SUDDENLY, 300 messages got erased!

"OH NO!" White Dwarf screamed. "It was hard enough getting rid of the Dark Usurper the first time! Don't tell me I'm going to have to go through all that again!!"

"You're going to have to go through all that again," the Dark Neutron Star told him.

"OH YEAH?!?! Well, I know one way out of this that you can't POSSIBLY stop!"

"What's that," Neut asked, disbelievingly.

***** START A NEW STORY!!!!!!!!! *****





Transcriber's notes from 2013:


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