Jun 16, 2000

Troll Wars

It was three in the morning. The moonless night engulfed three individuals in complete darkness. Three individuals who moved, with surprising grace, toward a single destination. Three individuals on a campaign; a mission. A campaign to rid Slashdot of lame trolls. A mission to ultimately destroy Slashdot forever.

A low candle flame, flickering slightly in the crisp Autumn night breeze, lit the storm sewer corridors and access tubes with a deep yellow pallor. Faint whisperings, little more than leaves brushing against ancient cement walls to the rest of the world, could be heard.

“Where is Alan? I thought I saw him approaching a moment ago,” Trollaxor hissed. Standing a full six foot, with slicked-back black hair and a few day's worth of stubble, Trollaxor looked every bit the revolutionary in his black leather biking jacket. His green eyes pierced the dimly lit darkness, awaiting a response.

“I believe he tripped on his beard,” Linus stated matter-of-factly, with just a hint of impatience. Linus Torvalds, Open Source hero and maintainer of Linux, stood taut as coiled snakes as he realized the gravity of the situation.

“Contact him. We have already overstayed our time in this place, even as we arrive,” Trollaxor pushed.

“Fine,” Linus Torvalds threw back the hood that concealed his Finnish visage, which was painted with tightly closed eyes and a look of grim concentration. He rubbed his temples lightly as sweat began to bead upon his high Finnish forehead.

Mumbling rapidly in Finnish, Linus turned to the East, now raising one hand above his head, palm extended to the direction of the sun's somnal abode.

“I can't seem – to contact him –” Linus grunted in broken English. “I will try another method!”

Now a tributary of Old Swedish poured from the well of Linus's foreign maw. Trollaxor started, “Linus, if he is lost to us, there is nothing you can do, not even a fossil language can bring him to us now!”

Linus broke his linguistic trance and turned to Trollaxor. “In the name of all discontinued Japanese Transformers! The enemy must have captured him! Damn him and his filth-ridden beard! Now you know why I hate working with dirty GNU hippies!”

The enemy, as both Trollaxor and Linus knew too well, were the nefarious Slashdot Moderators, a group of numb-minded, brainwashed denizens of their strange, dark world that patrolled in hopes of disabling those who rebelled against their beloved Commander's will. “As dirty as he was, he was a valuable ally that you and I and the rest of the free world needed,” Trollaxor dryly pointed out. “If the Mods got him, we must forego tonight's plans and rescue him immediately!”

Grunting again, this time out of frustration and anger, Linus whispered sharply thru clenched teeth in a heavy accent, thick with Finnish and Old Gutnish phonemic forms. “In the name of unmade Beast Wars toys, how are you and I to do a thing if the Mods patrol tonight?”

Trollaxor, ever the rebel to thrive against challenge, grew a vicious smile as he turned to Linus again. “The harder they patrol, the harder we troll, my friend.” Linus remained nonplussed. As Trollaxor tightened the belts on his black leather biking jacket and made sure all miscellaneous zippers were sealed, his face brightened even more. “We've faced worse setbacks. Remember the fallen trolls. And remember more so those trolls who have gone over to the other side.”

As Trollaxor's voice trailed off, Linus hung his head and exhaled slowly. Thoughts of the fallen whipped thru Linus's Finnish brain like TCP packets to Linux's bit bucket. “No, how can I not remember. Troll Mastah, Signal 11, travesty—they tried to break us!”

“Looks like they'll try again!” Trollaxor replied, smiling, completing a verse from Wild Boys, the infamous Duran Duran track that Trollaxor and his camp had taken up as their anthem. “Now come on. We have some Mods that need bitchslapped tonight!”

Linus closed his eyes and bobbed his head three times, while, in Latin, rattling “Nonigne et neluce! Ex! Ex! Ex!”, automagically extinguishing the candle that had lit their clandestine council. Casting a dirgical glance at each other, Linus and Trollaxor crept out into the night on their newly made, desperate mission.

In the backs of both of their minds, fear gnawed at them.

◇ ◇ ◇

Alan Cox wearied to the point of exhaustion. As sweat stung his eyes and collected in his beard, he shook his head lightly and peered over top of his cheap sunglasses.

It was night. Early morning? Alan didn't know. He felt a pain on the back of his head and firm hands gripping his skinny, atrophied arms. He heard fast talking in a barbarous tongue. He estimated, by the sound of footsteps and murmuring, he was in a party of about a dozen people. People he knew to be the dread Moderators.

Suddenly, he heard shouting up ahead, and heard the company begin to halt. More shouting in what he finally realized was the Etruscan tongue, which had been used exclusively by the Moderators since the dawn of their kind, and then silence. Thru the silence he heard a single set of footsteps drawing nearer.

“Where?” Alan forced out, finding his own voice to be dry and strained from strain and sleepiness.

A quick slap from whoever had stepped in front of him silenced Alan immediately. “You, Alan Cox, rebel, dissident, shit-disturber!” Alan noticed the substandard English immediately. “You have no right to ask where. You have no rights anymore. Those who choose to stand against the Commander and Slashdot are lucky to even–”

The speaker was abruptly cut short when Alan spat in his face. “You fucking karma whore! Power-hungry insecure fucking karma whore!”

The speaker started. “Silence, pig!” as he buried an armored knee into Alan's loins. Alan barfed in pain, most of the vomit entangling in his beard. “You'll not speak again!” The speaker stepped back a few paces, and, in the Etruscan tongue, which Alan knew little of, ordered the others in the company to strip their prisoner naked. Even as Alan blew the last few chunks of undigested Ramen noodles and soggy Cheezie Doodlez out of his mouth and sinus cavities, his clothes we ripped from his haggard body, exposing his small, pale, hairy frame to the night air.

“Ah,” began the voice in English again. “Alan Cox, naked and petrified. What a laugh!” A cork popped off a container in the darkness At the sound, Alan began to scream like a little girl. “Oh, Alan doesn't like hot grits? Alan must know what the Commander's hot grits do to trolls! What a clever little traitor you are. Bottoms up!” And with that the glug-glug of emptying liquid was heard. Alan's screams filled the night as deadly hot grits were poured onto his sodden crotch.

As Alan thrashed his head and beard wildly, he felt the petrification simultaneously climbing up and rolling down from his crotch. By this point he could not feel his dingle-dangle, and his toes he could barely move. Alan gritted his teeth and hissed at his captors. “Never. As long as I have breath left!”

Sinister laughter filled the air as Alan slowly heaved his chest and struggled even to wiggle his beard, now almost totally petrified. “Well, you won't have breath for very much longer.” Alan, now almost totally numb and paralyzed, saw a torch brought forth. And in the split second before he drank oblivion, he saw the wicked face his tormenter, lit by wildly dancing fire. Then he saw nothing.

With the petrification complete, Signal 11 laughed a laugh poisonous with sarcasm and evil. “Burn his clothes and bind him for carrying. We have a long journey before we reach base by morning,” he spat in Etruscan.

The company of Moderators, led by Signal 11, embarked on the last leg of their journey, complete with Alan Cox, naked and petrified.

◇ ◇ ◇

Trollaxor and Linus stooped low, under the brush that grew alongside the road above. Their breaths came quickly.

“Linus, can you try to detect his presence? Is he within our radius? I last saw Alan along the Southern pass of this road as I flew silently overhead to our storm sewer hideout!” passed Trollaxor in a fluid whisper.

“He was far when last I tried to contact him,” replied Linus. “I could barely detect his presence, let alone his position. I'll try again.” Linus, clutching at the bramble and heather under him, hissed rapidly in Latin, then Old Norse, constructing an incantation of detection. Trollaxor watched on, helpless to aid his compatriot, intensely awaiting any sign of Alan Cox.

Linus ejaculated his incantation at fever pitch now, too fast for Trollaxor, even with his own self-taught linguistic skills, to decipher anything. Linus began to chant in Frisian and Anglo-Saxon now, sweat dripping from his slick Finnish forehead, glasses fogging above his tortured breath, now a fast pant, like a dog's in heat.

With a cry like a freshly de-hymened virgin, Linus collapsed on the ground, breathing fast, full of despair. “I cannot sense him, for all the Decepticon generals in the world! It is as if he no longer exists here any longer, or never did!”

After a few seconds, Linus started to sit up, an expectant look on his face, toward Trollaxor.

Trollaxor's face was awash with anxiety and worry. “Did you sense any other presences? The Moderators? Any other trolls, hidden in the area? Anything?

Linus blew hot air from his lungs. “Though they're no longer within my radius of persuasion, a group of Moderators were here not long ago. I could sense that. About a dozen. And yet…”

Linus stared hard at nothing, biting his Finnish lip almost hard enough to draw blood. Trollaxor came eye to eye with Linus. “Yet what? What did you sense?”

With a hard stare into oblivion, Linus shook himself and wiped his generically cut hair back off his his face. “The Moderators' presence were easy enough to detect. Yet there was one among them who was concealed from me. He was not a moderator. Not a moderator, but very powerful. But I could not. His identity was totally concealed! Very powerful and saturated in the Commander's evil!”

Biting his own succulent, badass lip, Trollaxor weighed the gravity of Linus's report. “Was it one of the Black Advocates? Why would they be on a petty Moderator patrol? What does it mean?”

“No!” exclaimed Linus. “It was not one of the Advocates. Their signatures are known to me. Their presence is always felt. Their black weight crushes my shoulders always. But no, it was not one of the Advocates. That is what worries me, and you too, I am sure.”

Weighing options, his typical aloof and devil-may-care attitude gone from him, Trollaxor finally stood upright and turned away from Linus. “We'll have to hold up in the Storm Sewer Compound until we can devise something. We're not safe near the road, and with no reason to follow it, the risk isn't worth it to expose ourselves. Here, climb on my back, I will fly us there in a silent manner.”

Linus mounted Trollaxor, hugging his arms around Trollaxor's waist, inhaling the macho scent of Trollaxor's black leather biking jacket. The aroma filled him with courage and eased his mind from unneeded and useless worry. He closed his eyes and felt Trollaxor take off silently into the night sky.

By the time Linus opened his eyes to see their location, the Storm Sewer Compound was rapidly coming into view. A few seconds later, they entered it, after a feather-soft and soundless landing.

Trollaxor groped in the darkness, knocking over a few books and what sounded like a Sun 3/60 workstation by the concrete breaking under it. “Lux igne!” Linus pronounced in Latin, causing a candle to light.

Trollaxor had indeed knocked loose a Sun 3/60, and the split in the concrete was massive. With a stern look on his face, he replaced it, and then retrieved what he had been looking for. “Okay. I know you're exhausted. There is a pile of hay in the next corridor you can make sleep in. I'll be up a while longer researching some things.” He set a pile of books on a nearby table while he finished addressing Linus. Trollaxor then took a cigarette from inside of his black leather biking jacket and lit it with his customized Zippo lighter. As he drew a thoughtful drag from his cigarette, he turned to Linus.

“I wouldn't worry too much. We are doing all we can at the moment. We'll need your strength to summon any trolls in the area that may be in hiding from the Moderators.” Linus's expression didn't change; he was once again frightened for his ally, Alan Cox, as much as he loathed his personal hygiene habits.

“I did detect some trolls in the area, some quite near to hear, but well hidden from the Moderators and myself. Until then,” As he paused, Linus's forlorn expression focused on Trollaxor's carved face. “I am so frightened! Can I– Can–”

Trollaxor intercepted Linus's plea. “Do you want to sleep in my black leather biking jacket again, comrade?”

Linus nodded feebly while a winsome grin spread across his lips, revealing his gleaming Finnish teeth.

Trollaxor removed his black leather biking jacket after taking his cigarettes from its pockets. Donning it, Linus scurried to the next corridor without a word, sleep beckoning to him like a Bangkok whore to sailors on leave. Soon his soft Finnish snores could be heard echoing quietly throughout the Storm Sewer Compound.

Meanwhile, Trollaxor opened several of the books, his face a godly representation of concentration. He knew deep inside his heart of hearts that he and Linus had little chance of wrestling Alan Cox away from a full patrol of Moderators. Though he didn't like to admit it, they needed more help, and the scarce, hidden trolls of the area were there best and only hope at the moment. He only hoped that he and Linus would find them willing to help.

◇ ◇ ◇

Day broke on Trollaxor's face as he stepped into the light, jacketless, his mind weary for sleep. He heard Linus stirring in one of the other corridors and knew he'd be awake and by his side in no time.

“You know, we have no chance against a full patrol of Moderators,” Linus spoke, suddenly appearing next to Trollaxor, wearing Trollaxor's black leather biking jacket.

“I know. I knew that last night,” replied Trollaxor. “I did some scouting. I flew past the Southern pass of this road and further on, down into the Southern Valley, within site of the Source Forge. And saw no signs of the Moderators or Alan.”

Linus looked down at the ground.

“The Moderators must have been on the move all night. That's the only way they could have been out of this area so quickly,” Trollaxor continued. “We need Alan back before we can do anything else. And I didn't see any signs of trolls or trolling from here to the Source Forge either,” finished Trollaxor in a dead tone.

Linus removed Trollaxor's black leather biking jacket and handed it to its owner, cold in the morning chill, a tight, thin white t-shirt his only shield against the cold. He gladly wore his jacket again, and he could feel Linus's body warmth in it still.

“By Starscream's wing, we're helpless to do anything alone. Shall I begin rooting out trolls friendly to our cause?” asked Linus, turned to Trollaxor, awaiting instructions.

“No,” replied Trollaxor, his wicked grin returned, revealing naturally straight, white teeth. “Past the Source Forge, out of the Valley, in the Far Southern Waste, is a band of trolls I know. Trolls we can trust. If they've continued their raids on the Source Forge, as they used to do, they should be well equipped and ready for action. We would do well to visit them, rather than looking for whomever might live around here.”

Linus agreed quickly with Trollaxor, as he was apt to do, and spoke. “Who are they? Would they be able to travel with us?” Linus shook spiders and centipedes from his robe and a scorpion crawled out of his hood.

“They are established trolls, of the clan Litera, all adept to the greatest skills and intricacies of High Trolling. You haven't met them yet but soon will, assuming.”

After a quick shave and shower, both Trollaxor and Linus sealed their Storm Sewer Compound. They wouldn't be seeing it for a while. They had decided to walk, as flying during the day would almost certainly be detected by Slashdot's filters. And so they embarked on their journey, in search of allies and Alan.

Trollaxor burped and Linus giggled as they took the first few steps toward the Far Southern Waste.

◇ ◇ ◇

gigant0r stirred in the sunbeams that cascaded thru the trees' leaves. He'd heard a massive burp just moments before, and as he awoke he began looking around.

Clothed only in a loincloth made of deciduous leaves and pine cones, the forest sprite gigant0r realized in alarm that the doors to the nearby abandoned storm sewer had been sealed shut. Someone had been in his forest, and been blatant enough to belch so early in the morning, waking him! He began leaping from tree to tree, making soft cooing sounds, a look of panic on his pale British face.

After climbing to the top of a very tall, rigid tree, gigant0r had his vantage point. He could see, far off in the distance, two travelers, alongside the road nearing Southern Pass, among the bramble and bushes. His keen forest eyes had caught what an untrained survey couldn't have.

His face glowed when he saw the one traveler's black leather biking jacket. Trollaxor had been in gigant0r's forest for some time and he hadn't even known about it! With a sinking heart he realized he'd missed out on Trollaxor's company.

He climbed down from his tree and stepped gingerly toward the sealed Sewer Storm compound.

◇ ◇ ◇

Linus and Trollaxor paused for a smoke. Linus took a cigarette from Trollaxor and placed it deftly between his lips while Trollaxor, in a single fluid motion, flicked his customized Zippo lighter into flame and lit Linus's cigarette.

Linus coughed as he inhaled the sweet, succoring smoke deep into his lungs. Trollaxor inhaled even deeper and exhaled the thick, white smoke into the forest air.

“Do you think it was wise to leave Robot Ron behind in the Storm Sewer Compound, deactivated?” asked Linus.

“In case we need a backup from the North while we are past the Source Forge, Robot Ron can come by remote control,” replied Trollaxor without thinking.

Robot Ron was a creation of Trollaxor's very early dabblings into artificial intelligence and electrical engineering. Immensely strong and having special abilities such as 2× Grits generation and a full array of +1, +2, +3, +4, and even +5 beams, Robot Ron was an asset to Trollaxor, with one catch: his personality algorithms were buggy.

Stupidly, under the recommendation of RMS (back before the Great Schism, when trolls and Advocates lived together in harmony), Trollaxor had used the GCC to compile virtually all of Robot Ron's AI. Now he was an unstable maniac, whose AI became more and more corrupt as his uptime increased. And so Trollaxor had decided to leave him behind.

“The less uptime he has, the better,” continued Trollaxor. “We'll only use him in a dire emergency.” Then, turning back to the path they were following, he said, “We'd better get going. The sooner we arrive at the Southern lip of the Valley the better.”

And so they reembarked on their travail.

◇ ◇ ◇

The sealed door to the Storm Sewer Compound creaked and groaned under the pressure tiny gigant0r exerted, trying to open it. Sweat covered his pale, thin, hairless body, and his loin cloth threatened to lose its position around his waist if he didn't stop to readjust it.

“Fucking Hell! This door is always open! Why would Trollaxor have sealed this fucker?” gigant0r cursed to no one in general. In his little British mind, gigant0r tried to reason why Trollaxor had sealed off the Storm Sewer Compound. After several hours of standing still, his loincloth now more dangerously close to falling off then ever, gigant0r shook himself out of his trance, smiled, and wiped dry spittle from his lips.

“Of course!” gigant0r spake in his British accent, “They must be hiding something wonderful inside!” Thoughts of Cobalt Qubes, prototype first-generation PSX consoles, and life-sized posters of Kirk Cameron filled gigant0r's head while a look of wild glee slowly spread across his face. “I must get in there. But how?”

Darkness had fallen when gigant0r once again shifted violently out of his stupored trance. His loincloth finally fell to the ground of the forest, revealing his boyhood, but he didn't care. gigant0r's plan to open the sealed Storm Sewer Compound had been given birth to out of the vulva that was his mind.

Fishing around in his fallen loincloth, gigant0r finally freed his thick-framed Seventies-style prescription lenses. Smelling like hot musk near his nose, he wore them like a pro. gigant0r screwed up his face, as if trying to remember something.

Yes!” gigant0r yelped, his naked, hairless body jumping up and down in glee. “I've got it!”

Suddenly the dark forest was filled with a poorly rendered version of the Beatle's A Little Help from My Friends, in a blatantly uppity British accent. Leaves fell from the trees, small plants curled and died, and several birds flew into trees on purpose.

An amazing transformation was taking place. In the place of the pale, naked, hairless little boy was now a ripped, tanned, rug-chested man who bore a remarkable resemblance to Paul from the famous TV show, The Wonder Years, glasses and all.

gigant0r, surrounded by a mystical light, finishing the last verse of the song in his own unique falsetto, raised his arms above his naked body. Taking in a deep breath, he clapped his hands together and bobbed his head three times each, chanting louder and louder, "“I am Paul,” until the forest shook with his squeaky boyish shouting.

Now gigant0r/Paul, the ripped man-thing, stalked toward the Storm Sewer Compound with purpose.

“Seal the Compound, will you, Trollaxor?”

gigant0r/Paul grabbed a hard hold of the door handle to the compound, a look of fierce desire on his face.

◇ ◇ ◇

With a thud, Alan Cox's naked and petrified body landed on a pile of manure-ridden hay. He was cold and purple, and to the casual observer, would have been in the postmortem stage called rigor mortis. But this was not so. Evil hot grits had been used to petrify Alan and bring him to this woeful state.

As he reviewed all of this, Signal 11 laughed. Half of his band of mindless Moderators slept silently while the others tended to various chores, such as stoking the fires, watching guard, or hunting for maverick trolls in hopes of shooting them with Negative Modifier energy beams.

Signal 11 grabbed a piece of manure from the pile of hay where Alan Cox's naked and petrified body lay and chewed on it thoughtfully, completely content with the world, pleased with his choice of aligning himself with Slashdot, its Commander, the Moderators, and Black Advocates. His green and white armor shone warmly in the light of the fire. Yes, he thought, he had indeed made the right choice. But in the back of his mind he thought of Alan Cox and was troubled.

Before the Great Schism, when Trolls and Coders and DGHs and Moderators lived in harmony, Alan Cox had been an Advocate. A member of the GNU camp, Alan had had it made. Then money and power corrupted those with influence. Advocates were revealed to be the tools of the all-powerful Commander and his evil empire Slashdot. Moderators enforced martial law the world over; however, Alan did what no one expected: turning his back on the other Advocates, he sided with the Trolls.

Signal 11 had been one of the most skilled of his kind, practicing several of the arts of Higher Trolling. Running free with the legendary likes of Troll Mastah and Bruce Perens. (note the period), Signal 11 was a foundation upon which Trolldom was defined, a troll among trolls, a role model for young trolls everywhere, and an all-around funny guy.

Then the Great Schism came. At that juncture in time, Signal 11 revealed himself to be tactile, cold, and selfish: acting in a similar but opposite fashion to what Alan Cox had done in the Great Schism, Signal 11 sold out his fellow trolls and switched sides, crossing the chasm from being a master Troll to being a loyal Slashdot subject and Karma Whore.

As Signal 11 pondered he and Alan Cox's juxtaposed stations in life, he yawned loudly, smelling his manure-laden breath, and stretched his tired tendons by bending over and grabbing his ankles repeatedly. Calling to the last few wakeful Moderators in Etruscan, the mystery devil tongue of the Slashdot Empire, Signal 11 made way to his green and white tent, ready to curl up with his favorite book, the Cathedral and the Bazaar, and suck his pacifier until sleep took him.

Tomorrow he and his band of Moderators would reach ESR's fortress, and would be clean of Alan Cox, naked and petrified, forever.

◇ ◇ ◇

Linus snored in a Finnish manner, once again curled up in Trollaxor's black leather biking jacket, a look of simple happiness across his Finnish face as he slept dreamlessly.

Trollaxor and Linus had travelled farther South during the day, and had stopped for a few hours of sleep. The darkness enveloped them both. And it was in the darkness that it was safe for Trollaxor to fly.

Trollaxor looked upon the sleeping Linus. He surveyed the area once again and made sure Linus would be secure for the few hours that he would be gone. After once last glance around, and pulling some more brambles and heather over Linus's flaccid form, Trollaxor alighted and was gone into the night sky, his masculine form silhouetted by the new moon above.

◇ ◇ ◇

Back at the Storm Sewer Compound, gigant0r wept and wheezed.

His transformation into the rugged Paul had been temporary. After wrenching the door off of the Storm Sewer Compound, gigant0r/Paul felt a great weakness come over him. Being hypoglycemic, gigant0r/Paul began to worry. The transformation into Paul taxed gigant0r's tiny British body beyond what it could handle, and now gigant0r lay in the doorway to the Storm Sewer Compound too weak to move, wheezing for breath.

“What I would do for some Cheezie Doodlez or Curry Ramen Noodlez now,” thought gigant0r in a moment of mental clarity. Sweat poured over and covered his boyish, hairless form in a sort of musky dew. “Fuck it all! There probably aren't even any life-sized posters of Kirk Cameron or PSX consoles at all in here, are there!?” he spoke aloud in his nasal British accent.

gigant0r jumped as he heard some strange noises in reply. A squeaking, from the far end of the corridor he lay in, echoed to him. He paused for a moment to be certain that it was not his own voice. The squeak came again, this time after he hadn't spoken. gigant0r began to worry again. Perhaps Trollaxor had sealed the Storm Sewer Compound not to keep others out, but to keep someone (or something) in. gigant0r shuddered as he heard more squeaking and now clanking. Growing closer.

gigant0r never remembered what happened after he soiled and wet himself in fear, laying naked on the cold cement floor of the Storm Sewer Compound. Sweet oblivion beckoned and gigant0r had blacked out.

◇ ◇ ◇

Trollaxor had flown a little farther South when the Source Forge came into view. ESR's dreaded fortress of melancholy, it was heavily fortified with guns. Guns what should have never been in the hands of such an uneducated, evil entity such as ESR, one of the chief Black Advocates and a malicious Gas Baron.

As Trollaxor climbed higher into the night sky overtop the Source Forge, his ultra-thin PowerPC-based cellular phone, which ran QNX Neutrino, rang loudly. Panic struck Trollaxor as he retrieved the custom made cellphone from the right back pocket of his form fitting jeans.

On the backlit LCD screen of his QNX-on-PowerPC cellphone, the message glowed eerily at him in the night: SSC UTIME640H PLANZ. THANK YOU.

Trollaxor realized this meant that the Storm Sewer Compound had been broken in to, and that Robot Ron had awoken, as he was set to do in such a case, and had neutralized the situation and was awaiting further instructions. UTIME640H was simply Robot Ron reporting his total uptime at reboot, 640 hours.

Just as Trollaxor began to dial Robot Ron's built-in cellular voice modem, panic struck him again. In his attention to his QNX-on-PowerPC backlit LCD screened cellphone, he'd fallen in altitude and had come dangerously near to the Source Forge. So close, in fact, that he could even see the Slashdot filters that were probably detecting him right now. The Slashdot filters that flashed red.

“Mensch, zielen! Schnell, schnell!” Trollaxor, still falling, looked to his right and saw a platoon of the Gas Baron's Hessian mercenaries taking aim at him with their insidious -1 Negative Modifiers. “Damn them!” thought Trollaxor, “there are Moderators among the Hessians!”

“Scheissen,” trilled in the harsh Hessian accent that found its home on the tongues of ESR and his men, was the last word uttered before the Source Forge's defense force of Hessian mercenaries and Slashdot Moderators let loose at Trollaxor with deadly -1 Negative Modifier beams.

◇ ◇ ◇

Linus awoke to silence and the chill wind of Autumn in his bones. The Finnish hair on his pale programmer's chest stood on end as a breeze swept thru the heather and brambles that covered him; his robe was no deterrent for the weather in this season.

Linus also realized that he was alone. Trollaxor was nowhere to be seen in the dark, and Linus detected no one nearby. Clutching Trollaxor's black leather biking jacket for security, he felt a little stronger, and so dared to venture about the area.

Out of the inner pockets of his robe, Linus heard a beeping, and realized that his own custom cellphone must have received a message. He fumbled in his robe for several seconds until reaching it. Linus's cellphone was a treasured gift from Trollaxor. It had been Trollaxor's first cellular project, in which Intel's Pentium III processor and Linux were used. After realizing how shitty such a combination was, Trollaxor built his current cellphone, using a copper PowerPC 440 core and QNX Neutrino 2.1 kernel, while giving his shoddier, initial foray into cellular innovation to Linus.

Whatever the architecture and OS, Linus saw on his cellphone that Robot Ron had been reactivated. The message also revealed that Ron had been running a total of 640 hours upon this latest reboot. That had been an hour ago. Too far from the Storm Sewer Compound to retrieve Ron, and not knowing where Trollaxor might be, Linus began muttering an ancient prayer in Swahili in supplication to his gods Orion Pax and Alpha Trion. He would pray until his fearless master returned. He pulled Trollaxor's black leather biking jacket a little tighter around him.

◇ ◇ ◇

Robot Ron stood looking around outside of the Storm Sewer Compound, gigant0r's soiled, limp, naked form slung over his hefty robotic shoulder. His AI routines told him to wait for his master and creator, Trollaxor, to either return or to send instructions. But today Robot Ron didn't feel like waiting for either of those things to happen. Robot Ron leered at the smelly ass next to his face and swung gigant0r's limp body around, hitting the British forest sprite's head on the cement walls of the compound, in a simple attempt to wake the boy.

“Ow, you fucker! What in Hell is–” began gigant0r, in an especially annoyed British accent. “What the fuck?” he whined as he saw the back end of some automaton near his pale British face, and felt wall after wall greet the bottom of his head. Had he not been passed out before, he would have passed out now. “Put me down, god damn it, or I swear I'll trash talk you!” let out gigant0r to his metallic captor. Thankfully for gigant0r, the thrashing stopped.

Roughly flipping him and setting him down in front of him, Robot Ron now stood facing gigant0r. “Are you hurt?” asked Ron, his robotic eyebrows articulating an expression of concern.

“Yes, you daft fucking git! My head is throbbing! What the fuck are you!? And where the fuck is Kirk Cameron!?” replied gigant0r with more than a fair share of pluck in his tiny squeaking voice.

Robot Ron stepped toward gigant0r, placing a cold, firm metallic claw on gigant0r's shoulder, which gigant0r took to be a comforting gesture.

A second later gigant0r was vomiting profusely, as Robot Ron's bionic punch, which carried a force of 2000 metric tons, impacted with gigant0r's soft, fleshy belly and abdomen. “I don't want to get in trouble,” Robot Ron said coldly, as he punched the doubled-over gigant0r in the kidneys from above. Now blood poured from gigant0r's mouth, mixing with his vomit, which made the floor slick underneath him. He lost his balance as Robot Ron slapped both of gigant0r's ears simultaneously, bursting his eardrums, and slipped in his pile of vomitus, crying like a baby girl.

Suddenly Ron stood upright again, a blank stare coming over him. Muttering something about kernel modules and soft realtime failures, he grabbed his head in his hands and screamed, a metallic, echoing sound to chill the bones of man, finally quieting and sitting in gigant0r's pile of blood and vomit, in which also gigant0r lay, cold and still and unmoving.

◇ ◇ ◇

Signal 11 brought his company of Moderators and their captive Alan Cox, naked and petrified, to a halt at the Northern lip of the Valley where the Source Forge, ESR's house of Diesel and melancholy, lay. The sounds of Negative Modifier beams echoed thruout the valley, disrupting an otherwise calm dawn.

“Double time! We must fortify the Forge!” bellowed Signal 11 in his diabolic Etruscan dialect. The Moderators under his command mindlessly obeyed him, running at full hilt, their bounty of Alan Cox, naked and petrified, bouncing overhead as they carried him.

Studying the rooftop of the Source Forge, where ESR's Hessian guard were stationed, Signal 11 searched for the Forge's target of attack. To his surprise the Hessian guards were shooting up all along the perimeter of the roof. Something airborne.

And then Signal 11 saw what the Hessians intended to land. “God damn him!” He said thru clenched teeth. “By RMS's beard, God damn him!” Turning to his Moderators, again shouting in the barbaric Etruscan tongue, Signal 11 announced, “Faster! Faster! There is no time to lose! Trollaxor is in our midst!”

◇ ◇ ◇

Trollaxor had been dodging Negative Modifier beams for the better part of an hour now, and was exhausted. Doing some swift mathematical calculations in his head (math was another of Trollaxor's strong points), Trollaxor estimated there to be only another few minutes before the Hessians and Moderators used the last of their Moderator Points, the energy source that fueled their Negative Modifier beams. Being so far from Slashdot itself, the guard in ESR's Source Forge had, luckily for Trollaxor, a limited supply of Points to use.

Then Trollaxor saw a band of Moderators, their leader, and Alan Cox, naked and petrified, cross over the Source Forge's diesel moat and into the stronghold. “Alan!” Trollaxor screamed, nearly getting hit by a Negative Modifier beam. Trollaxor ascended higher, still surrounded by deadly -1 Modifier beams, into the thin air and Forge Source-smogged of the atmosphere, in a last, desperate attempt to save himself and poor Alan, naked and petrified.

◇ ◇ ◇

Signal 11 saw the last of his Moderator troop across the drawbridge into the Source Forge, making sure Cox's naked, petrified body accompanied them. Then his sights turned to the sky again, scanning for the now-ascended Trollaxor. Signal 11 fingered his weapon, ripping his green cloak off and throwing it to the ground.

“Satisfaction, Trollaxor!” Signal 11 shouted, “I'll have your head to bring back to the Commander!” Withdrawing his whomper, a tight 18" long and dark green in color, with white rubber gripping, Signal 11 took to the sky, his automagical Slashdot armor a guarantee that he wouldn't be affected by the Negative Modifier beams still ripping the skies above the Source Forge.


◇ ◇ ◇

Trollaxor dialed his cellphone so quickly his fingers were a blur. His head was already feeling light, and vertigo was setting in. At the height he was hovering at, Trollaxor's brain was oxygen-starved and failing fast. Luckily he had just the thing to buy him an extra thirty seconds of time.

As one hand held the special QNX-on-PowerPC backlit LCD cellphone to his ear, the other fished in the back of his pants pockets for the one thing that would allow him to breathe at such heights long enough to complete his call. And finally his hand grasped at the stiff prize in his pants: Trollaxor pulled the small, cold, metal Whippit from his pocket.

Biting into the thin tip of the Whippit with his left vampire canine tooth, Trollaxor pierced the trinket and quickly inhaled the gaseous ecstasy. Immediately a feeling of bliss and knowledge came over him; he was god and the universe existed within him. Also he had less than 20 seconds to complete his call. Trollaxor realized this too.

Quickly, and without error, Trollaxor coded Robot Ron's next set of instructions. His custom-built QNX-on-PowerPC cellphone allowed him to log directly into Robot Ron. Within seconds, he transmitted this code to Robot Ron for processing:

10 if SSC_Occupants !=0;
20 then terminate (SSC_Occupants);
30 else goto 40;
40 return (Trollaxor);
100 end;

As he hit the transmit button, Trollaxor remembered the days of creating his own programming language, Troll++, and those who had ridiculed him. Now Robot Ron's entire AI was written in the language, which was a home-rolled combination of Commodore BASIC V2 (the fixed ROM version, from '86) and Objective-C, and though Robot Ron's AI was severely corrupted, Trollaxor was confident that the blame lay in RMS's GCC.

Now Trollaxor swooned as the Whippit's effect wore off. He had to descend into thicker air. And so he did. And as he did, he was joined. A green-armored figure matched him meter for meter in descent through the warm, thin air above ESR's Source Forge.

Trollaxor's expression could not have looked more sour as he floated face to face with his hated enemy.

Signal 11.

◇ ◇ ◇

Faster than a dirty GNU hippie to an acoustic guitar at a bonfire, Trollaxor pulled his own whomper from his side, black and shining in the light. Signal 11 stared hard at Trollaxor as the battle was joined. “Prepare to drink oblivion! You'll either be dead or naked and petrified by the time the sun sets tonight!” yelled Signal 11 thru the wind. “You're at the disadvantage here, Trollaxor! I will finally have my satisfaction!”

Not wasting a second, Trollaxor descended and looped up behind Signal 11, hitting Signal 11's helm full-force with a sharp, loud clang, just as Signal 11 turned to intercept Trollaxor's attack. Trollaxor then ascended above Signal 11 and kicked him in the back of his helm, and brought his whomper down heavily on Signal 11's helm for a third blow. Sweating hard from his initial burst of effort, Trollaxor flew backwards, nearer the stream of deadly Negative Modifier beams being shot by ESR's Hessian guard, and studied his opponent for a split-second.

Signal 11 wheeled and flew straight for Trollaxor, even as his bent, dented helm obscured the view of one of his eyes and scratched into his scalp, causing rivulets of blood to pour down his face. As he met Trollaxor's taut, muscular form in a bearhug, Signal 11 gave Trollaxor several gauntleted palms to his face, causing Trollaxor's blood to gush wildly down over his rough yet good looking visage. Disoriented, Signal 11's inertia pushed Trollaxor, dizzy, to the perimeter of their battle, near the deadly Negative Modifier beams.

Trollaxor resisted Signal 11's thrusts and pushed back with his own as he inched closer and closer to the -1 beams, merely feet away now.

◇ ◇ ◇

Robot Ron flew South with a speed that stripped the leaves from the tops of the trees he flew over. gigant0r's limp, lifeless, naked form flapped in the wind over Robot Ron's shoulder. Robot Ron flew faster still, following the instructions Trollaxor, his creator, had transmitted to him just moments ago via Trollaxor's QNX-on-PowerPC cellphone.

A sonic boom could be heard for miles as Robot Ron broke Mach 1 like a high school jock breaking thru a freshman girl's hymen. Ice formed on gigant0r's British body now as the wind whipped over it furiously. Robot Ron was already approaching Mach 2 when ESR's dread SourceForge came into view, along with Trollaxor's and Signal 11's airborne forms and the Hessian guard below.

◇ ◇ ◇

Linus had been in a trance now for quite a while. Panting more than breathing now, he stuttered in an ancient dialect of Vedic Sanskrit, imploring his gods, Orion Pax and Alpha Trion, to come to his and his friend's aid. Pulling Trollaxor's black leather biking jacket around him tighter, Linus now spat in Avestan, beseeching Orion Pax and Alpha Trion to give him guidance in his darkest hour.

With a start, Linus stopped his wild muttering, and he held his breath in a quiet rhythm. He looked around as if he thought the woods were full of ghosts. He had just heard what sounded like a sonic boom above him, and several leaves fell from high in the forest, a few landing in his tussled Finnish hair. Had his prayers been answered? Linus felt that the eardrum-popping sound he'd heard was a sign. Orion Pax and Alpha Trion had answered Linus's devout, pious prayers.

Linus stood now, a look of fierce determination on his face, Finnish sweat soaking his furrowed brow. Once again tightening Trollaxor's black leather biking jack around him, he resolutely began marching South, where he now knew his fearless master lay in wait for him.

Nothing would stand in Linus's way. Not even ESR's dastardly forces or the Moderators phased him now; Linus had his gods to guide him, and in the hands of Providence, he would be delivered in safety to where could serve in his divine mission.

◇ ◇ ◇

As Trollaxor neared the Negative Modifier beams closer still under Signal 11's strength, the world spun around him in a dizzying circle, and he tasted barf in the back of his throat. Signal 11 smiled wickedly as he saw Trollaxor begin to black out.

But just as Signal 11 began a final effort to shove Trollaxor into the field of -1 beams, he turned his head in response to something he'd heard: a metallic, chilling roar that echoed above the sounds of the firing Hessian guard below. And right behind the mechanical shout came Robot Ron, straight thru the field of -1 beams, with some humanoid form hoisted above his head with both robotic arms. Trollaxor's breath came weakly now as Signal 11's force lessened slightly as Signal 11 was taken aback by the strange form approaching him rapidly.

With a final, redoubled effort, Signal 11 threw Trollaxor's weakened body off into the field of -1 beams and turned to meet his new automatonic challenge. Once again unsheathing his whomper, Signal 11 licked his lips and tasted salt, and smiled, ready to meet all challengers with his white-hot battle rage.

◇ ◇ ◇

Flying at Robot Ron with astonishing speed, Signal 11 raised his whomper with a devilish grin on his face. In response, Robot Ron swung his hips forward, and landed a heavy metallic foot in Signal 11's gut, severely denting his green Slashdot armor and knocking his helm off completely, revealing his mop-top haircut and overly-average looking face. “Ugh,” Signal 11 screamed, as he felt at least two vital internal organs rupture.

Robot Ron then ascended a few feet and once again heaved the now mortis-rigored carcass of gigant0r above his head. “I don't want to get in trouble,” he said, and he threw the pale, British cadaver at Signal 11.

As gigant0r's corpse flew threw the air, dried blood and what appeared to be brains whipped off of his iced form. Its impact with Signal 11 created a loud squishing sound, accompanied by brittle cracks and pops, and Signal 11 succumbed to the blow. Now vomiting profusely, out of the sick gore that was wrapped around him and the damage to his internal viscera, Signal 11 began to fall fast directly above the Diesel moat that surrounded ESR's villainous SourceForge.

Robot Ron, now unencumbered by battle or gigant0r's frozen form, scanned the sky for Trollaxor.

◇ ◇ ◇

Trollaxor writhed in pain as -1 Beams slashed and cut at his body. He could feel his karma dropping and nausea overtook him. After being thrown into the Moderation Beams by Signal 11 moments before, Trollaxor moaned and yelled in extreme pain. No longer coherent to the outside world, Trollaxor began falling fast in his oblivious state. Straight to the roof of the insidious SourceForge.

With a loud crash, his body hit the granite floor of the Forge's roof, the sound of it audible thru silence, as the Moderators and Hessian Guard had stopped firing their -1 Beams.

Barely conscious, Trollaxor groaned and wiped vomit from his mouth as the Guard and Moderators surrounded him. Attempting to look up, his vision blurred, Trollaxor saw hard faces and heard yelling in German. A few of the Guard came closer to Trollaxor, their -1 guns still pointed at him, and began to help him up. “Wha–” Trollaxor whispered, wondering what in fuck's sake was happening to him.

With a sharp blow to the back of his head, Trollaxor moaned once more and was silent.

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