by Sureshkumar Prabatha
Aside from our regular News of the Weird, we're devoting this entire issue to the tragedy in Nappanee, Indiana, USA.
You've all heard by now, how the town center of Nappanee was reduced to microscopic size by the Sicilian nobleman Count San Giacomo, and held for hostage. The hostages have been rescued, but not yet restored to normal size. And there were several casualties during the incident. Our hearts go out to all the residents of Nappanee, and to all those affected.
FERG on the Frontline
by Vince Cortez
I'm both sad and proud to say, the Freedom Engineering Research Group was in the vanguard of the response to the Nappanee incident. In fact, we got attacked first. It's been a busy month.
And here's what we know about it... straight from my own diary. If I'm going to really follow in the footsteps of Wyatt Ferguson, I'm going to have to write my life for the record, all the time. And I think I'm up for it. It's very liberating to hide nothing from the world.
And only you FERG fans get this whole story! We know the whole world will know what we say here eventually, but only you will get the story as we write it!
Sunday, 8th of May: Our intern Matt and I came out to the FERG Hotel West, in the Milwaukee suburbs, for a Superhuman Patrol Initiative montoring mission. There are some superhumans based in a Milwaukee highrise lakefront apartment complex, and they've requested certification. That will happen tomorrow, if all goes as planned.
- For my evening exercise, I rode my bike five miles around the complex. That would be wimpy... except there are cars in the parking lot that want to kidnap people. These cars look like convertibles, but the hood is really a big tube that goes "SFLANGG!" when it slams down on someone. It seems someone wants to intimidate the FERG. Bring it, and good luck catching me on my bike, is what I say.
- ... The stories are true! I had to evade an evil convertible tonight. It's a good thing that my bike at the FERG Hotel West is my mountain bike. Convertible sports cars can't even follow mountain bikes on mountain bike terrain. So, I was safe.
- But there are others of our FERG who've been abducted by the roaming sports cars, told not to interfere, and returned. I had my doubts about the stories, until I came out to look. Now I know. There really is a war on here. We need the reinforcements.
Monday, 9th of May: Matt's been attacked! He was on top of the superhumans' apartment building, looking where a man fell off during what they said was a supervillain attack. And something made him duck just in time for two people to fall off themselves, instead of pushing him over.
- Later at the FERG Hotel bar, two women in sundresses approached me. Actually, one of them rubbed my shoulder with her hip, and the other one sat on my lap. With attitude like that, I wonder if they're in the infamous Herodias Dancers' Guild?
- The ladies said the Count San Giacomo (of Capria, Italia) extends his sympathy, and I really ought to let him call on us, because he's a Chicago Mafia boss. And they say, maybe I can appeal to his professionalism.
- Okay, at least we know our enemy. And the FERG reinforcements are arriving. Karl's come already. He might be useful, because he's open to working with Chaos mages such as myself. I can open him to such powers as might be useful tomorrow. I don't know what, and he doesn't know what, but maybe Chaos does.
- Yes, I admit it now. I'm one of those Chaos mages. That just means, I believe in magic, but I take what power comes naturally, instead of seeking that power out. Wyatt Ferguson was that way too, as far as all of us Chaos mages can tell. So are most Christians, at least the ones who take praying seriously. But anyway...
- We're expecting Chang tomorrow at the FERG West. Chang's our Chief Technologian, at the FERG East in Massachusetts. He keeps himself busy on FERG defense systems and such, and he hates going out on field missions... but oh well.
Tuesday, 10th of May: We met with the Count San Giacomo for breakfast at the FERG Hotel West. I don't think he went away happy.
- 8 a.m.: The Count wanted us to give some consideration to some disadvantaged applicants, who want to better themselves and improve their neighborhood. As nice as that sounds, he probably just meant "gangbangers".
- In any case, the Gov will smash us down if we ever mess with their process. He said, the Gov's no problem, but I told him, that's not true in our experience. Repeat, ad nauseum.
- In the end, the Count stalked out, and said, we should look to the safety of our relatives.
- Meanwhile, Karl was in the compound, invisible. That's what Chaos gave him for the day.
And the day had just begun.
- He found the Count had a bodyguard, red-haired, dressed in a brown suit, built like a brick wall. And the bodyguard was picking his teeth with a metal sliver that he called "Wolverine's Hangnail".
- So, Karl plucked this sliver, just to prove he could. The guard thought he'd dropped it, groped on the floor for it, and gave up.
- 12 noon: It hit the news. Nappanee, Indiana had disappeared from the face of the Earth, leaving only a crater. Matt has relatives in Nappanee. I think the FERG was the target.
- By then, we were at full strength. Chang finally showed up, and he brought lots of useful tech. He's the one who figured out, Nappanee hadn't been wiped out, just reduced to microscopic size. So it might be in storage somewhere. But where?
- Chang eventually figured it out. He's not only a wizard with tech, he seems to have insight into the criminal mind. Hacker, eh? Good thing he's working for us.
- I wanted to call Homeland Security. But Chang pointed out... our enemies are the Mafia. Unlike Arabic terrorists, they're practically legitimate in the U.S. nowadays. And they have worms everywhere.
- 10 p.m.: So, I had to rescue the Micro-City of Nappanee from captivity in a warehouse in Michigan City, Indiana. The FERG had more suitable people for this, but they were busy setting up diversions.
- Karl was supposed to go in (he's invisible today, remember?), but he got detected by this brick wall person he met earlier. Apparently Karl's a really good fighter, because he held his own. Unfortunately, this left me to carry on the mission.
- I pulled the rescue off! But the city was stuck on a coffee cup, and now it's a brown stain in a pile of china shavings. (I ditched the coffee cup during hot pursuit. Good thing I had Wolverine's Hangnail handy.)
- I'm in a hotel near South Bend, Indiana now. I paid with cash, and my car drove onward to divert pursuit. Chang gave my car an autopilot. Team rendezvous tonight, and return to the FERG tomorrow.
- Maybe the FERG can throw a party and have guests look for Nappanee with a microscope... or maybe I can go to sleep before I write anything else that's so disrespectful to the plight of Nappanee.
Wednesday, 11th of May: I went to a memorial church service in Goshen, Indiana, the biggest Amish town near Nappanee. There was lots of traffic, but the Amish just parked the wagons and got by on horseback. Leave it to the Amish to be practical.
- As for earlier in the day... We managed to contact the Red Cross, and handed over Nappanee to them. Presumably they've handed it over to U.S. agents by now.
- Hey, the Feds are supposed to keep towns safe. They should be able to do it for Nappanee now, since it now fits on a microscope slide.
Thursday, 12th of May: It looks like there is yet another criminal plot afoot. And it's taking advantage of government-driven paranoia.
- At a supermarket, I saw four signs with new instructions on how to use the ATMs. One sign said, leave a piece of ID for a security check. And people were falling for it.
- I took a collection of IDs and found their owners to return them, before I went to buy some apples at the next store over. I'm like a Boy Scout, complete with bandana around my neck (it kind of slipped down from my head), but I'm not a sucker.
Friday, 13th of May: A female Doctor Octopus told us that crime techs just don't make good ice bombs anymore, ever since Ellipsis tech started flooding the market.
- Well, really, she only looked like Dr. Octopus from the Spider-Man movies. She has the same sort of robotic limb technology, only with an exoskeleton for her arms and legs, and props coming out of her arms so they aren't just waving 60 feet away in midair.
- She's some acquaintance of Chang's, from Southeast Asia. Apparently she's got some connections with international arms trafficking. Chang got her to speak to us, on condition of anonymity.
- And the news is bad. Everything that Ellipsis and his hirelings ever built or maintained, is on sale on the black market now. That includes things like the suit of hyper-speed armor that blew up the World Trade Center.
Saturday, 14th of May: They've found a place to hold the Micro-City of Nappanee now, until it can get restored. It's on display at Amish Acres, the world's only Amish amusement park!
- Amish Acres was just far enough from the center of Nappanee, to be outside the crater. Which is yet another tourist attraction now. Just like the last Ground Zero in New York City.
- And they're letting tourists in to look at the Micro-City through a microscope! Proceeds to benefit the Restoration Fund, of course.
- They've even started a revival of "Seussical" at their Amish Round Barn theatre! That's kind of appropriate, now that Nappanee's a lot like the miniature Whoville that Horton the Elephant had to defend.
- Downtown Nappanee is surviving in its microscope slide. Their caretakers leave little slices of apple and boiled beef on the edge of town. The Nappaneeans go out to harvest their daily meals from these mountains.
Sunday, 15th of May: We got a report, people are travelling through time to steal artifacts. Somewhere in the 1600s, a queen is probably going through her jewelry cabinet and saying, "Oh, No".
- What? The time machines are loose? That's the bit of Ellipsis tech that the United Nations actually took some pains to control! We're still trying to get certified for them, like Wyatt Ferguson was, but you wouldn't believe the paperwork. I wonder if the U.S. Gov tried to circumvent that rule - and then something went wrong?
Monday, 16th of May: We think the U.S. Gov is monitoring us. Chang's gotten cell phone records from two of the women who go to the FERG gym; they're government agents! Or at least they make a lot of calls to Langley, Virginia - the CIA headquarters.
Tuesday, 17th of May: I got captured by the Herodias Dancers' Guild!
- I was at a conference, in a multi-story atrium, drinking some coffee. The next thing I knew, gravity had gone wild! I was hanging on to a table, to avoid getting flung into space!
- But everyone else walked out, just fine. Apparently I was the only victim of reverse gravity.
- I managed to crawl into a cupboard, just big enough for me. There I stayed for an hour or so. But then...
- Some women came along, made some lewd remarks about something huge in the cupboard, and dragged me out... by the penis.
- By then, the atrium was deserted, except for these women and me. I recognized two of them: they were the same two that came to visit me last week. And this time, they introduced themselves. They were both Countesses! One from Corsica (the Countess Teresa de Fremontagne), one from Sicily (the Countess Symmetria San Giacomo). Don't ask me why the Sicilian countess was blonde; she must have married into the family.
- The Countess San Giacomo did all the talking. She said, the FERG was a menace to the Herodias Dancers' Guild, which is the secretly the ultimate power in the world, what with all the influential men they dominate. And we needed to learn a lesson.
- So the Countess promptly kicked my ass in ritual solo combat. The best I can say about my combat prowess is, I barely made her raise a sweat. Hey, I'm a mage, not a fighter.
- But I could swear she whispered to me during the match! If I heard her right, she's infiltrating the Guild, and she's learned the rest of the Mafia doesn't like the way the Count does business, and she might be able to do something with that, so give her a break. Still (as Wyatt used to say), my hearing is not always the best... at least under these conditions.
- Afterward, what to do with me? Other than crush my testicles to make the lesson complete, that is.
- But I was prepared... with a counter-threat, that is. I had a dead man's switch that controls the weather, via NEXRAD II weather control radars. And it was set to bring a hyperstorm.
- Would the women be impressed? Well, maybe not... but they let me go anyway.
- And the Countess was relatively light on my testicles... though they're still feeling it.
Wednesday, 18th of May: That's what day it was when I got free to write yesterday's entry. The others had tried getting the U.S. Gov agents to look for me, but no such luck; they were off destabilizing Saudi Arabia or something.
- Why Saudi Arabia? Well, they do have some connections with Iraqi rebels, Texas oilmen, and the "New South" secession movement.
- I hear our U.S. administration is of two minds about the Saudis. President Hatch calls them people of faith, just like the Mormons. But Vice-President Steiger's on record as saying, they're the ultimate source of practically all Arabic terrorism.
... Anyway, I briefed the FERG on where I'd been. Karl looked particularly enraged. I hope he doesn't do something stupid.
Thursday, 19th of May: We were supposed to send someone to attend an award ceremony with Governor "Crusher Joe" Corrigan of California, but we had to cancel. I hope he understands.
Friday, 20th of May: Chang found us someone else to talk to about illicit superhero tech. This guy's named "Thunderstrike", and he used to have his own teleporter, before Ellipsis stole it.... Anyway, Thunderstrike was calling in from a pay phone for anonymity, but a storm was coming, so we had to postpone.
Saturday, 21st of May: We found out what the U.S. Gov's most worried about now, what with Sicilian terrorists on the loose. They're chasing ghosts!
- There's an art gallery in an industrial park near Chicago O'Hare Airport, that simulates the Kingdom of Heaven. The paintings change some details every day. Mostly only dead people can see it, though.
- And the Gov's starting to pay attention to the dead. Their timing may suck, but we at the FERG can't really blame them; we've seen some ghosts too.
- So that's the secret of the O'Hare expansion project. The Gov wants to force this Gallery of the Dead out of business! They've already bought up all the land around it.
- They've even set up a building on the edge of the airport, to try to catch ghosts. (Chicago trivia: O'Hare Airport contains an Air Force base!)
- Matt wanted to look for the dead at this place, since it seems to be attracting dead people. The microscopes have said most of his family is okay, but his baby brother was still missing from Nappanee. Of course, I went along. So did Karl.
- It took some effort to get onto the airbase. But Karl was somehow able to get us in the same way the dead people get in. I guess he got some contact information from Vara Hosea last month - and she is supposed to be the Champion of Death.
- We found the dead of Nappanee there! Including Matt's brother, I'm sad to say. They'd been drawn into this ghost trap, instead of to their real afterlives!
- Well, we freed them. Once you get to where you can touch the control panel of an ectoplasmic containment unit, it doesn't take much to screw it up. After that, the Gov people were too busy running away to give us much trouble. And that gave us the clue, we should run too.
- What happened after that? Well, people think they saw the Northern Lights near Chicago that night... but it probably wasn't.
- Once they were free, the Amish dead hitched up their horses and went on to heaven. But there were some non-Amish among the dead of Nappanee. Once we told them where to find the people who killed them, they were interested in putting on some serious haunting. That should keep the mobsters busy for a while.
- And Matt's brother... well, we took him home with us. Away from Death.
- We all knew Death's rule, that this meant one of us may have to cross over the other way, and stay there. Matt was willing to stay himself... but no, Karl and I agreed, we'll take the chance equally with Matt.
It's been almost two weeks now since this crisis started, and we're just now getting a chance to catch our breath. But whatever it takes, the FERG will be there.
What Comes Next?
by Karl Scribner
It sounds like a bad 1950s comic book story... but the Reduction of Nappanee is the second most deadly terror attack ever on North American soil.
I was there for it. Everyone the FERG could mobilize was. Many of us in the FERG had been threatened. Vince has the story there. And he makes me sound more heroic than I was; mostly I just ran and hid. But I'm pleased to have fought in my own humble way for the FERG, and for Indiana, the United States, and all of humanity.
But all this was to be expected. After the Med Strike of October 2001, terrorists had to find new bases. And right there were Sicily and Corsica, both of which have violent and criminal independence movements. Corsica's movement has blown up bombs, as long as there've been bombs. Sicily's movement is more subtle; they're better known as the Mafia. And the Mafia is known for intimidation. They've just never had size-reduction technology... before Ellipsis.
The Mediterranean Ocean has always been the fringe of law-observing land. The Romans fought pirates there. The Vikings took over there, all the way from Scandinavia. Is it so hard to believe, terrorists have found refuge in Corsica and Sicily, alongside God-The-Father-fearing European Union citizens - who are every bit as anarchy-loving as they are?
If that were all that Western civilization had to deal with, that would be simple. We'd just be dealing with bandits who take people hostage, and rob the trade routes, and so on. That's what every kingdom had to do. But no, it's not that simple now... because the world has Ellipsis technology now.
During his career, Ellipsis changed the world order with his own superhuman power - and with superhuman technology, which scientists throughout the world eagerly signed up to help develop. With his technology, he turned small marginal places into independent and self-sustaining world powers. First it was the Bahamas, then Greenland, then Keewatin, and finally the Aleuts of Alaska.
But then things went bad. All the world's fringes got the dream of independence, faster than Ellipsis could support. Witness the fate of the Patagonian independence movement in Argentina, after the war in Tierra del Fuego.
Ellipsis's lack of success is not enough by itself to condemn him for. We all have dreams, and we all can't achieve all of them. But when Ellipsis's dreams started falling apart, he just disappeared.
When Ellipsis disappeared, he left the rest of the world to deal with his leftover tech. He published the whole lot, and left a stockpile in Greenland for the Rebellion government to sell. And the fringe want-to-be states are faster at snapping this up, than the rest of us.
What comes next? Probably President Hatch will ask why evil Sicilians have been respected members of society all along... not because one of them dared reduce Nappanee, but because the existence of evil Sicilians who scheme against America will not be comfortable to large city governments like Chicago and Boston, who support his opponents in Congress. And that's too bad for Italian-Americans, who'll finally get what the German-Americans got in 1917. They'd probably have gotten it in 1941, if they hadn't mostly voted for the Prez back then.
Then, President Hatch will probably lead the United States to suppress the evil Aleut Republic, to control whatever Ellipsis tech the renegade Native Alaskans have. And then, he'll ask the world why Canada won't suppress Keewatin, France won't suppress Corsica, Italy won't suppress Sicily, and Denmark won't suppress Greenland.
It looks like we're on the road to chaos and repression. I really hope the road doesn't go to an apocalyptic Earth 2011, like in the famous computer game. But I have to admit, it's starting to happen that way.
October: Superhumans go public for the first time, at Michigan State University. They form a coalition called The Balance. Ellipsis is among these.
June: Ellipsis leaves the Balance, and moves to New York City.
August: A worldwide coalition of terrorists takes hostages in a coordinated assaut throughout Manhattan. Ellipsis intervenes violently to resolve the crisis - then disappears for several months.
March: Ellipsis reappears alongside several allied superhumans. Several months of confrontations with the U.S. Government follow.
September: U.S. Vice-President Dan Quayle declares the Superhuman Control Initiative, largely targeted against the rogue superhuman Ellipsis.
October: Ellipsis and his superhuman allies leave the United States, and establish headquarters in the Bahamas.
November: U.S. President George Bush re-elected.
October: Terrorists try to swamp New York City with a tidal wave. Superhuman allies of Ellipsis intervene.
July: A lone terrorist tries to swamp New York City again with a tidal wave, then attacks the Bahamas.
November: A combined U.S. and British military operation in the Caribbean, with superhuman involvement including Ellipsis, brings this lone terrorist to justice. However, cooperation between U.S. and British forces is spotty, due to mistrust of each side for the other side's superhumans.
May: Aliens launch a massive comet at Earth. United States and international forces cooperate again to deflect the comet, but there is much friction between the factions.
September: United States forces invade the Bahamas, to root out superhuman opposition from Ellipsis. Invasion is largely chaotic, and fails to capture its opponents.
October: Ellipsis and associated superhumans avoid capture, discredit the U.S. leadership, and publicly defeat a privately-sponsored plot to sterilize the Third World from orbital platforms.
November: Hilary Rodham defeats Dan Quayle in U.S. presidential election.
1997: Superhumans establish new factions on Caribbean islands, and attack each others' bases. Ellipsis disappears during these attacks.
November: Earth narrowly escapes destruction from alien invaders. Ellipsis reappears during this attack.
March: Greenland declares independence from Denmark. They are backed by Ellipsis. He sets up shop there, along with superhuman allies and technicians.
November: Hilary Rodham easily wins re-election against Robert Dole in U.S. presidential election.
August: Ellipsis and associated superhumans defeat a plot to destroy New York City skyscrapers with airplanes, but they lose a suit of hyper-speed superhuman battle armor in combat.
September: The lost suit of superhuman battle armor resurfaces, loaded with explosives, and levels both towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.
October: The United States leads a worldwide diplomatic initiative to blockade Afghanistan to restrict terrorist egress, and clear the Mediterranean basin of all possible terrorist bases.
July: Wyatt Ferguson and Ellipsis travel in time to the year 2022. Earth is recovering from a nuclear attack, but humanity is about to become extinct.
April: The Canadian Arctic District of Keewatin declares independence from Canada. They are backed by Ellipsis.
September: Wyatt Ferguson and Ellipsis participate in a transfer of power on an alternate Earth.
January: The Aleutian Islands of Alaska declare independence from the United States. They are backed by Ellipsis.
July: Patagonia declares independence from Argentina. They are backed by Ellipsis. Argentina responds with force, and invades Chilean territory in Tierra del Fuego.
September: The computer game "Earth 2011" is released, portraying Earth on the road to doomsday. Ellipsis is suspected to have helped publish this game.
November: Orrin Hatch is elected President of the United States, on a platform of U.S. independence plus control of superhumans. The superhuman Ellipsis responds by retreating to his alternate Earth base, and arranges a blockade of our Earth.
January: The Earth blockade is broken. Ellipsis and Wyatt Ferguson both disappear.