You have ZJ to blame for this. He suggested that I do something for my 5000th post, and then this happened.
DISCLAIMER: Any resemblance to persons, real or imaginary, is totally intentional. I am not great at judging when I’ve gone too far, but I hope that all of this has stayed on the right side of the “joking/offensive” line. If not, I am sorry. No offence is intended: if I didn’t love all of you chaps to pieces, I wouldn’t have written this in the first place. ANYWAY.
Buskalilly_the_hero: a Tale of GNamer TowersPart One: A Game of Threads
A Song of Alts. and Fora
A Story in Five Parts
It always happened at just the wrong time. Just when he was about to pick up a chick in the club, or write a particularly moving passage about Xanzar the Soulflayer. On this occasion, he’d been scanning the pages of the latest Transformers epic, and Optimus Prime was showing dangerous signs of being about to make out with Megatron, when everything started to spin.
When it finished, his surroundings were much noisier. The colour scheme was a sterile cyan-white, not blinding like ONM, but sterile nonetheless. A pair of yellow eyes set in a green face stared down at him from the ceiling. He peered down at his hands – scaly, monochrome.
He sighed, recognising his avatar’s features. It had happened again.
“Buskalilly!” said an authoritative yet conciliatory voice. “Thank goodness you’re here. The Alternate Accounts are attacking again, we’ve lost two good men, and there’s discord in the ranks.”
Of course the Alternate Accounts were attacking. Ever since The Incident, that was what they did.
Buskalilly picked himself up, turned on his taloned heel, saw the table at which The Council (short for “The Council of the Top Ten Posters (Who Bothered to Post in the Annual Awards, Not You Shanks)”) always sat. A bald, yellow-skinned figure peered anxiously through his glasses at the reptilian monster Buskalilly had become.
“Discord in the ranks, Stu? Did someone say that Super Mario Galaxy
was the best Mario game in front of Masofdas again?”
“What? Oh, no. No no no. Thank God, no.” Stu wiped his brow. “Not after last time. No, The Cappuccino Kid said something about JRPGs, and Athrun... Well...”
Buskalilly looked out of the glass wall, into the central courtyard. A blue-haired figure was chasing a white-haired man around the courtyard with a katana, using a steam-powered jetpack and dodging punted footballs. Same old.
He took his place at the table, between a smiling boy with a headband and a hooded figure, who peered with non-existent eyes at the monitors and plans. A white wingéd wolf, a red-haired girl with glowing face, an anorexic teenager, a man with spiky features and spikier sunglasses, and a yellow face (not in a racist way) in a pharaoh’s headdress made up the rest of the council. A tenth chair was empty, but someone had scratched male genitalia into the table in front.
Stu_the_great, their illustrious leader, stood up. “The situation is worse than Super Mario 3D World
, and I don’t say that lightly. I’ve been sitting in this waiting room, wasting my time, and waiting for Judgement Day. This...” He thumped the table, but Stu’s thump was more of a caress. “This right here, this is Judgement Day. Especially with Solve My Maze lost behind enemy lines, and Rum Rapture...”
Everyone turned to the wolf, who hung his head. “I mistook him for a Bopopolis owl.”
Stu waved him aside. “I have two news reports. Masofdas has turned the attack into a video” (the red-headed girl nodded his approval) “and Axis has provided a link to the Nintendo Life article on the attack.” (He indicated the woollen man, standing beneath a window and talking animatedly to the blue bird fluttering outside.) “The consensus is that they have GNamer surrounded. The Christ is leading them. We’ve blocked off the doors with some of Cappuccino’s bargain-bought games, but that won’t last. We need a plan.”
They peered into the monitors. Stacks of games, three men high, shook ominously. From behind them came the sounds of birdcalls, and of clanging metal – occasionally, a hiss.
“The Wrestling Thread will, of course, be our primary weapon. Eight hundred posts of smackdowns. Dusty Knackers will be in charge of that, as usual.”
The teenager adjusted his purple headphones and raised his hand.
“Not now, Jay. I know that he’s not been around so much, since...” Stu trailed off and looked embarrassed. “But I’m sure he’ll still be fine. You, The_Jaster and Cappuccino will support him, natch.”
Jay and the pointy man looked around at the cowboy, shining his six-shooter with a look on his face like it was made of elephant droppings. They exchanged anxious glances.
“Jay, you’ll be helping ZeroJones and Beemoh with the Tagline Cannon. If we can land one awful pun in the middle of their army, the collateral damage will be immense.”
Jay and the headbanded boy exchanged smiles. The hooded figure didn’t smile because he didn’t have a face, but he did make a really witty remark with his non-mouth that had everybody falling off their chairs in laughter. Unfortunately, the quip was not recorded for posterity, but rest assured that it was hilarious.
“Balladeer will be in charge of blasting their feathery ears with music until they fall off.” Stu, wiping away his laughter tears, shared a wink with the wolf, and they raised their Administrator
badges in solidarity. “As for the rest of us... Ah, good of you to join us, TCK.”
The white-haired Cappuccino Kid had re-entered the building shortly prior to this. Athrun, who was sporting some nasty bruises where footballs had hit, had finally run out of jet-pack steam – he took a seat away from the table, near the man with long blue ears whose apathy towards voting had cost him a Council place, and they resumed an earlier conversation about Japanese animation and the merchandise thereof. Cappuccino, meanwhile, was nursing some minor lacerations, and took his phallus-adorned seat at the table in time to catch this latest part of the plan.
“Be honest, Stu,” he said, “there’s nothing new here. It’s all solid enough, but it’s not innovative at all. And it just means that we have to wallop them again and again. It’s getting as boring as discussing Nintendo’s financials.”
Stu looked awkward, pink flushes appearing in his cheeks.
“I do have a suggestion,” said the spiky man softly.
“Jaster, old thing,” piped up Balladeer, “I hope you’re not about to suggest what I think you’re about to suggest.”
“He’d destroy them all in a matter of seconds! And besides...” Jaster looked up to the ceiling worriedly, almost spearing Stu in the face with his hairspike. “He’s hungry, Balla. I can’t keep feeding him my art forever. Sooner or later, he’s going to want more...”
“NO!” The wolfman’s face was contorted in despair. “Admin. veto! You cannot have forgotten what happened to The Other Balladeer!”
A sober mood took the table. When the Balladeer sitting among them had been having a Pokémon-related identity crisis, another user called Balladeer had briefly joined their ranks. Then one day, just as the identity crisis was coming to an end, they’d found that GNamer the Grackler had broken out from his pen at the top of the building. He was wandering the halls, and bits of The Other Balladeer were all over the proverbial shop. They’d only managed to tease him back into his pen with a drawing of Toon Link and some old copies of NGamer.
Even Beemoh kept his non-mouth firmly closed as they remembered it.
“Oh look, NintenDUCK’s brought the refreshments!” said Stu, audibly relieved.
Their server was completely nude, which might have been more distracting had he not also been covered in blue feathers. As it was, there was relatively little fuss as he deposited a basket of assorted sweets and biscuits in the centre of the table. Cappuccino bit into a biscuit, and suggested a website where they could be bought for pittance. On the other side of the table, Balladeer stared into the contents of a crème egg with deep suspicion.
“We've come up with some new ideas too,” continued their ever-smiling leader, biting into the forum’s own-recipe Fondant Fancy Fancy. “I’ve talked to Axis about putting some Senran Kagura posters on the walls to distract them, and Shanks has offered to bring his colleague in to do security detail. He's suggested a lookout spot high above the tower. With no doors. Or channels of communication.” He smilingly frowned towards the long-eared man, who was now complaining to Athrun about the heat. "I'm not sure how that'll help us, actually, but the point is: slowly but surely, we’re finding out what works and what doesn’t. We're progressing, steadily, on a long journey towards victory...”
There were gulps. Stu bit his lip. He knew what he’d done. The yellow face (not in a racist way) in a pharaoh’s headdress leant forward.
“I knew there was something I didn’t like about this whole plan. In fact, now that I think about it, there’s more than one thing. At least ten, in fact. For starters...”
Buskalilly slipped gently into a reverie, as Andyman949 went on a long rant about all the things that were wrong with the plan. He felt a bit out of the loop – as if they only really brought him to Council meetings in the hope that he’d show up drunk, and say something hilarious. While the discussion became slightly more animated, and yet simultaneously more circular, he thought to himself – what would Shia LaBoeuf from Michael Bay’s Transformers do?
Then he began thinking about Megan Fox, and didn’t stop for a while.Part Two: A Clash of Users
When he came to, bedlam had taken over. The Council had opened the discussion to the forum at large, and by “opened the discussion to the forum at large”, I mean, “started a whopping great multi-way argument”. The admins., Balladeer and Stu, had hidden in a blanket fort in one corner of the room with a crude hand-drawn sign saying “Admins. only”; while the other forumites attempted to be heard over each other.
A heated discussion in one corner of the room was concerned over whether a +5 atk +10 def katana was more useful for killing herons than a +5 atk +5 def +5 spd katana. The voices were a mixture of Australian and “green”. Buskalilly could never be sure why it sounded green, but if moss spoke, it would have a voice like that.
In another, a group of people were discussing the best outfit to wear when braining a serpent with a football. A small man in blue and white was advocating blue and white, backed up by Masofdas: Cappuccino and Jaster where making a passionate case for replacing the blue with green. Nearby, another Australian was criticising the football as a weapon full stop, advocating the use of philosophy to confuse the simple-minded reptiles, and farting loudly all the while.
ZeroJones and Beemoh were debating who got to load the next tagline into the Tagline cannon; Andyman was still criticising the plans to anyone would listen, his yellow face (not in a racist way) turning almost blue as he waved his hands around; a man with very prominent shoes was trying to convince people to join the “Church of Repton”, whatever that might be; and somehow, a flotilla of blue birds had made their way through the window, and were shrilly parroting anything anyone said in 140 characters or less. Dusty was absent-mindedly trying to shoot them down.
On the flickering monitor, the doors continued to bang. A copy of Iggy’s Reckin’ Balls
fell off one of the stacks and shattered on the floor.
Buskalilly sighed. His head hurt, and he couldn’t tell whether that was the fifteen pints and twenty shots he’d had the previous night, or just the general chaos.
He tore a sheet of paper from the notepad on the wall: apparently it had come with the building, every piece of paper headed with “MP”. Nobody knew what it stood for, but the mystery was charming in its own way. He wrote a few words, claw-fingers fumbling the pen only slightly, and hurled it in plane-form at the fort. As with all planes constructed from that pad, it flew perfectly, and it was quickly snatched up by a furry paw from under the blanket. Seconds later, Balladeer and Stu emerged, Balladeer flailing at the birds as they twittered in his ear.
“Desist! Desist, I say!” he shouted, shooing them out of the window. “Everyone quieten down or I’ll ban you all, so help me I will!”
Stu let a bird settle briefly on his hand and drink a cup of Earl Grey. “Now now, Balla...”
“You can’t, though!” shouted someone. “You broke the Banhammer, ya cunt! If you hadn’t, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”
Balladeer’s black cheeks reddened. It was true – one day he’d hit a football shirt spammer a bit too hard, and the top had come off. There had been two, one for each admin.; but Stu had vowed never to use his, and eventually traded it in towards an as-yet-unopened Wii U game.
“There’s always my
Everyone turned. A figure was slowly raising himself off a full-length anime body pillow, wiping the sleep from his eyes.
And what eyes. What a face. The most beautiful face in all of GNamer. Who could argue with that lemony skin tone, those full, kissable gums, those gently rounded crenellations? No one. When people saw Fronkhead, they remembered the inadequacy of their own faces. Was there one among them who did not feel the blood stirring in his veins when those beady black pupils, from beneath pencil-thin eyebrows, turned upon them? Again, I tell you: no one.
Fronkhead had been a global moderator, that most esteemed of ranks in the GNamer hierarchy (coming as it did without the need for cleaning and general upkeep of the forum that “administrator” did), for a brief period only. When he quit, he had handed his Banhammer to the admins., who had buried it deep beneath GNamer Towers for safe-keeping. Over the ensuing time, it had become even more safely kept, but that was due to what had happened down below.
And now nobody wanted to fetch it. There were nods, brief acknowledgements that if they but had a Banhammer, this conflict would all be over; but whenever those lustrous eyes turned upon them, they looked at the floor, stifling their urges to gaze upon that gorgeous face.
“I could do a vote to see who goes down there,” suggested Masofdas hopefully.
“We’ve had fifty-seven votes in our last three meetings!” countered Cappuccino.
And then it hit him. That this was how he would cement himself as a meaningful member of the Council. No longer would he just be known as “that guy who gets drunk all the time” and “Mister Tenderloin Minimise” and “the third (if you didn’t consider the two joint-seconds) best forumite”. He would be known as Buskalilly_the_hero. And not just for stopping a thief while dressed as a giant banana.
go kill your mother,” he proclaimed.
“Not even slightly what I meant to say. I’ll go down there.”Part Three: A Storm of Soil
The Busk of Lilly, as he would probably never be known, climbed down yet another rickety ladder.
GNamer Towers was built on the remains of another fine institution, the NGamer Forum. As well as being an ancient Roman marketplace, where people could buy stuffed doormice and scrolls telling stories of Ryse, the Quickest Centurion of All Time
, it became a place for discussion of matters of the day, ranging from videogames to old videogames by way of only slightly out-of-date videogames and chat. The forum’s owners even produced their own magazine, in which they reported on (among other things) videogames, Japanese culture, mah jong, and ogre sightings in Nintendo of America.
Unfortunately, others saw the success of the little establishment, and greed got the better of them. The forum was bought by CVG Asylum, and things went downhill from there. CVG’s garish black and red decorations, as well as massive advertising billboards, soon became a part of forum life; more and more commonly, lunatics were spotted hanging around the market stalls, yelling that “wow Nintendo is teh gay”. Several of the forumites left, with only a small dedicated crew staying behind.
Eventually, CVG decided to knock down the forum, to make way for more accommodation blocks for the certified insane and homophobic. Attempts by sympathetic local magnate Chris Scullion to stop the demolition were ignored. At that point, a decision was made. Stu sold his collection of as-yet unopened videogames, making him a total of £132,780,946.75 – just enough to buy a studio flat in London, or the forum’s plot of land and a massive white-and-blue tower to put on it. Thus did GNamer Towers come to be, and Stu was given his title of “_the_great” in gratitude.
But CVG’s insidious influence had not gone away. The toxic waste issuing forth from the asylum had corrupted the old NGamer Forum’s foundations, turning its (marble) posts into something far more malevolent. Scullion himself had gone mad when his offer was refused, and burrowed down into the poisonous mire – and who knew what else was down there with him.
It was through this corrupted soil that Buskalilly now bravely ventured, not defaulting in the slightest – well, barely. The soil had claimed its fair share of victims, the war with the Alternate Accounts others, and he did not wish to become a statistic on the Memberlist. He shivered, and kept his ears peeled for rockfalls.
As he slid downwards, armed only with a pickaxe from the store cupboard and boots that allowed him to jump up walls, he could see the remnants of graffiti on the crumbling marble posts. Some were innocent enough: “Screw you guys, I’m going home”, or “Venom_uk woz ere RIP”. Others, no doubt under the influence of CVG’s leaking waste, had taken on a more malevolent tone: “one nit when i was sleppin a grackler cam, and sed that nintedo will go 3rd party
Who knew how deep he was now. A howl came from one of the tunnels – subterranean wind, or did Chris Scullion wander these unhallowed halls, mutated by the waste and searching for revenge?
Buskalilly tried not to think of that, and think of more dastardly deeds for Xanzar the Soulflayer to get up to in his forthcoming novel Xanzar Returns! Legally Watertight
; but that just made him remember when SuperPaperLink, on a stealth mission behind Alternate lines, had missed his jumping stealth kill and broken his neck when he hit the water below.
A lot of good men, and women, had been lost since The Incident. There was Gwyn400, trampled by an army of Haribo Goldbears; Cube, killed down in these very mines by some creative tunnelling from the Alternates, sending a rock in the shape of his name onto his head; SquidgyGoat, victim of a bungled attack by GNamer where the calculations had been ever so slightly off
; and of course Vidofnir, felled by a pink beam from one of their prissy foxes and then carried off by herons, his fate unknown. As for Nupkin, sent off by the admins. on a dangerous mission that everybody knew
she would never return from... Buskalilly didn’t like to think about that.
But he couldn’t not think of Awesomedude.
She had been a breath of fresh air, when she arrived in GNamer Towers. So cheerful, so full of life and energy, always pulling funny faces, constantly talking about Animal Crossing: New Leaf
. Dusty had taken a particular shine to her, good-naturedly ribbing her at every opportunity. During this period, he became a pioneer of general videogaming talk – “to get away from her”, he said with a grin. It was the happiest they’d ever seen him.
But then things had turned sour. Awesomedude had eventually admitted that she’d never owned New Leaf
, but just wanted to join in with the conversation. The next day, she was missing – her parents, worried about her safety, had taken her back to Brunei. Dusty hadn’t smiled since.
The funny smell of the corrupted soil was changing: it contained hints of peat and decay. He must be nearly there, and he hadn’t encountered anything but the graffiti yet. Just had to watch out for...
“OY YOU, WHIT THE FUCK’RE YOU DOIN’ DOON HERE? WE DINNAE APPRECIATE ORIGINALS TRAIPSIN’ THROUGH OUR TUNNELS.”
It was bound to happen sooner or later. A large angry-looking mole popped out of the tunnel walls, and stared down Buskalilly through its sunglasses. It reeked of alcohol.
“YE’RE FUCKIN’ DEAD, YA DOBBER. YOU, AN’ YER ORIGINAL FRIENDS, AND THAT IMPOSTER WHO KEEPS SAYIN’ HE’S THE REAL MOLE. HE’S NO ORIGINAL. I’M GONNA BE ON THE RUN ALL OVER YOU!”
BAM! Four yellow discs appeared from Buskalilly’s right hand, smashing into the mole’s ample belly.
CRACK! Another four red discs from the left, clobbering its head.
KAPOW! He finished it off by kicking the stunned creature down a nearby vertical shaft. There was a yell of “DOBBEEEERRRRrrrrr...”, and then a crash.
And sure enough, just behind the mole, there was the iron door. Like any good GNamer, Buskalilly knew the password off by heart. He keyed in “tsufufum” and the door swung open.
Oh, to be a moderator. To have rightfully and righteously wielded the instrument he saw now. Not all that much to look at, perhaps, but it was the inverse of the word “BANNED” printed in inverse across the iron head of the hammer, leaving red marks of shame on the foreheads of spammers and trolls the world over, that made this particular hammer so appealing. He lifted it gently from its podium, with all due reverence. Good weight, nice leverage. He gave it an experimental swing, and felt the power surging through his veins. He wanted, nay, hoped
to find another Monty_The_Mole, that he might smite it with his faux-modly wrath!
In fact, it was surprising that there hadn’t been many moles about, he pondered as he left the room. The Alternate Accounts knew the value of the Banhammer has much as any of them, and not knowing the password, had slain many originals (like Cube) to keep it where it was. Why, then, were there so few Monties about today?
That wasn’t the only odd thing, now that he thought about it. Why was The Christ leading the Alts.? He was only their second-in-command, despite being the Son of God. It didn’t make sense. What was their leader doing? What could he possibly use the moles for?
And then it hit him, like a Banhammer to the face. Slinging the great weapon onto his back, he made a dash for the ladders upwards, as the words of the late great Admiral Ackbar rung in his mind.Part Four: A Feast for Herons
“My name’s Reggie. I’m about kickin’ ass, I’m about takin’ names, and we’re
about breaking your fortress.”
So said the titanic face that had shattered through the glass wall. The GNamers looked on in horror. Later, they would discover that while they had been busy defending their main entrances, a group of Monties had burrowed up into the courtyard, letting the Alternate Accounts’ leader, Reginald Fils-Aime, make a personal trip all the way from Nintendo of America to wreck the GNamers’ shit.
His massive monster-man hand came through the gap, and before they could do anything about it, it had crushed the Wrestling Thread to smithereens.
“Man the Tagline Cannon!” yelled Stu from the blanket fort.
Zero, Jay and Beemoh quickly rotated the massive gun through 180 degrees, and opened fire. It took a full minute of sustained Pokémon puns to drive Reggie away from the broken glass, but by that point, Cappuccino’s games had given way. Bits of Funky Barn
and Major Minor’s Majestic March
scattered everywhere as the Alternate Accounts stormed the building.
” came a jovial cry from the monitor screen. “Your control room looks a bit like me, in that it’s holey! Get it?
The Alternate Account air force flooded through the broken glass – herons beyond numbering, armed with pans and armoured with pots, backed up by strange men in green that floated from balloons. They were met by Athrun, Shanks, Fronkhead, and the man who spoke in green, firing their +20 atk bows with extra damage towards fliers; but the balloon men put up shields for their avian brethren, and the arrows bounced harmlessly off.
“Prepare for entry from the front door!” cried Balladeer, flapping his non-functional wings in an attempt to get airborne. “They’re trying to encircle us in a Pinsir movement!” (ZeroJones gave a shout of “Fantastique!” and loaded it into the Tagline Cannon.)
But it was too late. Through said door they stormed, herons and snakes, riding on goats and the prissy foxes that had spirited Vidofnir away, brandishing pots and pans and spelling books. They were met by a volley of footballs from men dressed in blue/green and white, but they kept surging through. The Christ followed them in, laughing.
“It’s just like when I sacked the moneylenders’ temple!
” spaketh He. “And trust me, you don’t want to get in the way of my sack. Just ask Mary Magda- Oooh.
He broke off to gaze at the Senran Kagura
poster erected by Axis earlier, and nor was it the only thing erected. Then He was felled by a stray football.
“His isn’t the only sack you have to worry about.”
The third prong of the pincer movement crashed through the ceiling, straight through the stomach of the Grackler painting. Santa Claus had come to town, like a jolly red xenomorph. He ducked and rolled as he hit the floor, missing Dusty’s gunshots by centimetres, in an impressive display of agility for one so rotund. Then he stopped rolling and lay still, gently breathing sherry into the air; and The_Jaster, in despair at the disembowelling of his Michaelangeline pièce de résistance, laid into him with his paintbrush. Balladeer changed the music he was blasting at the alts. to Freezeezy Peak.
Despite two of the Alternates’ leaders being indisposed, the GNamer originals were slowly being pushed back by force of numbers. In addition to lashing out with their kitchen utensils, the herons had somehow gained access to the MP notepad, and the battlefield was a fog of spam-decorated paper planes. The prissy foxes kept using Baby-Doll Eyes to lower the damage the GNamers could do, while bombs, seed bombs and spelling tips bombarded them.
Eventually The Christ rose again, and blinded the GNamers with the heavenly light from His crotch. Santa had thrown off The_Jaster, and was clouting the resident artist with his sack, calling him “a very naughty boy indeed”. The admins.’ blanket fort lay in tatters. Sooner or later, the Alternate Accounts were going to prevail.
“I just want to say,” said Stu, as he clobbered a stray snake with a doughnut, “it’s been a pleasure working with all of you. We’ve got a great community here.”
“Then why haven’t you been around so much recently?” asked ZeroJones, giving a stray goat a red-pen “F” and a “See me” that sent it scurrying away in terror. Stu did not reply.
Reggie finally squeezed his gargantuan face, followed by the rest of his gargantuan body, into the room. “You goddamn original accounts, thinking you’re better than the rest of us. I’m going to make you all as dead as the Wii U.
. As dead as the Wii U isn’t.
How d’you like them apples?”
“5%, would rather eat Tyrell's Crinkly Veg Crisps,” said Cappuccino.
Reggie drew his fist back, slowly, leisurely, knowing that the nineteen forumites all huddled together could do nothing to stop him from kicking – well, punching – their collective asses to wherever the Virtual Boy had gone before them.
And then the Banhammer hit him in the face.
It wasn’t an easy target to miss, but Buskalilly hit him square in the gigantic forehead. The word “BANNED” showed his shame for all to see. Reggie tried to steady himself, but his body wasn’t ready for the second swing and he crashed back through the glass, hitting the courtyard below with a roar of pain.
The herons came down upon him in their droves, but the Banhammer sent them flying, making a mess of their pots and pans. Santa Claus took a blow directly in his fat stomach, which sent him smashing through the floor. The Christ gave a howl of divine rage and charged Buskalilly, lashing out with a barbed whip He’d acquired from somewhere.
“Raise your hand against one of my saints, would you? I’ll smite you with this whip I got off the chick with the rack from Soul Calibur II. You’ll wish you’d been crucified too by the time I’m done with you!
Even the hammer that had nailed Him to the cross had nothing on this one, however, and He landed in a crumpled heap on the floor. He managed to say, “ Blessed is he who kills that fucker in the name of the Lord
” before vanishing, presumably to respawn in Heaven.
The stranglehold was broken. The remaining nineteen soldiers sent up a cheer and fought back. Stu bludgeoned a snake to death with a stray piece of GNamer code; Jay dropped several large English textbooks onto another; and Beemoh made an aside so funny that three balloon men actually died laughing, their light bodies borne away on the breeze. Masofdas and Axis sent a barrage of news and links (some knitted) flying into the enemy ranks. The philosophical Australian issued an employment tribunal application at some of the prissy foxes, and even the representative from the Church of Repton got in some impressive kicks with his prominent shoes.
A rout ensued. Reduced to a leaderless rabble, the Alternate Accounts fled from whichever exits they could access – doors, windows, the glass wall to the courtyard, the holes in the ceiling and floor through which Santa had entered and left. The herons clanged their pots and pans in defeated despair. The cheering of the Original Accounts rang in their feathery ears, and Buskalilly found himself bombarded by grateful MP planes. Somebody even pressed the “Thanks” button at him, one of the greatest honours that a GNamer could receive.
“You handled that Banhammer with the skill of a true moderator,” said Fronkhead approvingly.
“It was all right, I suppose,” said Andyman of the yellow face (not in a racist way). “Combat’s still a bit rubbish though – like rock-paper-scissors, only Banhammer beats everything.”
“Our lives are in your debt, Buskalilly_the_hero,” said Stu, his face purple and his eyes replaced by hearts. “The Banhammer is yours to keep, if you wish to accept it.”
Buskalilly felt the tears welling up in his eyes. Could it be? Could he take on the green text of the Moderators
, and protect GNamer Towers from evil as one of its top knights?
He thought long and hard about it, before returning the sacred hammer into the hands of Balladeer. “Thank you, Stu_the_great, but I cannot accept. I have too much fun coming onto the forum drunk and posting incorrectly autocorrected material. I couldn’t possibly be a mod.”
Before Stu could have time to respectfully accept his decision, he went on: “But what puzzles me is how the Alternates could have got into the courtyard in the first place. Don’t we have Captcha-Code defensive barriers just below the soil?”
Everyone turned to look at Stu, who shrugged his shoulders. “Do we? I don’t really understand the technological side of things. I leave most of that to Balladeer.”
Now everyone turned to look at Balladeer, who was inspecting at the Banhammer he held with an inscrutable expression on his face. He looked like he was about to speak.
Then he picked the hammer up, swung it hard at the floor, and smashed it.Part Five: Foxtrot
All of a sudden, everything went white. The walls, the floors, the ceilings, the courtyard beyond the window: all was white. Even the other forumites went white, their avatars blanked out. Fronkhead’s beautiful yellow face was the last thing to vanish from Buskalilly’s view.
And then everything went painful. A large red gash, pulsing purple, had opened up along his scaly arm. Now a second scratch across his chest, pushing him back. If he squinted, he could just see his assailant, slightly less white against the white: Balladeer, shaking his furry fist.
“There’s always one, isn’t there?” he growled, the threatening tone somewhat diminished by the poshness of the delivery. It was like being growled at by a lupine Bertie Wooster. “I should have done to you what I did to Awesomedude.”
There was a sound of swearwords from out in the white void; then the sound of six shots being fired from a six-shooter, seemingly in the other direction, and an attempted clothesline that might have hit a wall.
“You... you called up Awesomedude’s parents?” stammered Buskalilly, dodging another Night Slash.
“Don’t be so naïve. I told her there was a brand new copy of Animal Crossing: New Leaf
down in the mine, and she trotted off like a good little girl. Haven’t seen her back since!”
Keep him talking. Keep him talking. Villains love the sound of their own voice, and a man with 5000 posts was by no means exempt from that. “Were they all your doing, then? Nupkin? Other Balladeer? Vidofnir?”
” A flurry of furious swipes. “He was a good chap, was Vidofnir, before you all hounded him out with your praise of The Last Story
. I wouldn’t kill him!
“Nupkin, now, that’s another story. Dangerous to bring your girlfriend to the base, as I found out. When we split up, she... knew too much. So I ordered her suicide mission.” He cackled, a proper maniacal crazy one. “As for the Other Balladeer, it was just a shame that someone
happened to open the Grackler cage when he was the only person in the building. Shouldn’t have stolen my identity, should he?
“Rum was a mistake too,” he admitted. “I hate the Bopopolis owls so much you have no idea.”
Buskalilly kept backing away, and hit something solid. Reached up the wall, felt something. A plan began to form. He just needed a little longer. “But why? Why sabotage the base, kill our own men?”
“That should be obvious,” the villain scoffed. “You’re all so messy
, dirtying our nice shiny tower with your blasphemies against the English language, your boring multiformat conversation, thinking that anybody cares what you bought yesterday. I can hear
the spelling mistakes when you speak. You let those sodding birds into the tower all the time.
And none of you post in the music or cricket threads! But most of all...” He took a step back, looking like he was about to howl at the moon.
“I’M SO LONELY.”
(“You don’t know what that means,” said Beemoh from somewhere in the whiteness.)
“Masofdas, catch!” Buskalilly hurled the MP note he’d grabbed from the pad into the void. “Write something! Anything!”
Only then did it hit Balladeer how long he’d been speaking for. Snarling, he lashed out at Buskalilly, his claws deflected by the old pickaxe. The axe shattered, but the recoil sent him stumbling backwards. Buskalilly jumped in to counter-attack, but received a stinging blow from the Lock Key. He tried to yell out, but the key was in his mouth, stopping his speech.
“End of the line, Buskalilly,” sneered the admin. “I’m deleting your account. Say hello to Awesomedude for me!”
Buskalilly writhed, trying to point over Balladeer’s shoulder and mumbling into the key. Out of fatal curiosity, the admin. unlocked his captive’s mouth.
“Look, Balla,” gasped Buskailly, “Vidofnir’s back!”
Balladeer turned semi-involuntarily in the direction of the point, keeping the key held over Buskalilly’s scaly face. The paper plane unfolded itself in mid-air. Then he reeled backwards in pain, clutching at his face with both hands.
“THE GRAMMAR! MY EYES! MY EEEEYYYYYYEEEEEESSSSSS!”
Thank The Christ for Masofdas, Buskalilly though, as he pulled a pint of lager from hammerspace. He downed it in one – it refilled. The second one was harder; the fourth, a chore; the seventh, a painful trial. But it needed to be done, for the good of all GNamer. Buskalilly_the_hero slowly drained his tenth pint, swaying slightly. Now was the time. Time to release his ultra special super attack, that not even admins. could stop.
Balladeer did eventually manage to remove his paws from his face. He could only stare with bloodshot eyes as Buskalilly, now fully visible and glowing brightly, rose into the air. He raised the pint glass high. Balladeer knew what was coming, and he knew that all he could do was pray to the Dome Fossil for a swift end.
The lump of steak landed neatly on the shrunken Balladeer, squashing him.
Buskalilly stood very still for a while afterwards, or as still as his alcohol consumption would let him. He remained still while the world flickered around him: white went black, then blue, then everyone was visible but had shimmering outlines, then underlines, then both; and finally the format had been restored, and Stu was rejoicing over his technical accomplishment. Then Buskalilly allowed himself to slowly collapse, his fall cushioned by the bodies of slain herons. A glassy-eyed snake seemed to mock him with its lifeless gaze. Wait until he had an arcade claw machine to hand, he thought. He’d crush the death out of them.
“He’s done it again!”
“Buskalilly for GNamer Forumite 2014!”
“Witty variant on Tenderloin Minimise!”
“Man. City for the title! Sorry, what were we talking about again?”
The comments formed a pleasant fog around his head. He thought he might have some shots at Kudos to celebrate. Just a couple of hundred or so.
As he lay there, he missed Dusty Knackers’ first smile since Awesomedude had left. Admittedly, it was not a terribly happy smile – it was the smile of a predator having cornered its wounded prey, and was accompanied by little red horns popping through his cowboy hat. But it was a smile nonetheless, and it was directed at the battered form of Balladeer, now restored to normal size.
“What do we do with this piece of shit, then?”
“Let’s all settle down a bit now,” said Stu, suddenly sweating. “I know that Balla hasn’t exactly been a model forumite, and gave the Alternates information about the layout of the building, and caused the deaths of several of our members, and has generally been a power-hungry little bastard... But we shouldn’t be too harsh on him. If he doesn’t stay admin., it means I’ll have to clean all this up myself.
That means no killings, y’hear?”
The mob, who had been reaching for their weapons, dropped them with some grumbling. Dusty continued to finger his six-shooter, despite having wasted its bullets on the wall.
“We should still get to punish him, though. I say we should expose him to all of Wrestlemania 29.”
“No, all of Manchester United’s current season!”
“Have Jaster draw a picture of him hugging an XBox One.”
“Make him play online FPSes against twelve-year-olds on XBLA.”
“Sonics entire library,” said Masofdas, his/her eyes glinting.
Eventually the initial hubbub died down, and it was left to Jay, quietly nodding into an imagined microphone, to mete out punishment.
“Boo this man!”
And they did, for a good hour, Dusty leading the way.Epilogue: Dreams of Dating
As Buskalilly left the slightly scarred front door of GNamer Towers, his scales started to fade. It was deeply annoying that they could suck him in from anywhere (Beemoh would have raised a knowing non-eyebrow there), but not spit him back out (both non-eyebrows): he had to make his way all the way back from the middle of nowhere to his house, near the moons of Nibia. And after ten quick pints too.
At least the Alternates seemed to have pitched their camp somewhere else. A few heron droppings and the odd molehill were all that remained of their army. They wouldn’t attack again for a while.
He was considering taking the bus when something caught his eye. It was the limp figure of Balladeer, still a bit furry, still going around on all four legs. He looked like a GNamer booed into oblivion. One bloodshot, pathetic eye swivelled around to Buskalilly, then back to the floor, and tried to pretend it hadn’t moved. The Hero decided that the villain needed a motivational speech, and reached the foxman just as he straightened up.
“Look here, Balla,” said Buskalilly, “you don’t need to be a dick like this. GNamer’s full of people who respect you, even if they think you’re a bit of a posh twat who follows the delay sport in the world. Dullest. You got the top chocolate in the forum votes, although there’s no way you’ll get it again after going all murderous. But we’ll read your problems anyway, ‘cause we’re good like that. We might laugh at them a bit though. You’re never alone in the GNamer Community.
“Accolade, I meant.”
The admin.’s weak, uncomprehending look became a small smile – colon bracket rather than Mr. Green, but a smile nonetheless. He had to try a few times before he could speak.
“Busk, are you... Are you free for dinner tonight?”
It took Buskalilly a couple of seconds before he could reply. “I’m, I’m, I’m really sorry mate, I’ve got a hot date. But I’m sure you’ll find someone.”
And he zigzagged off home, trying to keep the vomit down for two reasons now, back to Nibia and his hot date. Never, to this day, has a GNamer deserved a date so much.